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.
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 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.