What’s a broody chicken and how to stop it.

So what’s a broody chicken.  I could have told you a few years ago what one was but it would have just been regurgitation of stuff I read on the Internet not anything I’d actually experienced, which is why I never did a post on chickens going broody.  Unless I’ve experienced it, I try not to talk about it. Which is how you get gems like how to cure a bladder infection, yeast infections and the frozen yogourt tampon  and everybody’s favourite Ass Maggots.

Now that I have experienced the wrath of the broody chicken first hand, I can tell you all about it.  And it’s almost as huge a pain in the ass as maggots.

Chickens, like most living things are instinctual.  One of their instincts is to forage for food by scratching at the dirt, another is to sleep off of the ground as a safety precaution from predators and yet another is to hatch eggs.  When they feel that instinct to hatch eggs coming on they go into a dark, quiet place (the nesting box) and don’t come out.  It makes no difference whatsoever whether they have a clutch of eggs to sit on or not.  They will sit there day in and day out for over a month even if there isn’t a single egg under her, because her instinct says … sit here and hatch eggs … be broody … even if there are no eggs in the vicinity.  So, instinctual, not intellectual.

When I got my Marans chickens last year I had no idea if they were a broody breed or not.  Some breeds you see are more prone to broodiness while others never go broody.  That’s why I had never experienced broodiness before.  My other chickens just didn’t have that instinct.  They take after their mother.

Now you can either leave a hen to brood for 4-7 weeks OR you can stop it.  There are many reasons to stop a hen from being broody, not the least of which is the fact that a broody hen doesn’t lay eggs.  So that’s 4-7 weeks without eggs from her.  She’s also more prone to mites and pests because she’s sitting in one spot all day not grooming and bathing the way she normally would.  Add in the fact that the temperature in the nesting box can get close around 40C in the summer and it just isn’t  a very safe place for her to be.

This is about the 6th time Josephine has gone broody since I got her and the last time she was sitting in that nesting box for 7 weeks straight.  The other chickens would want to lay and egg and she wouldn’t budge. She’d sit there with her feathers all fluffed out making her look three times as big, screaming at them to BACK THE CLUCK OFF.

So there’s that little bit of drama to contend with when you have a broody chicken too.

According to the big, bad liar the Internet the best, most effective, most humane way to break a chicken of broodiness is to put them in a crate that’s elevated off the ground.  The reason for the crate (a dog crate or rabbit hutch works well) is it keeps her away from the nesting box and all nesting materials and allows cool air all around the chicken to bring her temperature down. You see a chicken’s  hormones change when she gets broody which stops her from producing eggs AND elevates her temperature.  She’s hot, nasty, irritable and barren.  She’s menopause with feathers.

After living in the crate, cooling down and getting bored and uncomfortable(ish) for a few days she’s no longer broody.  That’s the theory anyway.

So last week I jumped on Kijiji (it’s like Craigslist but better) found myself a dog crate for $20 and set up my broody buster.

 

cutting-hardware-cloth2

Most dog crates have a tray that fits into the bottom, but you want the chicken to be cooled from underneath so remove the tray.  At this point you’ll have big holes that the chickens legs would just slip right through.  So cut a piece of hardware cloth to fit the bottom of the cage.  If you can do this with your Skeletor forearm that’d be great.

 

Dog-cage-broody-pen

That’s it.  That’s all there is to it.  That’s not Josephine by the way, that’s Cuddles running by.  You have to keep the cage elevated off the ground so air can get underneath. Some people hang the cage but that seems kind of extreme to me and a little too Tweety Bird so I just put it on bricks.

 

Broody-pen

Make sure the hen has water that won’t tip over and a bowl of food.  Oh yeah, and put the hen in there.  To do that, you have to drag her out of her nesting box which she doesn’t want to leave at ALL.

 

 

At night I put the crate in the enclosed chicken run so she’d be safe from raccoons.  In the morning I opened the door.  If she beelined right up to the nesting box I knew she had to go back in the crate.  It only took 2 sleeps for Josephine to get back to her normal self.  I on the other hand am still nursing the skin on my forearm.
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65 Comments

  1. Becky says:

    Last year my barred rock went broody and I put frozen water bottles under her in the nest box…. it worked.

    this year, it is the hottest its been in two years, and the water bottles aren’t working. If I could find some hatching eggs locally, I’d just giver her a handful and let her hatch the darn things.

    silly birds. Oh, and i noticed that my hen comes out once a day to eat, dust bathe, drink a bit, and empty her bowels… which smells more than normal…. and is a LOT more than normal. but hey, she’s holding it in all day, and night, which isn’t normal.

