Has your backyard chicken coop become somewhat chaotic? Is one of your hens really grumpy? Have you tried everything to figure out what is wrong, but nothing seems to make her happy? Most likely she is a broody hen.
What is a broody hen? In the simplest terms, it’s a hen who wants to hatch chicks. She will stay in her nesting box all day, hoping to hatch her eggs. When this doesn’t happen, she gets broody. Broody hens are even known to steal other hen’s eggs to sit on. There has not been enough research to determine the exact cause of this, but it’s generally understood hens get broody due to a combination of hormones, maturity, and instinct.
Is your hen brooding?
You will probably be able to tell if your hen is brooding, but here are some signs to look for.
- She doesn’t leave her nest…..ever! She will sit on it all day and not leave, not even to roost with the other chickens.
- She will be very protective of her nest. If you try to get near her she will squawk at you.
- If you need to move her, wear protective gloves as she will peck at you.
If you want chicks, then you want a brooding hen…but if you don’t, you have a problem. Some say your brooding hen will “snap out of it” in 21 days, the length of time it takes to hatch chicks. But, if your hen doesn’t return to normal, here are some things you can do.
How to break the brooding.
Now you know what is a broody hen, let’s take a look at what to do about it. If possible, try to avoid your hen getting broody in the first place. If possible, remove the eggs from the nest as soon as they have been laid. Also, keep your hens out of their boxes once they have laid their eggs. If this is a little more hands on than you want, here are some more suggestions.
- Get her back to the roost. Take her from her nest and put her with the other chickens roosting. Being with the other hens in the dark may just keep her there.
- When it’s time to feed your hens, pick up the brooding hen (remember to wear gloves ) and put her with the other hens. The food may keep her attention from returning to her nest. If she does return, just pick her up and put her back with the others. You may be doing this for a few days until you break her of her brooding.
- If she continues to return to her nesting box, block it. You can easily nail a board across the entrance to keep her out.
Things to look out for.
You really can’t predict which of your hens will become broody. But, there are some factors that you can watch for.
- New hens almost never go broody during their first laying season.
- Winter is too cold for hens to go broody. You are far more likely to encounter it during the spring when the weather is warmer to raise chicks.
- Some chickens don’t go broody, especially hybrid birds.
When it’s over.
Once your hen is done, you should see her egg production return. But, it could take up to 30 days before she lays regularly. If you want to keep up your egg production, try to break her of her broodiness as soon as you see it starting.
It’s also very important that you make sure your hen has food and water while she is sitting on her nest. Until you break her of her broodiness you will need to bring these to her.