Saturday, 6 June 2009

How To Stop A Broody Hen From Staying Broody


Mike Breder : Hi Gina, Thanks for your newsletter. I have a question for you.
I have 4 hens including an Americauna, Rhode Island Red, Ancona and Buff Orpington. Our Buff (Jupiter) the big girl became rather broody a month ago and while we had to leave town for the weekend, I decided to seperate her from the other girls so my chickensitter / my mom didn't have to pick her up and get pecked moving her out of the nest box. I usually just toss her out of the nest box to try and break things up a little, but she makes her way back there.

Nevertheless, while we were out of town and Jupiter was serving her time in our dog kennel detention facility away from the others, she had time to think about her crimes and when I returned I let her back in the coop and whamo....no more broodiness. Well until a week ago anyways. Now a month since her 1st trip to the pen, I am getting ready to send her to the dog kennel again, but sometimes she's on the eggs and sometimes she's off......more on than off, but I don't want this to become a problem. Do you have any pointers? My research says that Buff Orpingtons tend to be a broody breed. As much as I'd like to cull her from our flock and onto our barbeque, my boys would be devasted and my wife would dissaprove (and I really don't think I could do it anyways). I was wondering if you could put this on your blog. I would love to get some tips from other backyard chicken folks. Thanks for your time. Mike Breder. Citrus County


Broody hens can be a law unto themselves, and they can go broody with or without fertilised eggs to sit on. If you have a broody you will probably already recognise the signs. When broody, hens are very single minded and will want to sit on the eggs almost constantly, taking only brief breaks for food and the toilet (sometimes they forget to even do that). She may pull out some of the feathers from her belly to feather her nest and allow her to feel the eggs directly on her skin. She could get aggressive screeching and even pecking at anyone who gets close. She will also probably have 'broody poos' (the not very nice result of keeping everything held in for hours on end!).

This is all very well if you want her to hatch chicks, but if you don't (or it's not possible) long periods of broodiness can take their toll on her health and so it is sometimes necessary to take action to stop her being broody.

One of the broody signs - A broody hen screeching to be left alone


This is a video of Lisa Ruminski's broody Chinese Silkie Natasha protesting her incarceration.


When broody her body temperature will rise and she will obviously want to get herself comfortable ready for several weeks of being on the nest. The main ideas for stopping broodys are centred around stoping her getting herself too comfortable. Sometimes it can be as simple as removing her from the nests several times a day, but a determined broody can be hard to dissuade. The main method I have seen for persistent broodys (which is basically the same as Mike's dog kennel detention facility), is to put her in a raised wire cage (or wooden / plastic one with a slatted bottom) for a few days with food and water but no comfy bedding - the idea being that the cool air around her 'bits' and lack of comfort deters her from wanting to settle and hatch eggs. Another method common in 'the old days' which is still sometimes used is to dunk her in a pail of cool (but not really cold) water which will bring her brooding temperature down and perhaps make her indignant enough to give up on being broody altogether. This video shows one keepers broody hen 'Pipi' getting the cold water treatment - she had been broody for 3 days and two dips in the water was enough in this case to snap her out of it.

A keen rooster can also 'bother' the broodiness out of a broody hen (if he's brave enough to!).

55 comments:

ronnie84 said...

Thank you so much for leaving this question and advise unfortunatly its too late for us, our chicken died last week as she was so desperate to hatch the (non fertitalised) eggs, that she wouldnt eat or drink and nothing i could do to persuade her. She starved herself to death!! V sad! If it happens again tho i feel im prepared to deal with it this time thanks to your tips Ronnie xxx

Chris said...

Many thanks for the info. Very timely as we have a Blackrock who is keeping other s off the nesting box.
Chris

Bluebell said...

Very useful post. i recently had a black rock that went through a broody patch. I tried to put her in a separate cage and she got very distressed and made herself bleed so in the end we started locking the coop once the others had laid and after 3/4 days it did the trick. Lovely to see her back out waddling around with the others!