    • Karen says:

      omg. That’s a Broody POO Becky. They’re the WORST. It’s is literally a shitload. A great, big pile of pent up poo that they let out once a day. It is a mountain of poo and it smells horrrrrible. ~ karen!

    • I’ve heard of people who just buy fertilized eggs from Trader Joe’s and a couple of them hatch!

  2. Karen says:

    Oh my,first the maggots, ad, now this….lol
    I just love reading your posts! And love the honesty in which you write….you almost always make me laugh. Not at you, with you.
    I hope all is better now with them both. 🙂

  3. Pam says:

    As a woman going through perimenopause (which has the all joys of menopause with the added bonus of still getting your period…oh joy!) I am in love with this line….”She’s hot, nasty, irratible and barren. She’s menopause with feathers.” Ha!! Coming in a close second…”Back the cluck off!” Karen, you rule!

  4. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Love the video..that’s the most laughs I’ve had at 1am in a long time…HAHAHAHAHAHA..funny…

  5. Danny says:

    Nice post Karen. Doing much research on chickens before we get our own Ladies in the fall…moved to Guelph where chickens rule our downtown neighbourhood. Proud to say my ‘chicken mentors’ are Dorothy and David, the later of whom is your old family doc and the former my best buds mom! Thanks for your most excellent blog Karen!

  6. Kathleen says:

    I can SO identify with Josephine! (Not about the broodiness though!) Had it been me you were attempting to capture, you might not have been left with an arm! 🙂
    Oh, and I do have feathers… beautiful hand crafted purple feather earrings!

    Another enjoyable read, Karen. Worth waiting for! 🙂

  7. Danni says:

    I hope that those eggs are deeeeeeelicious to put up with all this. I grew up on a farm and say ‘thank you jesus’ everytime I buy my eggs at the store. Lice, maggots, stuck eggs, skunks, raccoons, labradors- I hear it all from my urban neighbors who LOVE their chickens. To be fair, my dad STILL lives on the farm, so oftentimes I still get to enjoy fresh eggs from happy free-range chickens so I get the best of both worlds. But I’d never have the patience. That chicken looks mean as hell. We play the game at our house “If this pet was human-size, would it kill me or not?” We’re about 50/50 now, broody hens would tip the balance.

  8. Rondina says:

    I agree that the “Menopause with feathers” line is one of your best ever. Maybe one of your sponsors could take it and make wooden signs for coops.

    And it was nice to see Cuddles looking healthy.

  9. Paula says:

    Perfect timing! Thank you.

  10. Dana says:

    I found your blog a month or so ago and it’s one of the best things ever! You always make me laugh and smile. I was having an awful day today (house hunting isn’t fun in 100 degree temps) and I read your post and you turned my whole day around. Probably my week, too. Poor Josephine! Menopause is terrible but with feathers? That has to be hell on earth. I hope she’s back to laying and behaving normally. If you ever get down south come to Alabama and we’ll ride around in my truck, it’s yellow and named Tweety, and you can listen to Sweet Home Alabama while I ignore it and we’ll whistle at all the hot guys. I’d imagine they’re younger than me, I’m 56, but men are simple creatures and they’d probably enjoy it. P.S., I don’t normally name my vehicles but a Tweety yellow Ford Ranger was begging me to buy it and name it.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Dana. I will look you up if I head to Alabama! Glad to make your house hunting day/week a bit better. House hunting only sucks until you find the perfect house though! ~ karen

  11. Dominic says:

    Yep, it’s chickenpause. And just like women, sometimes the stars cause their cycles to align, and you get more than one that go batshit crazy at once. Like when Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, June Carter Cash, Foof and Frannie all go broody at once… and poor Johnny Cash is a lonely rooster out in the run, wondering what the hell he’s done this time. Then Dominic has to go out, welding gloves on, and remove all 5 of them from the nesting boxes, then remove the nesting boxes from the coop for a week. That worked.
    But sometimes, you just stuff some eggs under your broody girl, and you get 3 chicks for Frannie Frizzle, and 2 for June Carter Cash. Then you get to see them be mommies, and it’s cool, you get it now…

  12. Steph says:

    Hmm so this is what I have to look
    forward to! I’ve got two 25 week copper marans hens and six 5 week old chicks at the moment! I was wondering myself if the breed went broody easily as I do want to get some chicks out of them. Seems I don’t have to worry about that now…!

  13. Ann says:

    I only have 2 hens that tend to go broody. One Easter Egger and my Wyandotte. But my Marans never do and they are a full 3 years old now.

