Concerns for a Stubbon Broody Hen…

Free Ranging and Training Chickens...

“My broody hen doesn’t seem to be getting off her nest very often, I’m worried that she’s not eating and drinking enough. Should I take her off her nest?” ~ Sharon Carmichael

Thanks for the question Sharon.

A broody hen instinctively stays on her nest to protect the eggs and keep them warm enough so that the developing chicks will thrive. If the eggs get chilled, the chicks will not survive. If the eggs are left unprotected, another chicken or a predator might do damage to them and her chicks will not survive.

A good broody hen knows that survival is only possible if she properly protects her clutch.

For this reason, a broody hen leaves the nest rarely and only when it is absolutely necessary.

She will often leave her nest only once a day for less then 15 minutes to eat, drink, stretch and defecate.

Some hens will leave more often for shorter periods of time.

If you are concerned about your hen getting enough water and food, watch her closely.

It could be that she leaves so briefly or so rarely, you just haven’t witnessed her departure.

You do need to make sure that she is leaving the nest, at the very least every other day. You may need to take her off the nest yourself. She probably won’t like it because she instinctively wants to protect her eggs but it is necessary for her health.

If you are terribly concerned for her health, you may need to consider removing her from the nest and breaking up the brood. We’ve talked previously about how to discourage a broody hen, you’ll find tips on how to do that in back issues of this newsletter.

This would be a last resort as you would lose the eggs she was hatching but if it is necessary to save her life, don’t hesitate to do it.

In most cases though, the hen knows that she needs to drink, eat and go outside. Most hens will do what they have to do to take care of themselves while still taking care of their eggs; self preservation comes naturally.

To make it easier for a reluctant mother hen to leave her little ones, make sure that there is feed and water close by. It needs to be out of reach from the nest itself because the mother hen does need to get up. It’s also very important that the eggs do not get wet; this would compromise the bloom (protective coating) that is keeping the chicks safe inside the shells.

Before you decide that she’s not leaving her nest often enough, be sure to watch her closely to be absolutely sure. Then and only then should you remove her from the nest to encourage her to drink and eat.

If you move a hen that does not have a very strong instinct to brood, she may give up the whole thing on her own and not return to the nest. This is much more likely to happen in this day and age as so many breeds have had the instinct to brood just about bred out of them all together.

Sharon, it’s very likely that your hen is just fine and a little sneaky about when she leaves her eggs unprotected. If possible, watch from afar so that she doesn’t know that you’re watching her. Chances are that she’s up more often than you are aware.

I hope this has answered your question and eased your mind.

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