Broody Hen

Broody chicken

Broody Hen – a blessing or a curse?

Broody hen season is upon us. This is where your chickens sit and sit and sit and sit. Even when you lift the hen out of her nest she remains in a sitting position like she has lost the use of her legs.

I have been waiting for any of my girls to go broody because the easiest way to care for eggs and then chicks is to get a mother hen to do it for you. It’s the lazy persons way, but the best and most natural way to raise chicks.

How do you know your hen is broody?

She will be making a noise that sounds like “clock” “clock” “clock. She will be flattened in the nest box. You may get pecked when you try to remove her as broodies can get rather moody and irritable. Every time you look for her she will still be there in residence.  When she moves around she will look and sound angry to the other hens and they will most likely attack her for her insolence if she is far enough down the pecking order.

What can you do to stop her being broody

Either you want her to hatch eggs, in which case add some fertile eggs under her. This is best done at night if she is a bit cantankerous. Or you will need to “break” her out of her broody phase.

Contrary to popular belief, broodies are not hot. Their body temperature is normally a little higher than our own. An egg needs incubating at 37.5C which is cooler than a hens normal temperature. Eggs overheat at the normal chicken temp so it would be a fair assumption that a broody is actually cooler than a normal hen. She will pluck her breast feathers so that she has less insulation.

To break her you will need to keep her in a cage such as a dog cage with a wire bottom. This is to make her uncomfortable and unable to nest. Put food and water in her cage as she will need to be kept in there day and night for at least 2 days. It is important she is safe from predators and the weather. Test her after 2 days. If she returns to her nest, add another day in the “broody gaol” until she is no longer wanting to sit.

You can also prevent her from getting anywhere she can make a nest by locking her out. Your other hens will need access to the nests however. She can go back in with the others overnight if you wish but turf her out each day until she gives up. Cage will take 2-4 days, lockout will take about the same.

Why do I need to break her

Broodies that do not have a job to do will only eat and drink once a day. They will lose condition if allowed to sit indefinitely. Some breeds can literally broody themselves to death. Either let her hatch or break her. She may have repeated episodes of broodiness if she is particularly prone to it. Silkies, Pekins, Wyandottes, Sussexes, Orpingtons are some of the most broody breeds.  If you are unhappy feeling cruel to be kind, then it is a good idea to avoid getting any of the above breeds.