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5 Tips for Dealing with Broody Hens

Posted by Laura Hepburn, Thu, Aug 18, 2011

If you keep a variety of chickens in your flock, chances are you have at least one hen that likes to go broody. “Going broody” is when a hen decides she would like to hatch some of her eggs and sits on them for an extended period of time, allowing her body temperature to increase and often consuming less food and water than she would normally. 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. But, for people who want eggs only 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 during hot summers. Breaking a hen of her broodiness will help ensure that she will eat whenever she’s hungry and drink when thirsty. Broody hens can also experience a slowdown 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 is that broody hens can get a little aggressive. Some hens will not only sit on a bunch of eggs, but strongly object to your trying to take them by pecking and yelling at you.

Broody Breeds

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 specifically for hatching 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 are as prone to broodiness as Silkies and will vary widely depending on the individual bird). 

5 Simple Tips to “Break” a Broody Hen: 

  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 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 using a wire-bottom cage doesn’t work or isn’t an option, some people slip a few ice cubes under a broody hen a couple of 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 by simply dunking the hen’s underside in a shallow dish of cool water.

These are just a few quick tips that 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 hen, please post them in the comments. We would love to hear your ideas!

Comments

Sandhill Garden 08/18/2011, 3:29:49 PM

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.

Phil Dixon 07/31/2012, 3:30:10 PM

Appreciate the advice. Got my first broody one. I thought she was dead at first ........ till I tried to pick her up ;-)

Tim 07/07/2014, 3:30:28 PM

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".  

Edwina Beresford 09/23/2015, 3:30:56 PM

Hi Tim, it is hard when they frantically want back into the coup but I persevered and it worked. I am fairly new to keeping chickens too but loving it. I have also recently found out that I have been spoiling them, probably because I felt guilty, but I am happy to say mine started laying again at the weekend!! Happy days. Persevere Tim, it will work.

Gabby Gufler 07/07/2014, 3:31:29 PM

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.

Sue Rallis 10/29/2014, 3:31:54 PM

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. 

Bonnie 06/30/2015, 3:32:14 PM

I had the same experience. I tried removing her from the nest box, locking her out of the coop to free range, and taking away the eggs. I only had success when I locked her up in a open bottom cage with just food and water for three days. It's important for the cage to be open at the bottom so that their temperature will go down. It sounds cruel, but it works and she finally is back at her normal weight. They can lose a lot of weight if they stay broody.

Valerie C 08/30/2017, 3:32:37 PM

Ha! You found out rather quickly that she is alive and kicking (or pecking, rather).

Izzie Billingham 09/07/2017, 3:32:58 PM

My chicken is broody and we are just waiting for it to end

Debbie Ecsedy 11/25/2017, 3:33:19 PM

We rescued a hen that was abandoned she was great for a while then she turned into the devil, she attack's me every time I try and gather the eggs, she's just so mean, when I take her out to stretch she's complaining loudly and tries to get back to the best, which we put fake eggs I , she's not letting the other chicken lay their eggs and I am finding them all over the yard, my other girls are pecking her every time i put her down so she can exercise and eat. I don't know what to do, please help.

Dave Waldman 11/27/2017, 3:33:56 PM

The unfortunate situation here is that you rescued a chicken and now you and the rest of your flock may need rescuing.

It sounds like you may need to segregate this chicken from the rest of your girls. If you can, you can build her a separate shelter and fenced area. This will protect your other chicken’s eggs from being laid all over the place, and will also protect her from being pecked while she’s alone. You might also try placing the hen in a segregated area with a rooster. He may be better company than other, competing hens. There aren’t many other options in a situation like this except for segregating the bird. Let us know what you decide to do.

Debbie Ecsedy 11/27/2017, 3:34:26 PM

Well David, no sooner did I post this did she snap out of her broodyness. according to my husband, she's back to being a good chicken. I guess separating her every day for a few hours worked. Thanks for the advise.

Sandy 09/12/2020, 10:45:19 AM

We have 6 Chickens who we got in June, we are first time keepers. They are now only about 7 months old. One of the Sussex has now been Broody for 27 days. She would sit in the nesting box even without any Eggs there all day and even brood under the Coop if we locked her in the run. She would also keep an eye on the pophole door, which we locked, until it opened then she will run to get in asap. So then we made a crate for her, within the run, and she spent her days in there for 6 days, still didn't work, so for the last 2 days we have put her in our netted (vacant) vegetable plot during the day, on her own. She is still broody and eats very little, but she does have a peck around at the earth. We are at the end of our tether with her, can anyone suggest ANYTHING please? Also, does anyone know how long this could go on for? Any helpful suggestions really appreciated. Sandy

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