What is a broody Hen and how do you know you have one?
The spring weather brings on the urge to set on eggs and hatch out chicks. If the eggs have been fertilized by a rooster, in approximately 21 days from when the hen finishes collecting her eggs and begins to set on the eggs, you will have cute new chicks!
Signs that you have a Broody Hen
- Reluctance to get up off the egg or eggs in the nest
- Sitting in the nest even when there are no eggs
- Pecking your hand or biting you when you check for eggs underneath her.
- Chest and belly feathers are missing.
- Comb and wattles are pale
- The broody only leaves the nest once or twice a day, and quickly returns after a quick bite and drink
- Broody poop. It is unusually large and extremely smelly!
- Hen is very flattened out on the nest. I am impressed with how flat a hen can get while covering eggs. When picked up, she may refuse to put her feet down.
- Very little food and water are consumed by the brooding hen.
- Broody hen clucks softly to her chicks as they get close to hatch day.
breaking a hen of broodiness means you end her out of the obsession with the nest box, ending the idea of hatching. Many hens will end broodiness on their own, but some are particularly stubborn.
while having a hen off laying for a while isn't usually a problem for pet chicken owners, the hens themselves can suffer if they stay in broodiness too long, because they tend to eat and drink less. They're set up to be able to do that fairly well for about 21 days, as long as it takes to hatch eggs.
Much longer than that, though, and the hen can lose enough condition that she risks getting ill.
So, breaking a hen of broodiness isn't about being greedy for eggs or being mean to your hens. In some cases it's about responsible care.
But ending broodiness is sometimes far easier said than done.
Cochins go broody easily.
Broodiness is a hormonal condition. Just like you can't really talk your friend out of a hormonal imbalance, you are not going to simply convince your hen to break out of broodiness by taking her out of the nest a time or two. That can work if your hen is not too broody and you're super persistent!
Breaking BroodinessBeing able to break broodiness usually involves separating a broody hen away from the rest of the flock. That makes it easier to keep her out of the comfortable, dark nests she's used to while the rest of the flock can continue with their same, familiar routine.
So, you might separate her from the flock for a week or so in a wire-bottomed crate (like a dog crate) with no bedding. Wire bottomed cages are definitely not good for a chicken to live on long term it doesn't wear their nails down properly, and it's pretty hard on their feet. But for a week or even three, she should be just fine. Keep the crate in a cool, bright area (and naturally provide plenty of food and water). For most breeds, that'll work to signal their bodies that NOW is not the right time for broodiness.
Some breeds are more easily triggered to broodiness, and harder to phase out of it, though. Silkies, Cochins, Orpington and other very broody breeds may be more difficult to break out of broodiness. If a week in the bright, cool, nest less wire crate doesn't work, you can also try placing an ice pack in whatever corner of the crate your hen is trying to set in. If she's trying to set on your ice pack (or frozen plastic eggs?) to hatch them, that should also help.
Remember: these steps won't always work. You're just trying to provide the conditions in which your hen's body would end the hormonal state of broodiness. If you have a Silkie, Cochin, or Orpington, you may have an especially difficult time of it.
Good Luck! :)