Hello again,

Do you remember June? We had a mini heat-wave about 10 days in… just for a few days it reached 29 or 30 degrees and we thought summer had started.
Well, that weekend one of our four delightful hens turned broody. That means, without any sight of a male rooster, she decided she wanted to hatch a brood of chicks in spite of the fact that none of the eggs were fertile. She collected them together, nestled them in straw and sat on them. All day. Every day. Refusing to leave the nest.

Turning to Google it seems that hens do occasionally go broody. It might possibly be triggered by hot weather. It might involve a cascade of hormonal changes in the hen – the avian equivalent of being “on heat” I guess. It is definitely not good for the hen. They don’t eat, they don’t drink, they don’t move. And in hot weather it gets as hot as hell in that nest box.

So what can you do?

The possible solutions offered seem as vague as the causes.

  • Keep taking them out of the next box – check! She just keeps going back.
  • Close off the nest box – check! She sits as close to it as she can get.
  • Distract her with food – check! Not interested – she just keeps going back to the nest.
  • Dunk her in cool water – ooh, not quite so nice but check! She just keeps going back.
  • Confine her in a small metal cage for several days so she can’t move… I drew the line at that one.

She wasn’t laying. She lost weight. She lost feathers. She was a very sad and scrawny hen…

So for the next month we took our hens physically away from their run and coop for several hours in the day. In the veg patch, away from the coop, broody Ruby had the opportunity to eat, drink and move, to be a better chicken for a few hours.

Each evening, once in sight of the nest box. the broody behaviour returned.

For me this also illustrates how linked our environment is to our behaviour, why habits persist long after their helpfulness.

Our broody hen was a much healthier hen when she couldn’t physically see the coop or the nest box.

If we want to experience significant behaviour change – to learn better habits, to stop unhelpful habits – we need to break that link between the unhelpful behaviour and the environment that supports it.

To create a new habit, create the environment that supports it, makes it easy, desirable.

If you want to get more stuff done with fewer distractions start by creating a plan and actually use it! Prioritise your day the evening before so you know from the outset where you’re going to start.

Make yourself comfortable before you start – visit the loo, make your tea, consult your to-do list.

Write your number one priority/target on a Post-It note and place it somewhere visible.

Have your workspace set-up and ready to go with the resources you need already close at hand.

Make sure you can easily and quickly capture thoughts of “things I must do later” and have an appointment in your diary, just before lunch, to review these things, later.

To break a habit, disrupt the environment that supports it. Make it difficult, less desirable. 

If your phone is a source of distraction, turn off your phone and put it out of sight. “Oh but I need it because… “. Well, yes, some of us might need to be contacted in cases of emergency, personal or professional – but is there a client situation that wouldn’t have to wait if you were in a meeting, driving to an appointment or consulting your GP?

Put your phone away and if you need, reward yourself with a 15 minute social media break once you’ve done 2 hours work!

If you really can’t separate yourself from your phone use what tech you can to remove the apps that distract you most. Have an identifiable ringtone only for those calls you must answer immediately and leave the rest. (And we might want to do some work on the limiting belief that I can’t be separated from my phone!).

If email is your biggest distraction, close down email for an hour.

If you are distracted by people in your environment, can you work elsewhere, at least for some of the time? Can you negotiate privacy/uninterrupted time, even for 30 minute blocks?

There are few magic wands but where there’s a will and a host of healthy nudges, there is a way to create new habits.

I’ve been creating my new programme, “Strategies for Getting Stuff Done”, distilling the best and most relevant bits from over 20 years experience as an academic and a researcher, combining these insights with 20 years experience as a coach and trainer – it’s a lot to condense into a 2 hour masterclass but it does contain bucket-loads of wisdom about how to get stuff done.

But what about our hen? After a month, the broody broke. It rained. The temperature dropped by maybe 15 degrees and it’s like we had a new chicken. Definitely scrawny and in need of feeding up but back to normal behaviour.

So was this physiology or environment? Maybe both. Is this phenomenon restricted to hens? I don’t think so. Is it limited to behaviours which are affected by powerful hormonal changes? I doubt it though it does illustrate just how profoundly hormones can affect us.

For me the lesson is twofold:

  • We can change our daily habits and our daily choices. Short term strategies work.
  • In addition, we need to look to deeper underlying roots and fundamentally change or control our environment in ways that allow us to flourish.

What new habit do you want to create and how are you supporting that choice?

I’d love to hear from you!


PS If you want a taste of how to get stuff done, I have created a free programme – 10 minute video and accompanying pdf file – “The Out of Overwhelm Route Map” can be yours at the click of a button!

Yes, I want Out of Overwhelm!

Please do share this newsletter and the link with anyone you know who might benefit!