    I used to try and break the broody cycle in my girls but I found that when I did, they just went broody again fairly soon and the cycle would keep continuing all summer if I wasn’t careful. Finally I let both my broody girls just sit on an empty nest every day for 3 weeks and then come out of broody on their own. That way, it was only once a summer, over and done. And not 6 or 7 partial broody cycles. Mine will only stay on the nest about 3 weeks and then they don’t start laying again for another 2-3 weeks. But when I tried to bring them out of the broody cycle, I didn’t get eggs from them all summer.

    I just got 2 new chicks from a friend. I now have the cutest Salmon Faverolle with an extra toe and feathered feet. And then another Easter Egger just because I love the colored eggs. I am not sure how many I have now but I love them all. Even Brownie, my brown leghorn, who got scalped awhile back by a dog and may never have the prettiest feathers on her head again. She will not be winning any chicken beauty contests any time soon.

  14. Tigersmom says:

    It’s great to see Cuddles running around.

    I’m quite certain I don’t have the patience to deal with a bitchy hormonal chicken. I tip my hat to you for being able to do it and for looking that good in short shorts while you’re doing it and then for making us laugh when you tell us about it.

  15. Mary W says:

    I’ve now had hot coffee shoot out my nose – is that anything like a chicken nip to the forearm? My day is complete since it started with a laugh. Thank you.

  16. Melissa in NC says:

    What a funny yet informative post! Too many funnies to comment on each one. Sorry you got pecked.

  17. sheila says:

    I have a hen (Golden Laced Wyandotte) that went for a stint in the “pen” for 9 days!! She was a stubborn one. Then she went broody a couple of weeks later. Got her some hatching eggs off eBay and now she has a Swedish Flower Hen chick for a baby. Three hatched, only one made it – long story. Also have a broody Swedish Flower Hen pullet hatching 8 German Bielefelder eggs (she has to really stretch and flatten herself out to cover them all) – due to hatch tomorrow. I’ll be a chicken grandma again and you’ll all be aunts and uncles!!

  18. Ev Wilcox says:

    Thanks for the post about the girls, and the “Henopause”! Maybe you could get a pair of long, heavy gloves for the next adventure. Cuddles looks well-you are a good chicken mama!

  19. Lisa says:

    I love the video, just like dealing with a 2 year old, stiff legs and all!

  20. Mickey says:

    Back the cluck off! Love it!!!

  21. Teddee Grace says:

    Gotta have a corn cob, minus the corn, which you very quickly slap down on their neck to keep them from pecking you, then grab their feet and off you go. Learned that when I was five and it was my (terrifying) job to collect the eggs. We called these settin’ hens.

    • Lisa says:

      We used to put a tin coffee can over their heads before we grabbed them. It was terrifying when I was a child. I’m still have mixed feelings about chickens.

  22. Dan says:

    Let’s see if I’ve got this right…

    Moody – check.
    Irritable – check.
    Poor grooming – check.
    Hides in room and refuses to come out – check.
    Makes a federal case out of literally nothing happening – check.

    I think you’ve got a teenager.

  23. Lynn (really spelled w/ an "e", but somebody else already has that spelling on here) says:

    Loved Cuddles photo bombing your cage pic! Also literally laughed out loud at Back the cluck off!
    Enjoyed this post!!

  24. Mary says:

    Oh my. Karen, I SO look forward to getting the e-mail that tells me there’s a post from you to read! You make me chuckle danged near every time. Love your writing style and the info that you pass along. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

    Henopause! I feel her misery – I often want to just PECK the HECK out of someone! 😉

  25. Robin says:

    I have a broody hens. If I need to move them for any reason I suit up in my husbands carrhart jacket with my leather gloves. They can peck at me all they want and I don’t feel a thing. It makes is so easy for me and them. I highly suggest hen peck proof gear!

  26. Chris says:

    Agreed with all of the kudos, but especially loved ‘skeletor forearm’ lol.

  27. Christie says:

    If she was in Henopause, would she still be laying eggs??

  28. I about died at the stick-straight legs when you lifted her out. Just like when you pick up a cat that doesn’t want to be moved.

    Hope your arm feels better soon!

  29. tiffany says:

    I have one sitting in her own pen right now, miserable biatch she is too. Last year I held her off with a saucepan lid while trying to get eggs out. This year I just used my bbq gloves to reach for her body and had her tipped upside down. If I could find fertile eggs I would let her hatch some out. any ideas where in southern Ontario?

  30. Marta says:

    We tried the fake egg route and the hen brooded on that thing for two weeks. We’ve removed the egg…

  31. Jody says:

    You are too funny! People need to know that that method won’t work for women who get broody.Two questions. How is Cuddles ass, by the way? And why is it called hardware fabric? I know I will never make a quilt out of THAT fabric.

  32. Hi, Karen! My Copper Marans is the only hen I’ve had that went broody. Did yours get a broody patch? Marlene lost all her feathers on a patch on the lower portion of her breast, apparently to create skin-to-egg contact and better warmth for the eggs.

