I have four hens that live together in my garden. One of the bantams will do anything to find a particular plastic box and sit in it for hours on end. We presume she’s broody so we keep getting her out of the box and shutting the hen house so she will eat and drink, but as soon as the door is open, she’s back in there.
If we move the box away from the hen house, she will escape to find it. We’ve put up more chicken wire to keep her in but she gets very stressed if the box is missing. She puffs up and screams at us when we get her out of the box. I know that she’s being picked on by the other hens. As amateurs at this, we’re not sure if she’s broody or if the box is security from the other hens, or if she’s in love with the box.Any advice would be appreciated.Mary Brotherton, via email
It does sound as though your hen is broody and merely shutting her out of her chosen place will indeed be stressful for her. If she was incubating eggs, then it would be important to let her out to feed once daily which she would appreciate at about the same time each day, going back on her eggs after about 20 minutes. If you don’t want her to incubate eggs, you will have to reset her hormones, either by totally confining her in a wire cage for a fortnight with food and water and out of sight of her precious box, or take her to your vet and get her injected. Either way, something needs to be done as hens lose condition if they’re continually broody and it’s extremely difficult to bring them round again. The other hens know she is broody and once she is no longer broody, you may need to have a wire partition between her and the other hens for a few days so that they accept her back without being able to bully her. Hens don’t tend to get fixated on objects, but if broody, they will try and incubate golf balls or stones. Ducks can get fixated (called imprinting) if they imprint at day-old on a moving object. This is part of their survival mechanism of following their mother and is the reason one duck should never be reared alone – it will never realise it is a duck. VR
Victoria Roberts BVSC MRCVSEmail the Vet’s forum at: email@example.com
Disclaimer: The information and advice in this column is given in good faith. However, as the animals in question have not been examined by the author, no liability in respect of diagnosis or application of any treatments is accepted either by the author or by Country Smallholding