So you have a broody hen, now what?
She’s fierce, she’s determined..she’s broody!
So you think you have a broody hen and not sure how to deal? Even the sweetest of girls turn into “Momzilla” when they go broody. Most chicken keepers will agree, once a hen goes broody, she will fight you tooth & nail to hatch some babies.
So what is a broody hen you ask?
Going broody” is when a hen’s biological clock says …Time for babies. Your broody sits on a clutch of eggs until they hatch,(about 21 days) allowing her body temperature to increase to increase from 105 sometimes up to 110 degrees F. She often consumes less food and water than normal. For those who want their girls to hatch out chicks, allowing your girl to sit on a clutch is the easiest & most natural solution.
Signs my hen is broody
A broody hen will often growl or act unusually angry when approached on her nest.
She will pluck her chest feathers to allow direct heat and humidity onto the eggs.
She will fluff herself and won’t budge from the nest.
So now what?
Once a hen or even a young pullet goes broody, breaking her of this can be daunting; to say the least. If you are unable or uninterested in allowing your girl to hatch a clutch, here are some tricks and tips of how to break the broody cycle.
The most important aspect of breaking a broody hen is to force her body temperature back to that of a normal range of between 101-104.
Create a separate environment for her using a small portable coop or crate.
- Collecting eggs throughout the day will discourage your girls to sit for prolonged periods of time.
- She will have a favorite spot. Put a bag of frozen peas in the nest box under her. She will quickly leave the nest.
- If she is stubborn and wants those babies, try putting her in a cage with a wire bottom, on top of bricks so the cage is open and air can circulate. This will help cool her underside and disengage her from the broody feeling. No shavings, no straw…just a crate. Keep her in this crate for several days then let her back into the flock. A fellow chicken keeper fondly refers to this as “THE SHU.”
- If using a wire-bottom cage doesn’t work or isn’t an option, submerging your hen into some chilled water up to her chest for several minutes, will often work like a charm. You may need to do this a few days in a row.
Let’s hatch some chicks
If allowing your hen to hatch a clutch, note that she will have special needs. This is when excellent husbandry skills are essential.
- Create an environment for her which is separate from the other hens, with her own access to food & water. Her flock mates will go into the nest with her and lay their eggs as if to say…”Hey, can you do me a solid and hatch these chicks for me?” (Also be aware, broodiness can be contagious ) If moving your hen from general population to her own private suite, be sure to do this at night when she can not see her surroundings. Pick up her entire nest and move her quietly. A portable nesting box works wonders for this application!
- Add a bit of Diatomaceous Earth or Permethrin powder to her nest, as broody hens are especially prone to lice & mites due to their prolonged sitting.
- If your hen has been sitting and sitting or you do not have fertile eggs, day old chicks placed under your hen is a great hack! Be sure to place the chicks under her while she is sitting and carefully remove any infertile eggs. Of course, be sure to watch your girl to ensure she accepts the chicks. Do not place chicks under your broody unless she has been sitting for AT LEAST 20 days!! Allowing her to sit for 20 days tricks her into feeling as if she has incubated and also mimics her natural cycle. Placing chicks too soon under a broody hen will confuse her natural cycle of broodiness and you will be back to square one but now, YOU need to brood chicks.
- Increase your hen’s regular layer feed with a higher 21-23% protein feed, such as a chick or game starter. Her lay cycle will be put on hold until about 4-6 weeks after she hatches. This is typically when the broody cycle ends and she can go back on layer feed.
Allowing your pullet or hen to hatch a clutch of adorable chicks is one of the greatest pleasures of farm life. Seeing a Mama hen in action with her chicks, the natural instincts, love and protection is simply a priceless joy. After all, isn’t the joy of chicken keeping why we have backyard chickens? A resounding YES!