Darn near every member of the chicken community has had to deal with a broody hen at one point or another. If you have not – Yay for you! Also, if you want a yard that’s constantly full of new baby chicks, you will find that a broody hen is a lifesaver as she will ensure the babies are taken care of and looked after appropriately.
However, having a broody hen when you don’t want it to be broody is no joke. It can be the source of major frustration for those that don’t want an ever-flowing fountain of baby chicks and those that want to get to their daily eggs for breakfast.
What Does It Mean When A Hen Is Broody?
A broody hen is simply a hen that really wants to hatch eggs. Sometimes it’s her own eggs and sometimes she’ll steal other hens’ eggs, (or they can just be imaginary eggs), but once she has them, she will sit on them day and night. It doesn’t even matter if the eggs have been fertilized or not. The hen may even develop a bit of an attitude and hiss (yes, hiss!) or peck at you if you to try take her eggs or move her.
What makes things even worse is that being “broody” is contagious in a way. While it’s not a major disease or a bacterial infection, it can cause the other hens in the coop to develop the same attitude and cranky disposition. If you’re one that wants to enjoy your daily omelet, having a coop full of broody hens, as opposed to just one, can be a major problem.
There are different reasons why a hen will go broody. It’s a mixture of her age, genetics, breed, and even the weather! There’s no telling what the exact cause of your chicken going broody was, but you can think of it as her suddenly becoming aware of the fact that her biological clock is ticking.
Problems With A Hen Being Broody
She Might Get Sick
A hen being broody can have ill effects on her health. If she’s being broody, chances are she’s not leaving her nest long enough to eat and drink as often and as much as she should. This negligence can lead to extreme weight loss and dehydration.
There have even been cases where broody hens were so dedicated to sitting on their eggs that they starved themselves to death. At bare minimum, she won’t be practicing good hygiene as she typically would – think dust baths – and this may cause her to get mites or other parasites.
She Might Get Depressed
Deep down inside a broody hen really just wants to be a good mama bird for her chicks. If she’s attempting to incubate eggs that aren’t even fertilized you may find yourself with a bigger issue that just a broody hen. She may end up depressed.
If you go the route where you allow her to get over her broodiness naturally, watch out for depression around 3 weeks or so as this is when she’ll be expecting the chicks to hatch. If you notice that she’s not getting over it herself, it may be time to intervene. We will discuss how to deal with a broody hen below.
She May Lose Her Spot In The Pecking Order
Essentially, a hen that has decided to go broody and stay with her eggs all day has decided to remove herself from the rest of the flock. This decision may end up requiring a manual re-introduction to the flock whenever she’s ready to socialize again. It could also lead to her being bullied by any other established hens that have taken up the spot of head honcho (hen-cho?) of the flock.
Drop In Overall Egg Production
This is more of a negative effect for you, the chicken owner, rather than the health of the chicken itself. This notion is especially true if you rely on your hen’s production of eggs to bring money in or put food on the table. Once a chicken stops performing their main function, it can be a major problem that needs to be corrected ASAP.
These are just a few things that a chicken owner will have to think about and deal with when they encounter a broody hen. While it’s all mostly manageable, the question is whether you should intervene and nip it in the bud at the first sign of any broodiness or just let nature take its course?
How Do I Fix This Broodiness?
If you’re trying to get your hen back to her normal happy-go-lucky self, it might take quite a bit of effort. At least you know that there’s a chance!
Some would agree that humoring the hen by giving her some fertilized eggs to hatch and take care of would be the best for the health of the hen. You can just let nature take its course, but if you’re really opposed to having anymore chicks added to your flock, this may not be an option for you and you’ll need to find another way to deal with her attitude.
You Have Plenty Of Other Options
Remove From The Nest
One idea would be to completely remove her from the nest if you have the patience for this method. You will need to repeat the process as many times as necessary until she understands that she needs to be out of the nest (think putting a toddler to bed). This ought to work sooner or later.
With that being said, if you see no improvement in her broodiness after a day of this and you keep finding her back in her nest, you may want to try boarding off the area completely. This method will make it so she (and theoretically the rest of the hens) cannot access the nest no matter how bad she wants to.
Doing this should clear up the broodiness after a day or two. Of course, that would also potentially limit the use of the nests for the other hens, which may not be something you want to do as that could affect the overall egg production from your non-broody hens.
Make The Nest Less Welcoming
If this method isn’t successful within a few days, you will need to try something else. If you’re in a warm or moderate climate, we recommend placing something cold like ice cubes or a frozen bottle of water in the nest when she leaves for a moment to eat and drink. This will make it uncomfortable for her when she returns and will discourage her from setting up shop on the nest again.
Another tactic along these lines that you could use, to keep her from getting to broody temperature, would be to give her a cold chicken bath. This method simply involves filling up a bucket with just enough water to soak her feet and breast area. You don’t want to try this during the wintertime. You should only use this method when it’s warm outside.
Some have also had luck with placing a frozen bag of vegetables inside the nest to have her sit on. That’d be a good deterrent to keep her from the nest and it’ll help lower her broody body temperature. Once she gets the point you may even be able to reward her with those vegetables as a nice treat.
You can always try to trick her. You can purchase a brand-new baby chick or two and sneak them under the hen at night. If you decide to try this trick, make sure you’re standing by in case she can tell they aren’t her babies and gets aggressive. If this plan goes awry, you will need to rescue them before she does any damage and then it’ll be up to you to raise them. It’s still worth a try if you’ve run out of other ideas.
Some Breeds are More Broody Than Others
Do be aware that some breeds are just prone to being broodier than others. If you’re not planning to breed your chickens or don’t want baby chicks for whatever reason, make sure that you stay away from the breeds that are more likely to be broody, like Brahmas, Cochins, and Orpingtons.
Ultimately, the best way to deal with a broody hen is to try and prevent her from becoming broody to begin with. Obviously, there’s not too much you can do about her biological clock, but a good place to start would be picking up the eggs early in the morning before she has decided to sit on them.