Sorrel Stielstra said...

We had a broody hen who FINALLY stopped being broody but has not resumed laying eggs. Any ideas why and what I can do? She is only a year old. Thanks!

Gina said...

A broken broody will usually go back to laying within a couple of weeks. If it has been longer than that then there may be some other reason for her not to be laying.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sorrel, I have found that when chooks get to be about a year old, they will have a molt (could be just a few feathers, or maybe enough for you to notice they look different) and around this time, those in the flock that are going to go broody will, and maybe one or two others might start to lay less ofetn than usual. This lasts about a month, and then they all get back to "normal". Unless of course you have a really broody hen, which you'll need to try remedy (many good posts here on how, already). They do usually take a few weeks to start laying again once off brood, but they're as unpredictable as the wind. Our Bantam recently came off her 3rd brood in 2 years, and started to lay the next day.

Valerie Hanson said...

Thank you for your input/blog. I tried the water bath, but not effective. The best way was to do a "time-out" in a fenced area where she could not settle into a nest. After 3 days...it cured her! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

We are new chicken owners, Can someone please tell me why our hens will not sit on their eggs? They were born in October of 2009 and are just beginning to lay, Is this normal? We have been around chickens but never owned any until now. Please help us.

Gina said...

Some breeds are naturally more broody than others (for instance a silkie is far more likely to go broody than a leghorn). Good care and conditions will obviously help, but even within broody breeds it is not really possible to get a hen broody before she wants to be. Some hens will go broody regularly, others only once or twice (or never) in their lifetime. The spring / summer is the most likely time for a hen to go broody if she is going to, although you can ocassionally get a foolish hen going broody in the middle of winter!

Tana said...

I'm a fairly new chicken owner, and I noticed one of my hens had become broody over the past few days. She seemed never to leave the nestbox for food or water, and I started to worry when her comb started to look droopy. For two days I tried repeatedly moving her off the nest and removing all eggs, but she would just come right back on. I finally put her into a wire cage inside the coop, propped up so that her belly was off the ground and exposed to the air. She had food and water with her in the cage, and she started eating and drinking again. After only one day and night in the cage, she seems to be cured! She is back out foraging and I haven't seen her sitting in a nestbox for the past two days. I'd recommend this method.

degarrido said...

Natasha in the Penitentiary has had a happy resolution. I've taken her to a farm with a rooster and her broodiness has paid off. It was a sad trial, but she is living out her life's purpose...born to breed! Lisa Ruminski
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akYukRfNQYk

Anonymous said...

My querie is a bit different - one of my hens is laying very fragile eggs which when another hen sits on them, break! they have milk in their mash, vitamins, grit, eggshell - is there anything else I should be doing please? any ideas? Thanks Cherry

Gina said...

There are a few possible reasons for a hen to lay thin-shelled or shell-less eggs but often improvements can be seen with just going back to the basics for a few weeks: a nutritionally balanced layers feed, clean fresh water (water with high saline levels can adversely affect egg production) and a seperate bowl of grit, and a seperate bowl of 'calcium' that they can help themselves to if they want. In theory that should be all they need. If that does show improvements then you may wish to add back in a few 'treats' but ideally the balanced layers feed should still make up at least 90% of their daily intake.

Anonymous said...

New member and have just come across this. I have used the wire cage method for years I hang a wire cage in a tree and it is very succesful.
I wonder if anyone has any clues about our muscovy who has been sitting on eggs for about 6 weeks, she comes off for a bath and feed and on 2 occasions a broken egg with a dead duckling. In the past we have left her in the duck house as she is very bad tempered! Last year she ended up with 30 eggs none hatched. Any ideas or must I stick 2 chickens. Have just got 4 delightful young bantams to add to my chickens when they are a bit older. They free range on 3 acres

Anonymous said...

