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.
Dealing with a broody hen is frustrating – but it shouldn’t have to put you in a mood yourself! Here are some tips on how to break up a broody hen quickly and relatively easily.
Table of Contents:
What is a Broody Hen?
First, let’s go into a little more detail about what a broody hen is.
A broody hen is a chicken that has the desire to sit on a clutch of eggs and hatch them. This instinct is usually triggered by the increase in day length (photoperiod) that occurs in the spring.
Once a hen goes broody, she will stop laying eggs and will become very protective of her nest.
She will often growl or even attack anyone who approaches her eggs that are laid while she is in this state will not be incubated, so it is important to remove them from the nest if you want them to hatch.
Broody hens can be a nuisance to egg production, but they make excellent mothers and can be used to organically incubate and raise chicks.
f 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.
But you need to.
Broody hens can be a problem for a number of other reasons…
Not only will your hen stop laying if she is broody, meaning you won’t get eggs to eat or chicks to hatch, but it can also be contagious. Their behavior can spread throughout the flock, causing other hens to stop laying eggs.
Second, there is a higher likelihood of her contracting mites and parasites. There can also be bullying issues within the flock if the broody hen is not broken.
For these reasons, it is often necessary to break a broody hen in order to maintain a healthy and productive flock.
Are Some Breeds More Likely to Go Broody?
Are some chicken breeds more likely to go broody than others? The answer appears to be yes.
Some of the most known broody breeds include:
- Speckled Sussex,
- Columbian Wyandottes,
- Buff Orpingtons,
- and Partridge Rocks.
These breeds that have been bred are more likely to go broody, which means they are more likely to sit on a nest of eggs and incubate them until they hatch.
The trait has been bred out of many modern breeds, though, particularly those raised for egg production like sex links.
While this behavior isn’t necessarily desirable for all chicken owners (it can mean fewer eggs for you!)It can be beneficial if you’re looking to raise your own chicks.
How Can I Tell if My Hen is Broody?
One of the most common questions asked by chicken keepers is, “How can I tell if my hen is broody?” While there are a few telltale signs, the best way to be sure is to simply observe your hen’s behavior.
If she is constantly sitting on the nest, even when there are no eggs present, chances are she is broody. She may also puff up her feathers and make a deep, throaty noise when you approach her.
Additionally, she may start to peck at your hands if you try to move her off the nest.
Finally, a broody hen will generally have a flattened appearance and will only defecate once per day. After all, she’s spending all that time sitting on her eggs instead – she doesn’t want to leave them.
If you notice these signs in your hen, it’s likely that she is entering into a broody state.
How to Break a Broody Hen: 10 Steps
Here are some tips to help you break your broody hen.
1. Remove Her From the Nest
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 or a cage with a wire bottom (sometimes referred to as a broody breaker) and no nesting material or boxes, also works. Make sure she has plenty of food and water while she’s kicking the sitting habit.
2. Put Her Far Away from the Run
Another technique that works is to put her as far away from the nest as possible, then put her in the coop at night on the roosting bars. She probably won’t try to get back in the nesting box because it’s dark and she can’t see well.
With a little patience and persistence, most broody hens can be broken and will return to their normal egg-laying habits.
3. Block Off the Nest
Block off the nest so that the hen cannot sit on it. This can be done by placing a wire mesh over the opening or by putting a board in front of the entrance.
The goal is to make the nest inaccessible so that the hen cannot continue her sitting behavior. Once the nest is blocked off, the hen will typically give up and resume her normal activities.
4. Put a Frozen Water Bottle in the Nest
One method is to place a frozen water bottle or ice-pack in the nest. The cold temperature will shock the hen and cause her to abandon the nest. This method is controversial but many homesteaders have seen success with it.
5. Take All the Nesting Material Out of the Nesting Boxes
You may want to take all the nesting material out of the nesting boxes. This will make it uncomfortable for the hen to sit in the box, and she will eventually get up and leave.
6. Close Up the Coop for the Day
One way to break a broody hen is to close up the coop for the day. This will separate her from the other hens and prevent her from sitting on the eggs.
You can leave the other hens locked inside the coop during this time, so they still have access to the nest area, or you can kick the doors shut after everyone has finished laying for the day.
After a few days of this treatment, the broody hen should return to her normal laying schedule. While it may take some effort to break a broody hen, it is important to do so in order to maintain a healthy and productive flock.
7. Take Away Her Eggs Every Day So She Never Has a Clutch to Sit On
One of the most effective methods is to take away her hatching eggs every day so she never has a chance to sit on a full clutch.
This can be a bit of a hassle, but it is often the best way to get a broody hen back to normal. It may take some time, but eventually the hen will give up and return to her normal laying habits.
8. Make Sure It’s Super Bright
Another option is to increase the amount of light in the coop. Broody hens prefer to sit in dark, warm places, so increasing the light level will make the coop less inviting.
9. Cool Her Down
Hens are temperature-sensitive, so placing her in a cool environment will help to break her out of her broodiness.
A hen’s body temperature often increases when she is brooding or experiencing any kind of broodiness behavior, so you may be able to trigger these changes out of her by putting her in a tub in a cold water bath.
10. Give it Time
A broody hen is a chicken that has gone into a nesting phase and is sitting on eggs in an attempt to hatch them. This is a hormonal change, namely prolactin, that all hens are capable of experiencing, though some breeds are more prone to going broody than others.
There’s not much you can do to break that hormone cycle in that pituitary gland besides just giving it time.
The most important thing to remember is to give it time. Broody hens will typically only stay in this state for 3-4 weeks. During this time, they will not eat or drink much, and will be very protective of their nest.
However, if you give them a little bit of space and time, most hens will eventually revert back to their normal behavior.
How Long Does it Take to Break a Broody Hen?
A broody hen is a chicken that has gone into a laying attitude and shows no interest in getting back out to mate and socialize with the other chickens.
A few days or weeks of this behavior is common and is not generally a cause for alarm, but if it continues for more than a few weeks, you may need to take action.
Remember, you may need to increase her food and water intake to make sure she gets the nutrients she needs to stay healthy.
With a little patience, you should be able to break your hen’s broody spell and return her to normal laying behavior.
Sometimes it will take a few days to break her up, whether you’re doing so with confinement, chicken jail in a dog crate, extra sunlight, or some other method, 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!
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.
12 thoughts on “When and How To Break A Broody Hen”
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.
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.
Ashley, I’ve had great luck with Buff Orpingtons in particular 😉
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.
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/
Great information. Thanks!
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.
Interesting, Ann. So… I’m assuming you don’t dunk their heads, right?
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
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!
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.
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!