The Secret to Fixing a Broody Hen

First off, what is a broody hen?!?  It is a hen that wants what nature intended – for her eggs to hatch.  She will sit on and guard them all day, and if it wasn’t in your plan to have chicks (or you don’t even have a rooster), then her efforts are not aligned with yours.  In most cases, you want to collect those eggs for consumption, but the problem is your broody hen will not be happy and may even stop laying eggs all-together.

There is not a particular reason why a hen turns broody – it can be due to age/maturity, instinct or even hormones.  If you are unsure if you have a broody hen, here are some of the obvious signs:

  • Your hen will remain in her nest ALL day/night sitting on her eggs…she will NOT leave for anything
  • She becomes territorial around her eggs
  • She gets aggressive towards humans – pecking and biting at any attempt you make to get close
  • She may pick out her breast feathers; without them she can transfer more body heat to her eggs

Now that we’ve identified the tell-tale signs of a broody hen, how do we stop it??

First let’s talk prevention.  There are some things you can do to help mitigate a hen turning broody.  The main ones are removing eggs right after she lays them and not allowing her to sit in the nest for long periods of time.  The problem with either option is that unless you are around your flock all day long, you’ll never keep up and chances are that you will have a broody hen at some point.

If the unfortunate happens, here are the steps to “breaking” a broody hen:

  • Physically remove her from the nest box and return her to the general population.  CAUTION: wear protective gloves as she will probably fight you every step of the way!
  • Block off the nesting box she was in after you remove her.  Clean out all nesting/bedding materials and close the box out with a piece of wood.  Don’t re-open until she is back to normal.
  • Force her to roost at night.  Physically place her with your other roosting chickens; chances are she’ll be too afraid to venture back to her nesting box during the night.
  • If none of the above work, you’ll have to really lay down the law.  Place her in the Broody “Penalty” Box – basically like giving children a timeout, but add a small cage…for the chickens, not the children 🙂 !  Place her in a small cage with only food and water for up to three days.  Make sure the bottom is mesh and it’s raised off the ground so poop can drop freely – there should be no bedding in the cage.  Place it in a spot that gets plenty of light.  If she lays eggs at any point, let her out as this means she isn’t broody anymore.  After three days let her back into the general population and if she is acting social, you’ve broken her, great job.  If she runs back to a nest box, place her back in the cage for another three days.

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