Breaking A Broody Hen

broody hen

Having a hen go broody can be great for your flock.  It means that she will naturally incubate your eggs until they hatch.  Unfortunately though, you don’t always want a hen to go broody.  While a broody hen can mean no incubators and no responsibility for you as the owner, it can also be unhealthy and/or pointless for a hen and therefore not in your best interest.  Maybe you just aren’t trying to hatch any eggs.  Maybe you want the hen to keep laying instead of setting over a hatch of eggs.  This is why as a flock owner, you may want to learn how to break a hen from going broody and get her back on track to a normal lifestyle.  

Catching My Drift? broody hen

To elaborate, it may be pointless for a hen to go broody if the eggs aren’t even fertile.  If you have no rooster, the eggs won’t be fertilized and therefore you won’t need a hen to set over them.  Despite this, your hens will still sometimes try to incubate them.  This can happen if you let too many eggs accumulate in the nest box or if you just have a very “motherly” hen.  What makes this pointless broodiness so important is how detrimental it can be to a hen’s overall health. When a hen goes broody she stops laying and can also tend to pluck out her own breast feathers.  Not only do they do this, but they will rarely get up and move from the same spot over the course of incubating the eggs.  This means minimal food and minimal water.  As you can see, going broody can be really tough on a hen which is why if it’s unnecessary, you should know how to break her broodiness.

Other “Side Effects”

There are other aspects of going broody that you may want to avoid as well.  For example, sometimes other hens can start to peck at the broody hen for taking up a nesting box for too long.  A broody hen may also have to reintegrate into the pecking order after being gone so long.  This can also lead to some hazing, if you will.  Broodiness can also rub off on other hens and cause them to go broody, only exacerbating your problem.  The lack of physical activity and grooming can also leave your hens prone to mites and other parasites.

Diagnosing a Broody HenBroody Hen

Diagnosing your broody hen is the first step and it’s not very difficult.  If your hen pretty much sits in the nesting box over eggs all day long, she’s probably going broody.  The reason hens will start plucking their breast feathers is because it helps pad the nest.  A hen’s bare skin is also a better heat conductor than feathers for keeping the eggs at the proper temperature.  

So you have a broody hen.  She’s all cooped up in the nest box all day hovering over infertile eggs or whatever the case may be.  How do you break her?  Well, the most preemptive step to breaking a broody hen is preventing her from going broody in the first place.  The best way to do this is to collect your eggs early and often.  If there are no eggs, there is nothing to set over.  

You Didn’t Nip It In The Bud, So What Do You Do Now?

Okay so you screwed up, you let the eggs accumulate and now your favorite hen Doris has gone broody over them.  What do you do now?  One effective method is to just lift the hen off the eggs multiple times a day and place her as far as safely possible away from the eggs.  Hopefully, after many attempts, she will stop going back to the nest and instead join in with the rest of the flock in being goofy, carefree, and most importantly healthy chickens.  On top of this, at the end of the night, before you go to bed, place the hen on a roosting bar.  Chances are she’ll be so blind and tired in the dark that she’ll just crash on the roosting bar and not go back to the nest.

If the above methods don’t work, there are some other more extreme measures you can take as well.  You could remove the nesting materials from the nest box.  By doing this you would just make the nest box as unappealing and uncomfortable as possible to the hen.  Worst comes to worst, you can block the nest off from the hen.

Sometimes They Need Your Help

Simply put, your hen won’t be extremely excited with your presence and nosiness during this period of breaking their broodiness.  Alas, it is very conducive to a hen’s health to keep her out in fresh air, drinking water and eating feed as she’s supposed to.  Sometimes, they just need to be reminded of this.


2 thoughts on “Breaking A Broody Hen

  1. Emily says:

    Hi there, Elliot! :) Perhaps you can guide me further on what to do for my very unbreakable and determined broody hen who sits on NOTHING. Since this Spring, she has been broody more days than not. She is small for her breed (Buff Orpington) and hardly ever leaves her corner of the coop floor where she has decided to make her nest, though there is nothing there, just a few wood chips! We have NO rooster and I pick up all the eggs from the other girls multiple times each day, so having eggs under her is not the issue. I ousted her from one corner earlier this summer, and she just moved into another one. Occasionally someone will lay an egg next to her, which she sneaks underneath her and proceeds to sit on that until I collect it. This little girl hardly moves and when I pick her up to take her outside with the other ladies, she seems to be almost in a woozy trance, makes this weird inverted clucking sound and feels so light. I will take her outside, put her in front of the water dish, or some water melon and she will sip or nibble, and maybe run around for a few minutes during my flock’s supervised free-range time, and briefly act like a normal chicken, but then when she decides to return to the nest, nothing can slow her down when she makes a bee line to her corner inside. At night, I will go in after dark and pick her up off the floor to put her on the perch with the other girls, but no sooner than when I shut the coop door, I hear her jump off and scuttle over to her corner – clucking away in the darkness. When she lays, her totally round eggs are barely the size of a ping-pong ball, but they are ever so delicious! I do worry for her health, because she hardly eats or drinks and chooses to stay in the hot coop so much. Even though it is underneath shade trees and shade cloth, is well ventilated with lots of open windows and doors, and has air movement assisted by 2 fans — it still gets hot; we’re in Cincinnati, OH which has been in the 80’s and mid 90’s and humid this summer. What to do? I don’t want her to waste away or die on the nest and I sure do miss her tasty eggs! BTW — Everybody’s on Feather Fixer pellets with daily supplements of Omega egg maker plus, and of course we have self-service grit and oyster calcium, treats are green & red cabbage, watermelon and bread (to bribe them back into the run after some backyard free-ranging). Thank you in advance for any additional broody-breaking ideas you might have.

  2. persistance says:

    This does not help me at all. I had a flock of 5 pullets 1 rooster and 15 hens with 2 hens going broody. Separating the broody ones from the others, giving them food and water but making sure there was no eggs for them they still remained broody for weeks. A couple days after rejoining the rest of the flock they have resumed their broody behavior. I am trying to decide of I should try introducing them to a few of the chicks that I got today and see it they will mother them or if I should cull them (last resort).

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