I, similar to the last poster, am wondering what to do with my cochin hen who has been sitting on 13 assorted eggs (her own, Rhode Island Reds, Old English bantams) for at least 28 days now.

She is a good brooder: allows me to lift her off the nest for a few minutes out and about each day to eat, drink, etc., then goes right back.

My question as a new chicken owner: how long do I allow her to set on these eggs. I know the typical incubation period is 21 days. Yes, the eggs should be fertilized: we have a rooster and he does his duty! At what point should I remove the eggs?

Thank you.

Gina said...

Incubation days can vary a little, but I have not heard of anyone successfully having a hatch past day 24. Assuming she set them all at the same time (and no more were added later) then it seems unlikely that they will now hatch. One subscriber had a similar issue and she ended up replacing eggs under her broody with day old chicks. It doesn't always work but if you would like your broody to raise a few chicks then it might be worth considering.

Anonymous said...

this question helped us a ton! our "seinor silkie" was a bit broody and was trying to hatch our other chicken's eggs for days. we will deffinitley use this advice and thank u!!

Anonymous said...

The video showing the water treatment was very useful. I'd heard about dunking, but seeing it performed, and the explanation about bringing down the temperature helped make the whole process understandable. Did the dunking yesterday and kept her overnight on a raised metal grill in a box, and today she seems to be cured. Thanks for going to the effort to share this!

MikePDX said...

I've got a 1 yr old barred rock who went broody for three days or so. Left the nest for food once a day, but otherwise wouldn't come outside. I separated her from the other girls, and most importantly the nest box, for the day (got pecked a few times removing her from the nest (wear gloves)). Let her back with the others at dusk. Next day she's outside again acting mostly normal. Still a little, for lack of a better word, bitchy and making the constant quiet clucking noises (new noise for her, started doing it when she went broody) but it's been 5 hours and still not back in the nest. I think it worked... Fortunate that I've got the extra yard space for quarantine. Worth a shot for the rest of us who can't handle dunking or hard quarantine (not a farmer, a bad day for my girls is when they don't get fresh greens and grapes).

Anonymous said...

I remember my grandma would take a broody hen she didn't want to set and put her inside a big gunny (sp?) sack and fold the top over a couple times and hang it up on the clothes line over night. She said the cool of the night changes their way of thinking.

lustregirl said...

Thanx for the good advice re: my broody hen! Catching her was the hard part but a couple of dunkings in some cool water seems to have done the trick! She is resting comfortably, away from her sisters for the day and will be reunited with the flock at bedtime. Hopefully, this will end our first experience with brooding! Thanks again for all your great ideas!

Kim said...

Have tried the dunking method on 3 of my 6 chickens which are bantams and broody. Seems to have worked with one only. Also, am confining the 3 during the day. The 2 hold outs head back to the nesting boxes at first release from their jail pen. I'm going to cover the nesting boxes with chicken wire tonight and see if that helps. Incidentally I told a friend about the dunking and she referred to it as "water-boarding". Now we are all calling it that! lol! The big thing is to catch brooding early on before the chicken goes psycho. i also notice that the non-layers don't "mating-present" when I touch or stroke their backs (they squat, flare their wings and raise their tails).

AdoptionMom said...

We finally got our broody hen to settle down. I got a package from Amazon.com in the mail and thought the box was the perfect size for her....LOL. There was just enough room in there to put a tiny feeder and waterer for her, she could not turn, but could reach the food/water and she was NOT smashed in there. I cut holes in the side for air & taped the box shut and left her for 2 days (checking twice a day on her to add water and shake out poop. Two days and she was cured. We let her go too long though being broody, it was almost 2 weeks. Next time we will know what to do.

deb vaselakis said...

