If you have had dealings with hens, you have likely seen a broody hen. When hens decide they want chicks, there is not much that can get in the way of their dreams of motherhood. Unfortunately, this is not always the best situation for chicken owners, especially if you do not own a cockerel. Knowing how to stop a chicken from being broody is essential to owning chickens. Join us as we uncover the best ways to do just that.
A surge of hormones, lighting conditions, maturity, or even seeing other broody hens can result in a broody hen. Having a broody hen can be a problem if you are not looking to hatch chicks or do not own a cockerel. Allowing a broody hen to sit for longer than twenty-one days can cause health problems for her, resulting in lower egg production for you and upsetting the other hens in the coop.
To get a better understanding of why broody hens are such a problem here are a few reasons which may surprise you.
- Broody hens stop or considerably reduce the amount of food they consume on a daily basis when in this broody state, this can lead to a negative impact on their health as well as a considerable weight loss making the chicken look thin and skinny.
- Broody hens are stubborn and aggressive which can pose a threat to the general coop environment, you may even notice an increase in hens being bullied and feathers being plucked. For more information on how to fix the problem of bullying inside the coop check out one of my other articles.
- Another downside of having broody hens is laying boxes are always being used, this causes problems for other hens as there may not be enough space for them to lay. You may notice an increase in cracked eggs as a consequence of this.
Here are three tips that you may find useful for how to stop broody chicken:
- Remove the hen from its current laying box repeatedly, this method can take some time due to the hens being persistent and stubborn. Try to be patient and distract the hen with some extra food; fruit/vegetables work great in situations like this
- A more effective method in our opinion is to isolate the broody hen for a couple of days, this may seem harsh but will cause no harm to the chicken and should help with getting out of the broody state. This technique is best when you notice a physical change in the bird; this can be anything from losing feathers around the breast to a sudden loss of weight.
- Preventing access to the coop or laying boxes is a simple but effective method that usually fixes the issue. A change in the environment is crucial when trying to do this.
So there you have it, a quick summary on how to stop a chicken from being broody. However, if you want a more thorough explanation, read on for a detailed analysis of broody hens and how to deal with them quickly and effectively in the remainder of this article.
What is a broody Hen?
A broody hen is a bird that believes and intends to hatch her eggs by sitting on them for extended periods of time. Leave the hen in this state and it could remain on eggs for an indefinite period. The eggs will obviously not hatch as a rooster is not involved however the hens can’t quite get their head around this concept!
Signs Of A Broody Hen
Broodiness will turn even the dainty, delicate, and usually friendly hen into an obsessive tyrant.
If you have noticed a few changes in your hen’s behavior, you might have a case of broodiness on your hands.
Here are a few signs of broodiness in hens:
- The hen refuses to leave the nesting box unless eating, drinking, or relieving herself once or twice a day.
- She is aggressive when you attempt to pick her up or move her, grunting, growling, or making screeching and clucking noises and pecking at you.
- She is aggressive to other hens when they come close to her and her nest.
- The hen puffs herself up.
- You find scattered feathers on the nesting material, and she has a bald spot on her chest.
- The hen’s poop is different from usual. Deposits are large, smelly, and slimy and often called “broody poop”.
- She is becoming malnourished and dehydrated since she hardly leaves the nest.
Broody hens are typically unfriendly and guard their eggs with fervor. This is simply their maternal instincts, and once their broodiness has dissipated, they return to their friendly selves.
If you need to lift a broody hen up for any reason, it may be a good idea to wear long, protective sleeves and gloves to avoid being hurt. It also helps to speak in a calming way when dealing with a broody hen. Make slow, steady movements as you move the hen, or provide food and water.
How To Know For Sure If A Hen Is Broody
Probably the most common way to check if a hen is broody is by monitoring the length of time it spends sitting on its eggs. Normal hens could spend anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes sitting and laying on an egg. Broody hens however will sit on their eggs for days. If you notice one of your hens doing this then it’s best to put In measures to stop her behavior.
How To Stop A Hen From Being Broody
You can try a few methods to “break” a broody hen. It may seem a little tragic to watch a hen become broody, knowing she can never have what she desperately desires. Still, when you see a hen becoming broody, it is in her best interest to break her from the cycle.
Hens that brood with no chance of having the clutch of eggs hatch can become malnourished and dehydrated. They may sit for longer than the twenty-one days it typically takes for fertile eggs to hatch. If you rely on your hens for fresh eggs to eat or sell, having a broody hen will mean a decline in your egg numbers while she broods.
