Dealing with broody hens

by Elizabeth Beavis

Occasionally one of our hens goes broody, even though we use breeds that are not supposed to, and for that reason, I don't trust them to follow through.  I would love to let them hatch some chicks, but I don't want to have to look after those chicks or waste the eggs if the hens change their minds after a couple of weeks of sitting. 

 dealing with a broody hen


Broody hens also stop the other hens from laying, as they can be very protective and grumpy (sometimes to the point of pecking me when I try to collect the eggs), they hog the nesting areas and chase away other hens who end up laying on the ground.

Unfortunately I've found that is its best to get them out of their broodiness as soon as possible just so that things can go back to normal.  Of course, if you wanted to use a broody hen to hatch some eggs, this would be a good time to slip some fertile eggs under them and let nature take its course.  

The best way to "break" a broody hen is to separate the broody hen from the rest of the flock, in another cage with food and water, for a few days.  Eventually she will forget her broodiness and will be back to normal when reintroduced to her mates.  

At one stage we were told to put the hen in a small cage and hang it up in the shade, as the cool air blowing over her is supposed to reduce the urge to hatch eggs. We did do that for a while, when we had a suitable place to hang the cage, but these days we just put the hen in one of our spare chicken tractors for a few days and that seems to work just as good.  

I have also been told to put ice under the hen to cool her down, I haven't tried that one.  There is some science behind all of this, as the broody hen has a higher body temperature, so cooling her down helps to reset her back to normal behaviour.  

How do you deal with broody hens?


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  • Tania

    We recently had eight girls go broody. There were two in each nest box! As we didn’t want any more chickens we did the same as you and put them in a cage with food and water, no nest boxes or perches and within three days the nesting urge had gone…but one of our girls very sneakily made a nest outside of the chook house and has just brought out another 12 chickens! She turned up last Thursday proud as punch with her new babies lol!

  • Paul

    When I have broody hens I just put them in a small A-frame run that has a roost but no nest and after a few days in there they do forget to be broody.

    I had five hens in the A-frame recently, then two more hens went broody so I let the five out and put the two in. The five stayed out with the rest of the flock and today I let the two out, thinking they had had long enough, but they were straight back onto the nest so I put them back into the A-frame for another couple of days. Seems to take two or three days but it all depends on the hens – some are much more inclined to go broody and stay broody.

    I have about 40 hens. They free-range and are not restricted from leaving the hen-house at all so it is hard to get a definite count!

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