I realize it’s December and there probably aren’t a ton of issues with hens going broody in the cooler months. However, I have a cute little hen that won’t stop! So, I thought I’d give you some tips on how to break a broody hen.
What is a Broody Hen?
First of all, what does it mean when a hen goes “broody”? It simply means that she thinks she’s going to be a momma. You will find her collecting eggs, sitting on them to keep them warm, turning them and giving nasty looks and pecks to anyone who may try and get in her way.
Hens that go broody only get off their nest 1-2 times a day to eat, drink and poop. They are determined! Some may even pluck their own feathers to build their nest. This is all well and good if you’re planning to allow her to have chicks. But, if you’re not? It’s not healthy for them to do this day after day. They lose feathers and weight and also stop laying eggs.
Can a Broody Hen Die?
In the summer months when the temperature is hot, I’ve seen people lose hens to their broodiness. They are so determined to hatch chicks, that they don’t get off of their nest to cool off and get hydrated. Chickens are incredible birds, but they can sure be stubborn too! Hens going broody is more common when the temperatures are warmer, but it’s not uncommon to have one turn in the colder months.
I remember my first broody hen, Mrs. Fluffybum. She’s a Black Jersey Giant, and she’s huge. She has never loved to be handled much, but when you added in her wanting to be a mom, it was next level! After a few days of taking her off her “nest”, she still didn’t get the hint. So, I started using all the tricks to break this crazy chicken.
Mrs. Fluffybum is one of the original 10 members of this flock, and she’s wonderful.
How to Break a Broody Hen
There are different schools of thought on this, but what I’ve found to work the best without stressing the hen out is persistence and consistency.
Remove the hen and make sure you’re collecting eggs frequently. She will try and gather a “clutch” of eggs - even gathering from other hens when they lay. If you collect eggs throughout the day, it'll discourage her from sitting on them.
Next, you will need to carefully remove the hen from the nesting area. Most of the time, their little bodies are a bit locked up from how they’re sitting, so don’t just throw them! Carefully put them in a different area.
If you can get them cooler, that'll work too. Some people will put a frozen water bottle where they like to sit to discourage brooding. I've placed other objects like a bucket or anything else I might have in the coop to block the nest.
If they're still being persistent - lock them out of the coop for the day and get them to walk around. Please only do this when the temperatures allow!
Consistency is key when dealing with broody hens. Removing them from the nest may take several days and multiple times a day. Don't be surprised if some hens are more stubborn than others, and it may require extra patience! I’ve only been henpecked with one of my hens, but boy she’s a mean broody hen! Haha!
She’s a Buff Orpington, which are normally sweet, but Mae is just a bit more spicy. If you’re afraid of that, feel free to wear a pair of gloves. Be consistent, and she will eventually break.
Cold Water Bath for Broodiness
One of the more extreme measures of breaking broodiness is to place the hens' bottom in cold water. (This is not recommended in winter months!) I don’t recommend this unless you haven't had any success with other options. It’s quite a shock to their system. If you do get a hen wet, make sure to dry them off with a blow-dryer. They actually really enjoy it!
Tilly Mae looks sad here, but she was just so relaxed! She loved it!
Broody Breeds of Chickens
There are breeds that are more susceptible to going broody, but all hens can. If you’re not wanting to deal with this issue too much, I’d shy away from Silkies. They’re adorable, silly and so sweet! But they’ve even been known to go broody when there are no eggs.
My Silkies have been, by far, the most broody of my flock. They are a great breed for so many other reasons though, so if you don’t mind dealing with broodiness, then go for it!
However, for those looking to sustain their own flock, a broody hen with strong mothering instincts is considered a positive trait! The chicken breeds most likely to exhibit broodiness are Silkies (like I already mentioned), Cochins, Buff Orpingtons, Light Brahmas and Sussex. You might want to consider these breeds for an abundant and self-perpetuating flock or avoid them if egg production is your main goal.
Lastly, I'll also say, broodiness seems to be contagious. Once one hen starts, they all like to start. And then you will really be busy removing hens from their nests! Haha! I’ve literally had to block off an entire nesting box because I had two hens that would not back down. Finally after shutting down that box, they moved on to roaming around the yard, scavenging for snacks and chattering at the waterer with the rest of the girls. So I say all that, to encourage you that they will eventually break.
Knowing how to break a broody hen is absolutely going to be needed when raising a backyard flock. It takes consistency, determination and some stubbornness. But, if your hens can do that, so can you! Haha!
Until next time,
–The Wing Lady