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5 Tips For Dealing With Broody Hens

 

broody silkie hen

If you keep a variety of chickens in your flock, chances are you have at least one hen who likes to go broody.  "Going broody" is when a hen decides she would like to hatch out some eggs and will sit on eggs for an extended period of time, allowing her body temperature to increase and often consuming less food and water than normal.  For those who want their girls to hatch some fertilized eggs, this is just fine.  You'll need to make sure they have easy access to food and water, usually by placing a small waterer and feeder within very close proximity to their nesting box.  However, for people who only want eggs for consumption, a broody hen can be a bit of a pain.  For one thing, you want to make sure your hens get the food and water they need, especially in hot summers.  Breaking a hen of her broodiness will help to ensure that she will eat whenever hungry and drink when thirsty.  Broody hens can also experience a slow-down of egg production, especially if they hoard eggs from the other hens and feel they have a full nest.  I have two hens that tend to go broody and they love to adopt the eggs from the rest of my flock!  One of the other concerns can come from broody hens that get a little aggressive.  Some hens not only sit on a bunch of eggs, but they strongly object to your trying to take them by pecking and yelling at you.

It should also be mentioned that while specific hens of any breed can be rather broody, there are some breeds that are notorious for it.  Silkies are famous for being broody hens.  In fact many people keep silkies around to use for hatching out new chicks.  They will hatch just about anything and are good mothers as well.  Other breeds that have been known to go broody at times are Australorps, Brahmas, Cochins, Faverolles, Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, Sussex and Wyandottes - although none of these breeds is as prone to broodiness as Silkies and will vary widely depending on the individual bird.

If you have a hen you wish to "break" of her broodiness, here are 5 simple tips:

  1. Be sure to remove eggs from under the hen regularly and, if possible, pick her up and set her away from the nesting area while you collect them.
  2. Create a separate environment for her using a small portable coop or crate.  Removing her away from the nesting boxes and eggs could help get her out of the broody mindset.
  3. Putting her in a cage with a wire bottom, open to the air, can help cool her underside and disengage her from the broody feeling.
  4. If the wire-bottom cage doesn't work or isn't an option, some people slip a few ice cubes under broody hens a couple times a day which can result in cooling her temperature and making her "nest" undesirable.
  5. Similar to the ice cube method, some people have found success simply dunking the hen's underside in a shallow dish of cool water.

These are just a few quick tips many chicken owners have found useful when breaking a hen of her broodiness, but there are a lot of techniques out there.  If changing your hen's environment and cooling down her body temperature don't work, try asking some experienced chicken owners if they have any suggestions!  If YOU are an experienced owner and have developed your own methods for breaking a broody, please post them in the comments as we would love to hear about your ideas!

Comments

I have tried these with the one hen I have a problem with, with limited success. What is really bothersome however is that 2-3 weeks after she snaps out of it, it starts all over again. Finally, I just force her off the nest and out of the coop for an hour or 2 per day to free range, and the rest of the time leave her to do as she pleases, after taking the eggs.
Posted @ Thursday, August 18, 2011 2:31 PM by Sandhill Garden
Appreciate the advice. Got my first broody one. I thought she was dead at first ........ till I tried to pick her up ;-)
Posted @ Tuesday, July 31, 2012 4:16 PM by Phil Dixon
I have a broody Red Comet who usually rules the roost of 4 other hens. The eggs aren't fertile so I don't see much use in her continuing to be broody. Plus, she was our best layer with the most delicious eggs. :( 
 
I've tried removing her from the nestbox to free range, or into a chicken tractor on her own, but she frantically searches for any way to get back to her nest box. 
 
Should I just let her sit in a nest box for a week? It seems like separating her from it really stresses her out, but people say it's common to try and "break a broody".  
 
help!
Posted @ Monday, July 07, 2014 11:28 AM by Tim
Great question. 
 
Typically there is no harm in letting broodiness in a hen run its course. It should last about 21 days or so. Be sure the hen has plenty of food and water very close to her nest. You can take her off the nest to stretch and just collect the eggs promptly from under her.
Posted @ Monday, July 07, 2014 5:04 PM by Gabby Gufler
Taking the hen into an "isolation" cage will do the trick but she will have to be there for 3 days. The cage bottom should be as uncomfortable as possible (concrete or wood). After 3 days, she will have forgotten all about brooding. Works all the time, seems a bit cruel but it's ok, they'll forgive and forget fast!
Posted @ Wednesday, July 16, 2014 12:22 PM by gerrit
There is another problem with letting a broody hen stay broody.  
Today my broody Wyandotte Louise attacked and very nearly killed my little Pale Sussex Berta. Louise is a large bird and is at the bottom of the pecking order, however, she is a monster when broody.  
I have found the best way for my girls is the crate method, 3 or 4 days and they are sorted. You can't let them out until they have cracked. If they even get near the nesting box you will need to start again. 
Sue
Posted @ Wednesday, October 29, 2014 4:33 PM by Sue Rallis
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