Stopping A Hen From Going Broody

Free Ranging and Training Chickens...

“Hi, I have a Broody Bantam Hen. She has already hatched eggs and took care of the chicks until she decided they were old enough to be on their own. She was fine then for several weeks but now she wants to sit on eggs again. I was wondering if it causes any health problems to her or how often we should let her sit on eggs.” ~ Annon

“Hello, I have a hen that is constantly setting on the nest (brooding?). She does not seem to be allowing others on the nest. We collect the eggs every day. We are down from 5 eggs a day to 3. Can we stop her? How?” ~ Marlena

Thanks to both of you for the questions.

It’s interesting, we get a lot of questions from people who are trying to get their hens to brood; the two of you are having just the opposite problem. The truth is that it is a good problem to have.

Brooding is natural, normal and important.

Before chickens and eggs became “big business”, before we had a grocery store on every corner, people raised chickens to feed their families. Brooding was imperative to expand the flock and have food on the table.

As time has gone by, the instinct to brood has all but been bred out of the most popular breeds. Instead, these breeds have been bred to be super egg layers. That’s a wonderful thing if you just want eggs to eat; it becomes a problem when you want to hatch eggs without the use of a commercial incubator.

So many of you experience the frustration of wanting a broody hen and not having one. A tip for those of you who are experiencing this problem; fill your flock with heritage breeds rather than the super layers; Australorps, Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks. There are many others but this gives you a good idea of my point.

Now, on to the issue of hens that brood more often than we’d like.

A hen will sit on eggs as often as she is ready. You do not need to worry that she is brooding too often and is endangering her health in some way. Remember that she would be laying the eggs anyway; she is not adding additional stress on her body in that regard.

The only concern you need to address is to make sure that she has food and water near by and that she gets up once in awhile to take care of her needs.

Marlena, I would provide an additional nest box if you have only one.

In this way the other hens have a place to lay their eggs.

Here are a few ideas to try to coax you hens out of their brood:

The first thing you’ll want to try is to remove her from the nest. You may need to do this again and again and again. She won’t like it and will likely peck at you. Wear long sleeves and gloves if you’re more comfortable. All the while, make sure you are removing any eggs from underneath her.

If she insists on going back to the nest, try to get some light into that spot and remove all nesting material. Remember that nesting boxes are usually dark, secluded and comfortable places. These conditions usually reinforce the instinct to brood. Make it uncomfortable for her to sit there.

You could also block off that nest box for a few days.

She may just move herself to another but it might be enough to snap her out of her brood.

Move her to your chicken infirmary for 4 or 5 days, again with no nesting material. Ideally she will not be able to see her nest box but the other chickens will still be able to see her. In this way, she will be less likely to lose her place in the pecking order and reintroduction into the coop will go more smoothly.

If you have a rooster, put the two of them together in a space of their own, he’ll keep her too busy to worry about brooding.

The whole point here is to not allow her to get comfortable in a nest box. If some of the easier ideas above don’t work, here’s a few more that will require a little more work on your part:

You could build / buy a cage with a wire bottom. Elevate the cage by placing bricks underneath on the sides. The objective is to create a draft on your hen’s under carriage. Again, remember to make sure she’s getting a lot of light.

There are also cages available that have slanted bottoms. You suspend the cage from the roof of the hen house. The slanted bottom doesn’t allow her to sit comfortably so that she will snap out of her broodiness.

If none of the above ideas work and you just cannot have her brooding, I’m sure you can find someone who would love a hen with such a strong instinct to brood.

Good luck to you.

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