I have 2 yrs expierence with broody hens, its true to disturb them etc. I have had to hand water and hand feed them, de lice them. all this with success. The feeding regime I used live healthy worms (good protein) they will not turn down a worm and "meeley worms" really catch their attention. their recovery is so much faster with worms. Broodys get so starved, frail, dehydrated. I use a kitten nursery kit. for my watter bottle using my hand under the beak and gengtly squeezing the water on the beek, they will catch on. remember keep their strength up and you will succeed. deb

Anonymous said...

I have seen where people have tried to break there chickens of their brooding habits. Have seen nothing as to whether they went back to laying. I inherited a chicken from the neighborhood. While blowing the leaves out of my courtyard I discovered she found a recessed well for the vents under the house to deposit about a dozen eggs. She has since started to brood. For the last 2 days she has not come off the nest. I know she needs to come up to eat and have provided food and water for her. Trying to find the best way to break the brooding. Retrieve the eggs and have her continue to lay. Any suggestions would appreciated

Anonymous said...

we've yet to try the cage where she can't get comfortable, but we have done other means of making her rather cold. our hen has been doing it for over a month now, and won't stop... her chest is missing it's feathers and is just bear skin. just today i went out to check on her after putting a hand held-ice block (the kind you put in cooler bags) underneath her, she saw just sitting on it without a care!?!?! i plan to try your other solutions, i hope that they work.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the good advice. We have no roosters of our own but had one of our buff orpingtons begin to be broody. She would not eat or drink and not come out of the box unless we picked her up and made her move about. A friend that has several chickens gave us some fertilized eggs and we quickly gave them to our chicken who eagerly pulled them under her and faithfully sat on them until they hatched. We thought that this would fulfill her desire to be a mother hen but now that the chicks are two months old and on their own, she has started again with her nesting behavior. We do not have any more room to hatch any more chicks and her health really went downhill the last time we went through this. She has regained her weight and her color has come back to be vibrant again and I hate to see her lose that. So a big thank you for the advice on how to stop this behavior. Will begin tomorrow morning with rehabilitation.

Anonymous said...

You should not feed hens milk products in fact its wrong to feed any animal products to other animals. This is what caused an outbreak of BSE and is therefore illegal in the UK and prehaps the US but you would have to check on that. For thin shells a varied diet with oyster shell and grit, a good layers pellet and or mash. Only give birds mixed corn in winter or as an afternoon boost if the nights are cold as it heats up birds, If fed in high summer or hot weather your hens will pull out their feathers and be bald owing to being too hot! For a beutifully coloured yellow yolk run your hens on grass, it will also be nutritionally good for you too, not the grass but the eggs thats come from hens fed on grass. Clean water is also important too, try to avoid tap water, rainwater if you live rurally is brilliant add 30mls of organic cider vinegar per litre this helps their gut. Don't use more than 30mls or they will not drink it, it'll be too acidic. If yor hens are looking off colour or for a tonic once in a while use 25mls of grapefruit extract per litre of rain or spring water this will clear up minor ailments you can use this neat on wounds too. Any queries let me know. Dr Daniels, PhD, MSc (Nutr), BSc (Hons) Consultant Food Pathologist`and part time farmer!

Anonymous said...

regarding 13 eggs under 1 hen-
That's too many for 1 hen to keep adequately warm. Maybe 6 eggs if large hen, 3-4 if very small hen. They move them around during 21 days, and some get to the outside of nest and get cold, if there are too many for 1 hen. And thus they all die, and none hatch. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

One of our (2) chickens has gone broody - we have no rooster, so eggs are unfertilised - but she still appears to be laying. Is this normal, and is there any way to snap her out of this? Thanks guys

Anonymous said...

