The Best Tips for Handling a Broody Hen
As the heat turns up, so will the broodiness in some of your hens. The warm temperatures will sometimes encourage this behavior. If you have a rooster and want more baby chicks, this is a great time to take advantage of that! However, if you’re like me and don’t have a rooster, a broody hen is a pain in the feathers.
What is a broody hen?
I remember starting out and hearing veteran chicken keepers talk about “broody hens”, a brooder and other fancy chicken lingo. I honestly had no idea what they were talking about. And that’s why when I write these blogs, I’m always thinking about the rookie chicken keepers. Never feel bad about asking questions and getting the information you need!
A broody hen is one that thinks she’s going to hatch little chicks. Her behavior will reflect that. She will sit on a pile of eggs, “growl” at other chickens or people if they come near her, will sometimes pull her own feathers to make a nest, and only gets up once a day to eat, drink, and poop.
These are all okay if she will actually hatch some chicks. However, if she doesn’t and you’re not planning for that, these behaviors can cause her to become unhealthy. Broody hens can get dehydrated very quickly in hot temperatures and will naturally lose some weight and nutrition. And when they’re broody, they don’t lay eggs. So, if you’re not planning on having any baby chicks, it’s very important to “break” the broody hen as soon as possible.
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. First of all, you need to 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. By collecting eggs throughout the day, this discourages any 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 will work too. Some people will put a frozen water bottle where they like to sit to discourage brooding. I have placed other objects like a bucket or anything else I might have in the coop to block the nest.
This may take several days of removing her from the nest. It’ll also take removing her multiple times a day sometimes. I’ve never been hen pecked, but if you’re afraid of that, feel free to wear a pair of gloves. Be consistent and she will eventually break. One of the more extreme measures of breaking broodiness is to place the hens bottom in cold water. I don’t recommend this unless you’ve not 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!
Baby chicks are so much fun! And having a momma hen raise them is the easiest way to grow your flock. However, if this is not a desire of yours, breaking the broody hen is a must! I will 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 hope your summer is off to a great start! Stay cool and keep your chickens hydrated!
Until next time,
–The Wing Lady