  33. kelli says:

    Aw, poor Josephine. “She’s hot, nasty, irratible and barren. She’s menopause with feathers.” Nothing says it like a bitchin chicken. As a woman in the throes of the Big M, living in Big D in the throes of a Big Heat, THAT says it all in a nutshell. Or an egg. Cannot tell you how many times I’ve come close to telling folks to just BACK. THE. CLUCK. OFF. (also, THE LOOK helps: http://tinyurl.com/qyjfztl – Bette’s always good for that perfect RBF). Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go place ice cubes strategically inside various undergarments in order to benefit from their maximum temperature variation.

  34. Kris says:

    Some years ago, my sister’s mother-in-law had a broody hen that was driving everyone crazy! She used all your suggestions except she went with the “tried and true from Alberta farm days” method of suspending the cage high in the trees.

    Next day, she went to get her broody hen. There she was, the poor thing, in the cage, not broody, but also minus her head thanks to a raccoon who had climbed the tree and somehow managed to eat just the hen’s head through the bars.

    Our comment “Yup, you sure cured that hen. She’ll never be broody again”.

  35. Cara says:

    Have you considered moving the chicken at night when it’s dark? Chickens can’t see very well, and at nights it’s even worse. When my daughter’s chickens need to be moved they do so at night.

  36. A Guy says:

    To confirm what Dana with the yellow truck named Tweety said earlier about men being simple creatures, let me simply say…. nice gams.

  37. Daphne says:

    I have one broody right now. She’s seven years old and even though I would love for her to become a mum again I think I have to try your plan.
    We started with one coop 7 years ago you see, and every time the silly wyandottes got broody for the 5th time that year I thought “oh well, lets give them some eggs”. Now I have 4 coops. So we’re not doing that again. Thanks for the advice!

  38. Nicole says:

    I’m not sure if anyone else told you this already but the best way to pick up a broody hen off the nest is to reach over her body, firmly grasp her tail and tip her out. Once she’s somewhat upside down, pick her up with both hands and move her. I had to teach my 6yo granddaughter how to do it because she’s the official “egg collector” and I have a Silky hen that keeps going broody on unfertilized eggs. My granddaughter suffered a few pecks but she’s a pro now!

  39. Veronika says:

    Hi, I have been successful with putting my hens into a bucket full of cold water for about a minute in the past. Keep the head out though 🙂

  40. Aspasia says:

    “Back the CLUCK off” for the win. Honourable mention to “henopause.” 🙂

  41. Marti says:

    Explaining my terrible fear of all chickens. I wasn’t pecked by your average chicken… I was pecked by a BROODY chicken. Where were you when I was 9 years old, K? You coulda protected me!

  42. maggie van sickle says:

    She might be a mite broody, nasty and all the rest but she sure is purdy.

  43. Kari says:

    I love mean broody Josephine, hahaha …btw you are so cute! you look like Robyn!

  44. I’ve got one hen that goes broody about once a year. This week was that time. I just get fertile eggs from a friend who has a rooster, and stick them under her and let her hatch them.

  45. IRS says:

    Nope. Nope. Nope. Still don’t get it. Why keep chickens? If it’s for eggs, then it’s much easier and cheaper to go to the store, and I can get ice cream and chocolate at the same time, and depending on the store, wine too. If it’s as a pet, how much can one really interact with something that stabs at your hand when you disturb it, has a brain the size of a chick pea, and sits for hours in one spot? That sounds more like a guy obsessed with watching football, and even he will occasionally move his butt to go earn a pay cheque, or mow the lawn. It sounds like way too much trouble (not to mention poop, maggots and screeching) and way too few eggs or meaningful companionship. This backyard chicken keeping just sounds like a hipster fad to me. Having said that, I should go hide, since I think Karen dislikes hipsters as much as I do.

  46. Leslie says:

    Oh yeah! I have a pair of tall bright blue chemical gloves … like you might use when handling nuclear waste … for dealing with broody hens.

  47. Ashlee V says:

    OMG, don’t ever get silkies! I have two and although they are so cute you want to hug them and smoosh them, they are broody queens. They go broody together and turn into holy terrors. They go into broody breaker jail every month for a week!

  48. Donna B says:

    I laughed out loud reading this post! You’re hysterical. All your chicken posts have just about convinced me to NOT get chickens……I had no idea they could be so ‘needy’!

    Really enjoy your website….full of info AND hilarity!

  49. Love this post 🙂 We just went through our first broody experience too. I gave in and put some eggs under her. It’s now been ten weeks without any eggs and only one chick to show for it – still it is adorable to see mother and chick exploring the backyard together.

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