I think that is a bit conservative....i had a silkie successfully hatch 10 full sized eggs in november this year! She is superbroody and i was reading this thread to figure out how to discourage her. She rules the roost so to speak and drives the other girls to lay anywhere but the nest box. Im going to isolate her tomorrow if pestering her off the nest doesnt work!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great site. My hen went broody 6 months ago when we didn't have a rooster so I got some fertile eggs off a neighbour and she raised 6 chicks for me. Problem is she is still broody. She has hardly any feathers left, and her comb has just about dissappeared. She looked so bad I thought she might have lice.She doe
Lynnesn't. She still eats and drinks and will come out with the others for a pick for about 5 minutes but goes back to the nest every time.I didn't want to interfer as I thought it must be natural. Now I know better. I will try the methods mentioned but I wonder if it is too late now to save her.

Lisa said...

Our buff has been broody for a couple of weeks now. We just saw that she has eaten a couple of her own eggs, what has caused her to do this and what do we need to do to stop her from doing it again?

Anonymous said...

I have 4 chickens, 2 of which went broody within days of each other. I tried to keep them out of the coop till the other 2 laid then locked them out for the rest of the day . After a week and a half , one started to stay out and after 21 days is now laying again . The other one is driving me mad! I lift her out of the nest box as often as possible but with 3 laying its usually mid afternoon by the time I can lock her out . Luckily she is eating and drinking when I put her out but it's been 25 days now ! Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

Just keep throwing her out and watch to see if she eats and drinks. As long as she's doing that, she will get over it.

One of my bantams went broody for two weeks. I kept throwing her out and she finally got over it. Now her little sister (Teensy) is doing it and she is a mean hen! I have to wearr gloves to throw her out or risk a good pecking.

Anonymous said...

Our Bluebell chicken sat in our nesting box for 3 days and we thought that she was egg bound.
On the 3rd day we decided to move her to see if it made any difference. When moved she was completely normal again and we found 9 eggs under her. We have another chicken (Columbian Blacktail) and we hadn't checked for 2 or 3 days before that. The weird thing was that one egg was white and the rest were brown. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what might have happened?

Anonymous said...

I think my "broody" is finally getting over it, but if not, I'll follow your advise. This broody also has had a strange patch of missing feathers twice since I got her as a just starting layer. She's barred rock, my other two are RI Red and they have always alienated the barred. The feathers dissappeared all at once (a small patch down the middle of her back), grew back and are gone again. Now she's been broody for 10 days. Any connection? Don't see feathers, but they all eat them.

Gina said...

Broodys can sometimes pull out their own feathers from their chest to feather their nest but as they are missing from her back it might be more likely to be the other members of the flock doing it. If they are eating them that might indicate an urge for more protein and so an ocassional treat of black oil sunflower seeds or a poultry vitamin/nutrient supplement might help.

Benton said...

I have got a bluebell that has been broody the past week and now won't leave the coop. Oddly enough, i think she's been with male pheasant (I caught them at it about 10 days ago) so i wondered if the eggs she is now laying are fertile or she thinks they are fertile. The advice from this site is excellent so i am going to try the Guantanamo approach of putting her in a wire cage in the open for a couple of days.

Anonymous said...

Our New Hampshire Red has been broody for about a week and I've been taking her out of the nest as recommended by everyone, but she keeps going back. We don't have a rooster so her work is futile. After I take her from the nest she eats and drinks and her behavior seems okay. However, the other three hens torture her. Yesterday I actually had to separate them because they ganged up on her. Today I was pushing her out of the nest and three rushed up and started pecking and grabbing at her neck so I let her go back to the nest. Nothihng I've read addresses this nastiness by the other hens. Is this normal? If not, does anyone have a suggestion on how to stop this?

Judy said...

I have a pekin bantam who has now been brooding for 8 weeks!!! she is very gentle and bottom of the pecking order so we have no problem putting her out 3 times a day to eat/drink and spend some time in the garden but within 30 mins she is straight back in. We tried the cage method but she injured herself trying to get out. The ice block method but she just moved to a different place, so will give the cold water method a try. Has any body and idea if this will work on such a long broody hen or will eventually nature take over and stop her? many thanks for any info

Anonymous said...

