What’s a Broody Hen and How To Stop It.

What’s a broody chicken and what can you do about it?  Or what should you do about it?  Or should you do anything about it?  So many questions.

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.

What’s a Broody Hen?

A broody hen is one that has decided she wants to sit on a clutch of eggs to hatch them. Hens can remain broody for up to 7 weeks.

Signs She’s Broody

Chickens, like most living things are instinctual.  One of their instincts is to incubate and hatch eggs. When they feel that instinct to hatch eggs coming on they do a few different things.

  • They go into a dark, quiet place (the nesting box) and don’t come out.
  • They pluck the feathers away from their chest to “feather their nest” and so there’s direct contact between her warm skin and the eggs.
  • They get moody and hormonal and a bit aggressive.
  • When out of the nesting box or when you go near her she’ll have big puffed up feathers and look defensive.

When a hen goes broody 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.

Like teenage sex.

How to Prevent it

It’s pretty hard to stop animal instincts but you can lower the chances of having a broody hen by doing a couple of things.

  • Own hens that aren’t prone to broodiness.

When I got my Marans chickens a few years ago 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.)

  • As soon as you notice your hen getting broody and sitting in the nesting box, remove her and don’t let her back in.

If you can catch it early and keep her out of her chosen broody spot there’s a chance you’ll break the cycle before it gets too bad. But honestly, the chances are slim. Again – it’s their instinct the same way your instinct is to eat the entire container of ice cream.


You can either leave a hen to brood for 4-7 weeks OR you can stop it.  

How to Break It

You need to do 2 things to break a hen of broodiness: cool her down and put her in an environment where she can’t nest.

  • The most effective, most humane way to break a chicken of broodiness is to put them in a crate that’s elevated off the ground.  A dog crate or rabbit hutch work well.
  • The crate should be hung just above the ground from a rafter, or you can just set the crate on some bricks to keep it off the ground.
  • The crate should have food and water but no bedding material in it.
  • Leave the hen in the crate until you can see she isn’t broody anymore. She’ll look more relaxed and her feathers won’t be puffed out when she’s stopped being broody.

The crate will keep her away from the nesting box and all nesting materials and allows cool air all around the chicken to bring her temperature down. 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.  She’s in henopause.

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

Why You Should Break Them

  • Hens that are broody don’t dust bathe as often as they should which makes them susceptible to mites. This in turn can cause a mite infestation which you do NOT want.
  • Broody hens don’t lay eggs.
  • The heat can kill them. Hens normally go broody in the summer, in an enclosed space with little air flow (the nesting box). Their instinct to brood is so strong that a hen will die from the heat before leaving the nest.

 

 

A chicken that goes broody goes into an almost meditative state. That is until you try to touch her or another chicken comes close to her.  When broody, Josephine will fluff all her feathers out and scream at the other chickens. BACK THE CLUCK OFF. She’s also not fond of me when she’s broody.

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

 

Step by Step

  1. 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. Chicken wire would work too.

2. Elevate the crate so air can get underneath. You want as much air flow to cool her down as possible. 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.

3. Make sure the hen has water that won’t tip over and a bowl of food 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 make sure the crate is in a safe place away from predators.  In the morning you can open the crate door. If your  hen makes a beeline for the nesting box you know she isn’t broken yet.  If she saunters out and gives you a disgusted look over her wing she’s probably been broken.

It generally takes 2 sleeps for my chicken Josephine to get back to her normal self.  I on the other hand take weeks to heal and recover.

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What\'s a Broody Hen and How To Stop It.

97 Comments

  1. Mark says:

    Good post. My sons chicken(s) one of them just went through this. All we did was move it aside and collect the eggs. Yes the hen pecked me and bit me but nbd. After a couple of weeks it just gave up now everything is back to normal….whatever that is lol
    BTW nice legs
    Mark

  2. Teddee Grace says:

    It was the job of my sister and me to gather eggs, and at the age of five, I found it quite daunting, if not outright frightening, to gather the eggs from under what we called “setting hens.” That probably should have been “sitting hens,” but this was very rural northwest Missouri in the late 40s and, to be honest, we probably called them “settin’ hens.” We were taught to take a bare corncob and stealthily approach the hen, slam the corncob down on her neck, grab her feet and throw her off the nest in order to access the eggs. Quite a feat at such a young age. I’m not sure how effective this guerilla warfare was as it seems we had one very stubborn orange hen with which I had to contend constantly.

