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.

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.

Like teenage sex.

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.)

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 to 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 over 40C in the summer and it just isn’t a very safe place for her to be.

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.

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.  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.  That’s the theory anyway.

So I bought a used dog crate for $20 and began the experiment.

Broody Hen?  Here’s how to break it.

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.   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 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 Josephine to get back to her normal self.  I on the other hand take weeks to heal and recover.

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So your hen sits in the nesting box like she\'s hatching chicks only there are no eggs under her and she doesn\'t seem to be eating, drinking or bathing. She\'s broody. Here\'s how to fix it.

90 Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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….😂

  4. 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

  5. Linda says:

    Mavis, my Cuckoo Marans, was just released from her broody confinement in a small crate I built and my son named the Chicken Chail (jail). Not the first broody spell, probably won’t be the last. And I have scars to show for it. Waiting for some eggs now….

  6. Eve says:

    I think they need an xylophone to peck at too…

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MKKN0lAlATQ

  7. Arlene says:

    Karen…..Hilarious!
    Thank you for the laugh this morning!
    Very interesting read and I don’t even have chickens! 😂

  8. Meredith says:

    I just keep removing them from the nest every chance I get. That, and a couple feedings of sliced melon on the ground for all their non-broody chicken friends to freak out over (making sure broody hen can clearly see what she is missing) usually breaks them in a week or two.

    • Karen says:

      That works with some hens! I have one that is half hearted about broodiness. But others, (like Josephine) are FULLY committed to their broodiness. I’ve tried taking her out of the nesting box for weeks on end and there’s no way. She is determined. ~ karen!

  9. Hecto says:

    I never had chickens but I remember my mother would put the bird in a burlap sack and hang the sack on the clothesline. The spinning would probably change the hen’s mind!

  10. Laura Lee says:

    Last week I made a “detention cage” just exactly like the one you have! I have an adorable little “quail chicken” sweet cheeks that is a real cutie bug, but now she is broody and turned into psycho chicken! I took her off the nest and sat her in the water dish to “cool down the belly, cool down the belly” (that’s what I would sing to her in the same tone and rhythm as “here come the judge, here come the judge” (if you remember the old Laugh in series you know what I’m talking about hahahaha.) After drying off a bit, she would look around for some ducks to terrorize…these ducks are 4 times her size and are PETRIFIED of her! I thought she was broken 3 days ago and about put the cage away and then wham, sneaking back in the nesting box again. I hope I can get her broken by Thursday as it is supposed to be 105 that day and I would hate to let her out of detention just to have her sneak in a nest box and then suffer there if I forget to check on her. (These chickens are a lot like my kids, always getting into mischief and you have to keep a constant watch on them to keep them safe and alive…but I love them so much it’s worth it!)

  11. Judi says:

    My Buff Orpington goes broody every 3 months or so. The dog crate works but it usually takes another 2 weeks before she starts laying again! 😡
    My neighbor got 2 new chicks and put under her hen after dark. Even though it wasn’t “full term” mama hen seemed satisfied. She was a good mama and protected her brood until the could be on their own.

  12. Nina says:

    Thank you for sharing, it was very helpful and educational for me.
    My little Barrock, is having the same problem as the first video I saw. The limping , I will try baby asprin.
    Thank you Karen.

  13. Nikki says:

    I got me a broody silky… she was like super mini egg layer, then… it happened.
    I am trying the frozen water bottle method, since it is still quite cool and rainy. She is setting a bad example for my spring time layers! wish me luck!

  14. Hahaha the definition of dragging your feet! Poor ol’ Josephine! Great info, thanks for sharing!!!!

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