IDS-ing my Broody Hen Issue


In the life of caring for chickens, there are only a handful of things that can happen: egg laying, rooster drama, illness, death (not always by a natural predator, sometimes, it’s a dog), broody hens, and flying the coop. I’ve had to address all of these issues in the past few years.
I entered this spring season feeling really good about what was happening up at the coop. We had plenty of hens laying lots of eggs, and an inquisitive rooster who hadn’t become aggressive (yet).

With spring comes the maternal instinct. Suddenly I found myself with not one, but two broody hens. This time around, I was determined to have a better outcome than last summer’s fiasco, when we had three broody hens sitting on 36 eggs and gathering up all the other hens’ eggs – in other words, no eggs for us.

So, on Good Friday in the cover of darkness, I moved each hen and her respective eggs to the peep pens. Keeping them separated from the other hens will protect the peeps from being attacked by other hens or falling off the coop ramp. It also limits the number of eggs in their clutch.

After getting them settled, I closed them in for the night. The next morning, they were both sitting on their eggs, and I left feeling pretty good about myself. That is, until later that afternoon, when I returned to the coop to find that both hens had left their peep pens and their eggs and were now sitting on new eggs in the larger coop. They had abandoned their 12 eggs and were starting over again with newly laid eggs.

After waiting about 48 hours to ensure they had accumulated enough new eggs to form a clutch, I moved them again, but this time, I closed the gate to prevent them from returning to the larger coop. I check on them later that day, and sure enough, they were back in the larger coop. They were so determined, they’d either figured out how to open and close a gate or managed to fly through a fairly small opening near the top of the gate. Either way, they were back sitting on eggs in the larger coop.

So we settled for Plan C, which was to leave them in the larger coop but mark the eggs they were sitting on, then periodically remove the unmarked eggs from under their care. In the end, they had around 10 eggs to incubate. About 3 days prior to the end of the gestation period, we moved them again into the peep pens. Fortunately, they stayed put and hatched some peeps. The yield was low, with five peeps hatching; at this writing, three have survived.

Managing broody hens is just one of the chicken issues that I am learning to navigate. I know every time it happens, I’ll get better at handling this issue.

Along the same lines, when I’m working with my clients implementing EOS, I remind them that there are just 23 issues in the history of running a business. The goal is to get them really good at solving those issues at the root so they go away forever.

The tool we use is called IDS, which stands for Identify – Discuss – Solve. Gino Wickman developed this tool when he realized that most teams, even high-functioning teams, are really good at getting into a room and discussing the heck out of problem, rarely identifying the root cause, and even more rarely solving the problem so it goes away forever.

Most teams just love to talk and talk and talk about an issue and then move on to the next issue before solving the one at hand. Some people may even do this intentionally in an effort to numb others into agreeing with them. And lots of my clients start solving one problem but soon realize they have followed a squirrel on a tangent that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. So to make IDS effective requires discipline.

Here is how the tool works. First, pick the three most important issues the team needs to solve. Don’t overanalyze this – just pick the most important issues. Then, start working on issue number 1. First step: identify the root cause. Of the three steps, this should take the most time, because once you dig down and identify the root cause, the rest is much easier. For example, if you aren’t hitting your sales targets, ask why. Then keep asking why until you have arrived at the root cause. Not sure you have arrived at the root cause? Ask why again just to make sure.

Once you have Identified the root cause, it’s time to move to Discuss. In this step, everyone gets to participate in the discussion, but you can say something once and only once, because more than once is politicking. And no one wants to beat a dead horse. If you stick to this rule, the conversation will eventually become stale and nothing new will be brought up. At that point, it is time to Solve.

In the Solve step, the team agrees on an action that needs to be taken. That may mean assigning a To-Do, communicating with some employees or possibly someone needs to do more research on the issue. Once you all agree on the action, make sure it is captured on your To-Do list.

At that point, you go back to the original list of three issues, pick the second most important issue and repeat the process. If you follow this process, you will get much better at solving issues and making them go away forever.

A word of advice: don’t shy away from the elephant in the room. If the root cause turns out to be a person in the room, talk about it. Be open and honest, which translates to saying what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, with the fewest words possible. I’m not saying you should attack the person. It’s important to focus on the person’s actions, not the person. Just don’t avoid the hard topics.

I’ve been using IDS to solve my broody hen issue. But after a few attempts to limit the number of eggs in my hen’s clutch, I came to the realization that the real issue is my chicken mama skills.

Give IDS a try and let me know how it goes. And if you have any tips on how to strengthen my chicken mama skills, I’d welcome the input – but please don’t attack me!

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