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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!