Pearl is my favorite chicken. Usually she is sweet and wants to be picked up. But for the past week she has been "broody". For those of you without chickens, here is an explanation. A chicken will lay one egg every day or two, but she wants the eggs to all hatch at the same time. So she waits until a full clutch is laid before she starts sitting on the eggs and incubating them. This is called brooding.
On our farm, we don't have a rooster and we gather eggs every day so no brooding is necessary. However, the chickens, being that their brain is the size of a small pea, don't know that. Every once in a while a chicken gets broody even when there isn't a clutch or even an egg to incubate. She'll stay in the nest box, not eat or drink much and be all pecky when you try to check for eggs. If you take her out of the nest box and put her with the other chickens, she may scratch around for a bit but within minutes she'll be back in the nest box. She also won't lay eggs while she is broody. It's very frustrating.
So we are in the process of "breaking up" Pearl's broodiness. I've read some suggestions on different websites, the most helpful of which was www.feathersite.com/Poultry/. The least drastic measure is to move the chicken to a cage where she can't see her old nest and leave her there, with food and water, for 3 to 4 days. Pearl is currently in a cage with a solid bottom, in the barn. She's been there for two days and she is still brooding in the corner of the cage. Another suggestion I read is to put a "clutch" of ice cubes under her. Laying on a bunch of ice cubes would really piss me off, so it may work to break her up. But we'll wait one more day.
The next options is to move her to a cage with a wire only bottom and set it up. Apparently chickens don't like a draft up on their underside. Come Tuesday, we may do that.
UPDATE - June 1, 2010 - The cage in the barn (with food and water) worked! We kept Pearl in there from Friday afternoon to Monday afternoon. For the first two days I didn't see her eat or drink and she didn't poop. Monday morning she ate some and had a huge poop (she clucked like she was laying an egg). I put her back in the run, where she promptly started scratching for worms and bugs. Today (Tuesday) she has been out with the others, not brooding. I love little successes!