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When & How To Break Up A Broody Hen

>5 June 2012
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Before I ever had a hen to go broody, I couldn’t imagine why you would want to stop one from sitting on her eggs. I mean, isn’t it a good thing to have a broody hen?

Well… yes. It is a wonderful thing. Especially since the instinct to sit has been bred out of so many breeds nowadays! But there does come a time when you want it to stop.

Sometimes a hen will sit on a clutch of unfertilized eggs. I’ve even heard of hens sitting so long on a nest that would never hatch that they died waiting there. If you don’t have a rooster in your flock (which is how you get fertilized eggs), and your hen decides she wants to start sitting on a nest, you will need to either break her broodiness up, or find some fertilized eggs to sneak under her.

Another down-side to having a broody hen is that she will stop laying for as long as she’s broody. If you need eggs to eat, and not chicks to hatch, you’ll need to get her out of “the zone” and back to business.

Even if you take all of the eggs out from under her, she may stay there waiting for another hen to lay an egg for her to steal. I’ve even had broody hens sit in a nesting box on nothing at all for weeks! Once they get their mind set on it, it’s hard to break up a broody.

If you have a hen you are ready to get back into production, the best way to get her up and moving about is to remove her from her nest and put her somewhere away from any possible nesting spots.

It is even better if you can put her somewhere with an “active” rooster who will keep her busy and too annoyed to think of settling down. What I like to do is put a broody and a rooster in a movable pen out in the yard. This gets the hen out of the coop and into the fresh air and sunshine. It also allows her to get back into dust bathing and scratching for bugs.

Putting her in a pen with a wire bottom, and no nesting material or boxes, also works. Make sure she has plenty of food and water while she’s kicking the sitting habit.

Sometimes it will take a few days to break her up, but eventually she’ll get over her motherly instinct. You’ll know she’s finished being broody when she stops fluffing her feathers up, and she begins to lay eggs again. Then you can put her back in with the rest of the flock.

Know another trick for breaking up a broody?? Tell me what you’ve found to work best for you!

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12 Comments »

  • Lady Farmer said:

    Have you ever heard of dunking them in a bucket of water? That is what my grandfather taught me. I have only done it once and as I recall, it worked! But I just don’t have the heart to do it anymore ~ your way seems a bit kinder though not as ‘instantanious’ as the dunking! I also have found that many of the breeds today don’t have the patience to set on a nest for more than a few days, and stop on their own. It’s a good thing ~ I don’t want a straight run of chicks ~ I’ve already got THREE roosters that were supposed to be hens. I’m thinking I’ll only buy young hens that have already started laying. More expensive but I’ll know what I’m getting. I don’t think the chicken breeders know how to sex their chicks these days.
    :>

  • Rachel said:

    We had a broody goose this spring (the only one left of 7 or so last year – cars kept hitting them because they wandered down to the lake in the drought)… anyway, we were surprised because we though the last one left was a gander! Imagine our shock when she started laying eggs and sitting on them!

    I really miss having chickens and fresh eggs everyday – but something killed our entire flock (we had 50 one summer – and ended the summer with 10).

    Love reading your stories!

  • Emily said:

    My chickens are SOOO stubborn when they get broody! I mostly take them out of the nest box and remove their eggs (sometimes with gloves – some of those brooders are mean). So that doesn’t always work in breaking them. :)

    I like the tractor and having a hen and rooster in there themselves. My hens go absolutely bonkers when a rooster comes by when they are broody. They fan out like a turkey and run pretty fast – sometimes amazingly fast after they’ve been sitting for several days.

    The only thing that broke my hens of being broody this spring was molting, which I have no control over. LOL

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Lady Farmer,

    I’ve never heard of dunking them. Interesting! Though, I’m like you… I’d feel too bad to do it. But as a last, desperate resort it’s good to have in the back of my mind :) Thanks!

  • ann said:

    My grandparents and parents both used the dunking method, and it did work. They had chickens at a time when trying your method would not have been practicle, they usually had just one large chicken pen or free range chickens.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Interesting, Ann. So… I’m assuming you don’t dunk their heads, right?

  • LindaG said:

    Great information. Thanks!

  • jodi said:

    I learned so much from the article on Broody hens! Thank you! I didn’t know they stop laying (that explains why I am getting 2 less eggs each day!) and I hope I can break them from brooding. Please stop by and say hello at my blog: http://mashabakescupcakes.blogspot.com/
    Jodi

  • ann said:

    No, you don’t dunk the head, and it might take more than once. I googled it, and it is supposed to lower their body temp enough to lower their hormone levels. I guess they are warmer when on eggs.

    My grandmother also fed them red pepper when they were not laying much. She would make a big pan of cornbread, made with plenty of red pepper in it. It won’t hurt them, and birds can’t taste it. Squirrels can, so if you add red pepper to your bird feeders the birds are fine, but the squirrels don’t like it.

    Grandmother also added egg shells to her chicken food for calcium, but only after she had baked them. She said raw egg shells would encourage them to eat their own eggs, but the cooked ones would not.

    We also had to help with the seasonal wing feather trim. You only trim the feathers on one wing so they are off balance and it makes it harder for them to “fly the coop” and escape.

  • Ashley James said:

    What is a good breed of chicken to have a broody? Non of mine are broodys and I would like to have one or two broodys.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Ashley, I’ve had great luck with Buff Orpingtons in particular ;)

  • John said:

    I have had 4 broody hens this summer. 2 Buff Orpingtons, one Long Island Red and one Black Sex Link. The one Buff was not a very good mother and the Red killed two of her chicks. The other Buff and Sex Link raised their chicks like they were one brood. I really enjoy watching them raise their chicks and it is easier to let them raise them than to raise the baby chicks yourself.
    Instead of breaking their broodiness you can always order some eggs that are a couple of days out from hatching.

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