You walk into the coop, and your sweet hen is sitting in the nesting box. So you walk away and let her do her thing in private- since the ladies love their privacy.
You come back, and she’s still sitting there. You come back to tuck them into bed for the night, and she’s still there. And she’s hijacked the other ladies’ eggs.
Your hen has gone broody! A broody hen is defined as a hen who wants to hatch and raise her eggs.
Certain breeds of chickens are known to go broody more than certain types.
The tops three birds for broodiness are Silkies, Cochins,
Buff Orpingtons. For a full list of the best broody hens, go here.
How to Spot a Broody Hen
Before you can think about stopping a broody hen, it’s important to see the signs of broodiness. Just like it is important to know the signs of your hens before they lay an egg.
She Sits & Sits
When your chicken continues to sit on the eggs for longer periods of time, she is broody. Our silkie has yet to sit on eggs. Our Black Australorp always goes broody. The problem for us is they are not very good at it.
The first time one of our Black Australorp hens went broody, I let her sit on the eggs.
She will collect the eggs and not move. After three or four days, we noticed a foul smell. Our chicken has started eating the eggs and continues to sit on them.
Our other Black Australorp hasn’t done the egg-breaking thing, but I can’t deal with the smell and the hassle.
Smokey, the Black Australorp who is now seven years old, still tries to sit on her eggs. We pull them out every day until she realizes what’s happening.
The Most Common Broody Chicken Breeds
The 6 most broody chicken breeds are Cochins, Silkies, Buff Orpingtons, Buff Rocks, Brahmas, and Sussex. These breeds are known to become broody more often than others, so be prepared to deal with this issue if you choose to raise any of them.
When your hen is walking around, you will see her feathers are plumped up more than usual, especially towards her tail feathers.
I always notice a little fuzz. You can see it in the image below. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the fuzz from broodiness or molting.
When your chickens are molting, they don’t appear larger in size. However, you can visually see your chicken looking larger because of the feathers all plumped out.
Poop is Huge!
Always look at the poop! A broody hen has large piles of poop. This will be easier to spot in the chicken coop verse if you free range your birds. Yet even us pasture raising our birds, I can see a broody hen’s poop a mile away- it’s huge!
Comb & Wattles Light
Usually, when looking for a sick chicken, a dark comb and wattle is a sign of healthiness. However, when your hen is broody, her comb and wattle will appear lighter in color.
If you notice the other signs mentioned with a lighter color comb and wattle, you can assume your girl is a broody.
If this is one of the only signs, I will seek out an illness.
She’ll Yell at You
If you have a broody hen and you go to your nesting box, and there she is, she will probably make a sound to let you know back off. Of course, I can’t really describe it, but it’s unusual to all the other chicken sounds you are used to.
If you go for her eggs, she may even peck you. Can you blame her? She wants to have some babies!
How to Stop a Broody Hen
It is important to break a broody hen as soon as possible. If left untreated, she may stop laying eggs altogether or become extremely aggressive. Many chicken keepers break a broody hen due to the lack of eggs being laid.
Remove the eggs
The only thing we have found to work is to continue to remove the eggs daily. But, unfortunately, I also have two fake eggs our poor Smokey will sit on.
The thing is, with any chicken, these are guidelines. Most hens like to build up their clutch and then sit. Some will sit one, two, or three. You never know. They will go and steal eggs.
This is a problem for us because sometimes if the eggshells are thin, they break when she pushes the eggs out of the nesting box. So there is a little ledge off our boxes.
Can you Take her eggs?
When we have a broody hen we will take her eggs from her- if she hasn’t been sitting on them. For example, if other hens came that morning laid the eggs, I’ll grab them. BUT be careful. They move fast. We have five nesting boxes next to each other, and if I don’t get the eggs in the morning she goes to where the other girls laid their eggs.
Close the Nesting Box
If she insists even after you taking her eggs and her stealing the other
Remove From Coop
I haven’t yet to do this because we have too many birds, so it doesn’t bother me to have a hen or two go broody and continue to remove eggs from them. You can always try to remove them from the chicken coop.
You could place her in a little crate- I love having smaller dog crates available for our chickens and ducks. You can find them free too.
Please don’t put any bedding in her crate. You don’t want her to decide to make this her new spot. A wire bottom would work best- similar to a rabbit-style cage. You can keep her in here with food, water, and sunlight for up to 3 days. Then, if she lays an egg, she isn’t broody anymore.
We personally haven’t used this method, but there is a video on Youtube doing it here.
When a hen isn’t comfortable in her environment, it is supposed to deter her from sitting on eggs.
Distract Your Hen
Give your broody hen a distraction. You can give your hen something to take care of that isn’t eggs. Examples include a cardboard box with a few stuffed animals inside or even a handful of chicks.
Some people will take a frozen bag of vegetables and place it under the hen—worth a shot. Another similar idea is to give your broody hen a (gentle!) cold water bath.
The idea here is to break the broodiness with a bit of shock. Fill a shallow container with water and place your hen in it. Be sure not to make the water too cold or too hot
How Long Does it Take to Break a Broody Hen?
It can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks to break a broody hen. Consistency and patience are key, and sticking to a method that works for your hen is important.
Alternative Methods to the Broody Breaker
Some chicken keepers may try to break a broody hen through more natural means. For example, if you replace fresh eggs with stale ones, your broody hen may lose interest in sitting on them.
Other keepers may try feeding their hens a high-protein diet, which can sometimes help to break the broodiness.
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