Let us look at a few methods to stop a hen from being broody. You may wish to select those you feel are kind toward your hens and try some to see which works best for you.
1. Block Off The Nesting Box
Blocking off the nesting box is one way to deter broody hens from their endeavors. To do this, simply block the entrance with a board, plank, or cardboard. Be sure to secure the closure well. The broody hen will be determined to gain access to her nest.
Blocking off the nesting box will inconvenience the other hens in your coop. You may like to provide alternative nesting areas, like boxes, for this time. According to Chickens and More, the broody hen should be so fixated on her chosen nest that she will not likely take over one of your alternatives.
Keep the nesting box blocked for around three days or until the hen in question has stopped showing signs of being broody.
2. Remove Nesting Material
It is possible to keep the nesting area open but remove the nesting materials from the boxes. Broody hens instinctively create soft nests for the chicks they believe will hatch. They also pluck feathers from their chest areas to add comfort to the nest and provide direct heat between their bodies and the eggs they are setting.
When removing all possible nest materials from the boxes, the rest of the flock will still lay unfertilized eggs. The broody hen will understand that her new chicks would not survive without the nesting material and will likely abandon them.
Keep the nesting material out of the boxes until you are sure the broody behavior has subsided.
3. Lower The Temperature
When hens become broody, their body temperature increases, for those hatching live chicks, this is an excellent way for the chicken eggs to be thoroughly incubated and kept healthy.
When a hen becomes broody and will not be able to hatch her own eggs, it sometimes helps to lower her body temperature. The lower body temperature may trick her brain into believing she is no longer broody.
You can lower her temperature by placing ice cubes in the nest while the hen is away eating or relieving herself. You may wish to use a frozen water bottle for this method. If your hen is particularly stubborn, she may continue to sit. If this is the case, removing her before she becomes sick or injured from the ice is best.
Another way to lower a broody hen’s body temperature is to place the underside of her body in a cold water bath for a few minutes. Leave the hen in the cool water for five to ten minutes. If the weather is warm enough, you may not need to dry her off once out. If it is cold, this is not an excellent method, as the hen will likely get sick.
This is not a particularly kind method, but it sometimes works.
4. Repeatedly Remove The Hen From Her Nest
This method, also known as the boomerang method, is reported to have varying results. You can try this method, especially with first-time broody hens. To attempt this option, remove the hen from her nest and let her walk around the coop.
You will need to repeat this removal process a few times, so it is not for you if you have other things to do.
Chickens can be somewhat clever, so you may find that the hen keeps away from the nest while you are watching and returns as soon as your back is turned.
Include distractions in this method; consider tucking the hen under your arm and walking around the coop for a few minutes. Set her down in a place with a few treats to enjoy.
5. Remove The Hen From The Box
In most cases, broody hens will continue to fight for their right to hatch, no matter what you try. This can become somewhat concerning for chicken keepers, especially if the behavior continues past the regular twenty-one days or if the hen is becoming malnourished and dehydrated.
For the sake of the broody hen, the others in the coop, and yourself, it is sometimes best to remove the hen from the enclosure and place her in an isolated cage.
When you do this, you are essentially removing her from all sensations of nesting. The best way to perform this effective method is to place the hen in a wire cage (such as a dog crate or rabbit hutch) away from the nesting boxes. The “chicken jail” should be wire and slightly raised from the floor.
A perfect example of what could be used for a temporary home is a dog kennel or rabbit house.
Do not include any bedding or soft material in the cage, as she will likely turn those into a new nest.
Provide shelter on one part of the roof of the cage. This will shield her from the sun and other chickens that could relieve themselves on top of the cage.
Provide food and water for the hen. Her time of isolation will allow her to nourish herself back to health.
You will need to keep the hen in the cage for two to three days, as you see fit. After this time, she can be released into the coop while you watch her behavior. If she exhibits any signs of broodiness, she will need to be returned to the cage.
This method has proven successful in most cases and is relatively humane.
6. Provide Fertilized Eggs For Her To Hatch
If you are not averse to having chicks, you may wish to try this option for your broody hen.
When a hen is broody, she is driven by her instincts and hormones. The only thing she desires is to have chicks, so perhaps you can give this to her.
When using this method, be aware that many of the chicks could be male, which may affect your future planning.
You can provide fertilized eggs for your broody hen by purchasing high-quality fertilized eggs from several hatcheries. Be aware that some hens don’t make good mothers and may desert their nest of eggs, so you may wish to read up about hatching eggs before attempting this option.
