Not strictly an illness but annoying nevertheless. Gladys is perpetually broody from spring onwards, her resolve stiffening with each episode.
The hen will suddenly decide she wants to incubate eggs and will sit in the nestbox day and night, barely moving. She may be on her own eggs, she may be on somebody else’s eggs. She may be on no eggs at all. Doesn’t seem to matter.
She sits right down in the box, chin in her breast, fluffed up with a mad look in her eye, and screams like a demented seagull if disturbed, or even if some innocent person looks at her the wrong way.
It’s important to break broodiness if you can, and don’t want chicks. The hen will continue to sit for the allotted 21 days, barely eating; she will lose condition and of course won’t be laying. Some hens take it very seriously and even after three weeks if no chicks miraculously appear they will continue to sit.
There are a few ways of dealing with this. If you catch them early enough it may only be a case of repeatedly lifting them off the nest and out into the run with the others until the ‘spell’ is broken. When first lifted off, they will sit on the ground in the same fluffed up pose and refuse to move without a bit of chivvying. You’ll notice that many breast feathers have been pulled out to create a bald broody patch, the better to incubate the eggs against warm skin; and it does get very warm. Tuck your hand under a broody and she’ll ‘cuddle’ it with her wings to guide it further underneath her.
When they’re really determined though, I put them in a dog crate outside the house (they become frantic if they can see their ‘nest’ and can’t get to it) under shelter, with food and water and a perch. The crate has a chicken wire floor and I prop it up on bricks so that at no time can the hen sit down and stay warm underneath.
Two days and nights is normally enough. I lift the crate into the house at night and sit it on the perches.
After three broody episodes last year with Gladys I gave up and let her hatch some eggs, which is the final option.