  3. whitequeen96 says:

    I always learn so much from reading your posts! Now I know why I shouldn’t raise chickens and should buy my eggs at the store!

  4. Hecto says:

    Loved your article. My mother used to put broody hens in a potato jute bag and hung the bag on the clothesline (I don’t know how long). My mother in law would tie one leg of that chicken on a short post outside.

  5. Vikki says:

    I would gladly go sit in a crate if it would help with my menopause! That first photo of Josephine is just how I feel sometimes. 😡

  6. Leslie Russell says:

    It made me choose a recipe rating and if I was an lol person there would be about 10 of them. I have a few hens that trade off being broody. At some point during the day I pull them out and put them outside. They take a dust bath, eat a little something and walk around completely fluffed up. Just cranky as hell. I always get a peck or two but nothing severe. Since it’s 90° the nesting box gets pretty hot but I’m pretty sure they’d stay in there until they were, well…I’d need to post a recipe rating. It looks to me like you are leaving your dog crate outside. At night? I’d have to bring it outside during the day and put it back in the coop at night (work). I’m thinking of just leaving it inside the coop. I know this is an old article but if you catch this post could you throw me an answer?

  7. Shana says:

    I had to read through your (hilarious) experience. Mostly because my husband suggested that we isolate our broody Delaware hen, and I didn’t really trust him…he can be a bit insensitive to these things, and the research he does is much different from the way I go about these things.
    We have a small coop that we have used for our pullets, and this is going to be our isolation area. Hopefully this works!
    Oh yes, and the other crazy part about broody hens is that they rip out their own breast feathers…just another beautiful trait of nature!

  8. Alecia C says:

    Although there are legitimate reasons to break a hen of her broodiness, I 100% recommend putting fertilized eggs under her if you can. Look online (including Craigslist), some farms sell them. Of course, in Tennessee, you can also get free goats on Craigslist, so I might just be in the right area ;)
    Pros: mama hen is happy, you get more chickens, the new chickens integrate one million times better and easier than adding grown chickens into an existing flock (seriously, SOOO much easier)
    Cons: you might get a rooster…or two

  9. Agnes says:

    Ha – your Josephine is positively polite. When mine go broody they are more like this
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xB0JhP9XQI0
    Fluffing up, growling at everything that moves AND pecking. Really henopausal.

  10. Lin N says:

    Wait a minute….’fluff all her feathers out and scream at the other chickens. BACK THE CLUCK OFF.’…change it from chicken to human and that’s me when I don’t want to be around people….😂

  11. Mary W says:

    None of my hens ever got broody – until I was gifted several Banty hens. They could sort of fly and roosted in low branches – very pretty birds but I never found their eggs. One was broody and I decided to let her by putting over a dozen of the Rhode Island Red hen eggs under her. She ran to the pile o’ eggs and couldn’t even cover them all. She spent most of each day turning them and moving them so they would get equal attention and warmth – in Florida it wasn’t that hard. Then they hatched and the thought of her walking around with baby chicks sticking out from under all her feathers still makes me laugh. They stuck out from all sides and some had to run behind as only about 5 or 6 could even fit under her feathers. It was so funny. It was also probably cruel. She was so proud of her batch of chicks though so who could deny her that, even though I never did it to her again. In all those years she was the only one to go broody and old Rodney (never got no respect) Dangerfield, the big red rooster, got to live on through them. There is no sound more funny than when a hen lays an egg and struts around squawking proudly, no sight more funny than the poor Banty mom, and no eggs taste better than those fresh, free range eggs produced by my sweet Red hens. I hadn’t heard about the chickens lately so I’m glad you posted this today. Maybe you could get a couple of fertile eggs and give her a Mom moment, also!

    • Karen says:

      I did! 2 years ago I got some eggs for her to sit on. That’s where I got my white splash hen Baby from. Baby is very mean. I don’t really like her. But she lays pretty green eggs with spots. Funny thing is, Josephine sat on the eggs, hatched them, was a doting mother until … she wasn’t. She sort of decided motherhood wasn’t for her, so Cheez Whiz swooped in and took over mothering duties when they were a couple of weeks old. It was amazing! ~ karen

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