7. Graft Chicks To The Hen
As a last resort and one that could bring happiness and relief to all, you might wish to graft new baby chicks to your broody hen. In essence, you would be facilitating a chick adoption process and enabling your broody hen to live out her dreams of of being a mama hen.
This method should not be attempted on hens who have not reared young before. Some hens tend to abandon their nests or kill their chicks upon hatching. If your hen has a history of this behavior, she will likely do it again, so it is best not to provide her with chicks.
If your broody hen has proven herself in the past, consider purchasing a few chicks from your local supplier. The most fun part comes in when you get to play Santa. Wait for the hen to fall asleep at night, then sneak the baby chicks under her.
When your broody hen wakes in the early morning, she will believe she hatched her babies and will be a happy mommy.
To attempt this method, use chicks younger than five days old. They are more likely to imprint on their new mom at this age. Keep a close eye on the chicks and hens and watch for disturbing behavior.
Mothers or chicks can reject each other, so consider having a brooder ready to go if needed.
My Top 5 Tips For Dealing With A Broody Hen
There are many ways to deal with a broody hen, these are 5 techniques that we’ve found particularly effective:
How To Stop Chicken From Getting Broody
We have how to stop a chicken from being broody when it has set in, and there are several ways you can divert a hen’s attention from her desire to hatch young. There are also ways to prevent hens from becoming broody in the first place, and this could be the best option for you, the other hens in the coop and hens prone to broodiness.
Certain breeds of chickens are prone to being broody. These broody breeds include:
- Buff Orpingtons
All mature female chickens can become broody, however, so let us look into ways to prevent this from happening.
The best way to prevent hens from becoming broody is to remove the eggs once they have been laid. Keep this up as part of your daily care routine for your chickens.
If your hens tend to lay during the day, consider collecting eggs a few times a day to avoid having motherly instincts kick in.
Another option you can use is to limit access to the nesting boxes. Once the hens have laid eggs in the morning, remove the eggs and hens from the boxes and keep them in the coop. Sleeping should be limited to a different area, typically above the nest boxes. Chickens can be trained to sleep in a specific spot.
You can hang a curtain over the eggs in the nesting box. In this way, the hens can continue laying throughout the day but will not see them and want to incubate them. If your hens are first-time egg layers, they will not likely become broody. Once they reach maturity, however, this can become an ongoing occurrence. It is best to prevent the phenomenon if at all possible.
Why having a broody hen is a problem
For new chicken owners it can be difficult to see the problem of having a broody hen within your flock, many people assume that the hen will eventually break out of the cycle and that they should just leave it.
However this is not the recommended approach as failing to address the problem can lead to significant harm to the broody hen, In some cases even death. The chicken will become drained physically and mentally, chickens need Interactions within the flock to maintain a healthy and normal social structure, as well as this, your chicken’s egg production will dramatically decrease as its energy will all be going into looking after eggs and it won’t be eating enough to keep producing eggs.
In addition, Broody hens can potentially become susceptible to bullying within in flock and in some cases the broody hen becomes the bully in the flock. Bullying among hens is a bi-product of having a broody individual and can be a serious problem if left unchecked, If you’re experiencing bullying within your flock, check out our article on how to stop my hen from being bullied for a thorough and complete guide on how to resolve the problem.
From A Vet’s Perspective
From my perspective, broodiness is a natural part of most mature hens. Although the blended chicken breeds tend to be broody less often than the rare breeds, most adult hens become broody since this is how they continue their species.
If your hen is broody and will not be able to have chicks, you may need to step in with intervention measures, like removing them from the other chickens for a few days. Remove all nesting materials and eggs to avoid having them continue their broody behavior.
After a hen has been sitting on her nest for around twenty-one days, she will require extra nourishment. Consider giving her a multivitamin for chickens to help her regain her former strength. Also, ensure there is enough food and water available for her.
In my opinion, it is best to prevent broodiness in hens that will not be able to hatch chicks. Remove eggs from nesting boxes as often as possible to avoid the hens’ maternal instincts taking over.
You can prevent hens from becoming broody by frequently removing eggs and not allowing hens to sleep in the nesting boxes. To break a broody hen, consider lowering her temperature or removing her from the nesting environment until the broody period has passed. I hope I have answered your question on how to stop a chicken from being broody !
David Cameron is a passionate chicken enthusiast. Growing up, he always wanted to be a veterinarian and loved animals. After graduating from veterinary school, David spent over 40 years as an equine veterinarian. He and his wife retired a few years ago and moved to North Carolina. Here, David’s love of chickens grew even more – he now has 7 chickens and 6 quail. If you have any questions about chickens, feel free to reach out.