I have a broody one stubborn as can be, but i found out putting a few icecubes under her couple of time a day for 3 days did the trick

Cindy Dahlgren said...

What a GREAT idea!!! I am gonna put some ice cubes under Goldie right away!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hello! Just wanted to thank the questioner and advice given on this post. I had a broody hen and decided to try the simple method of budging her out of the nest box regularly to deter her broodiness.. it was also mentioned that a young cock may be able to help in the process.. well I discovered that any rambunctious young male may do the trick; my 20 month old son took it upon himself to stir up the brood and within 4 days of me discovering our broody hen, she stopped being broody! I did also tell her that she couldn't be a mum just yet and that we would like her to lay eggs again (yep def crazy!)..2 weeks on she has laid an egg so all's well in the brood again! I wonder if catching it early is key to success in these situations? A hen that has been broody for weeks may definitely be harder to dissuade than one who has only just started? Just a thought! Anyway, I'll be using these techniques again in future for sure!

beka said...

i have had a broody who also killed herself and i found my daughter chucking her in the air et voila she hasn't been broody since ( it was a really high throw and you an tell if it works they just straiten up)

mythopolis said...

Great post! I too have a broody Buff. If I try t get her off the nest she screeches like a wildcat. And she really tries to peck me. From what I have read here, I realize I am going to have to separate her from the flock. I do like her a lot, but she hogs the box. Right now, all the other hens have gone to roost and she is still perching on the nest! Thanks!

zhairdzinr said...

Thanks for sharing all the great tips. We have a Rhode Island Red that is an extreme pill about this brooding. Found 23 eggs under her and in her box.In 4 days.Is she stealing others eggs or are they more likely to lay them in her box so she can take care of them?
Tomorrow she goes t time out. heheh

Anonymous said...

We just separated our Buff today. She has been in the nest for 2 weeks. I take her down once a day to eat but she goes right back. She is now in isolation. Hopefully she will be back to normal soon.

Louise said...

Regarding the muscovy duck, the eggs will hatch around 32-35 days. But they are notoriously bad mothers. The dead ducklings you found could have been killed by the mother herself. If you touch any of the ducklings that survive, she will kill them by breaking their necks. The only way to make sure these ducklings survive is to take them off the mother as soon as they hatch.

Anonymous said...

I tried the "ice" method under our broody Buffington.....put ice cubes in a plastic bag and set them under her.....it took a couple of bags, but she came out with the other 8 leghorns in less then a day. No rooster, no fertilized eggs!

A Little Bowerbird said...

This is so helpful!! I have locked all my hens out of the coop today in desperation as its been nearly 5 weeks! We have been away for 2 and a half weeks and friends have been feeding/watering and she is still broody. I have just been out to put a cold pack under her after opening the coop-straight in and brooding!! aagh! She looks OK apart from weakness when standing, but her comb is pink and not red. I hope the ice works. Thankyou!

Anonymous said...

Make sure u do all the things suggested...unfortunately I thought my broodie hen was ok but yesterday i found her dead...no signs of anything that had attacked her...her be broody went on for about 3 weeks and i did everything i could to break her but she was strong willed..now that i have read this blog i will have the knowledge if any of my others go broody..thanks for the info...

Linda Thomas said...

Thanks for your advise. Our buff orpington became broody last week. We put her in a rabbit hutch for 24 hours and today when I let her out she's back to her old self again.

Wendy said...

I've had a broodie bantam for about 10 days now! I've shut her out of the coop/nesting boxes all day for A
about a week during the day, but the minute I open the door she scoots back on the nest!!
Should I get some firtilized eggs now, not sure what else to do??
My other hens have been put off laying in their normal areas:-(

Gina said...

You could try some of the methods that are mentioned in this blog post such as putting her in 'chicken jail'. Alternatively, if you are happy to have her raise some chicks then putting a few fertilized eggs under her may help satisfy her apparent need to raise a family.