Your hen is broody – now what!? February 15, 2012

( This is Part 2 of my broody hen series. Part 1 is here.)

Lacy, a broody hen, giving me a dirty look while guarding her nest

So your hen is hogging a nest box!
She is pecking at you every time you
try to retrieve freshly laid eggs your
other hens have laid under her, in their
attempt to contribute to her cause.
She thinks she is ‘queen of the roost’
and is being a royal pain!   You have
a few options to choose from.    You
can let your hen enjoy motherhood
by giving her fertile eggs to hatch or
baby chicks to raise.   You can also
choose to let her be and wait for her
to get over it or you can break her
from being broody.  I’ve done all of
the above!

I absolutely love watching a mother
hen raise her brood of chicks!  A broody
hen makes a great incubator and is also
able to provide the chicks  with warmth
and protection, which saves us humans a lot of work!    Over the last couple years, several
of my hens have gone broody, but with no rooster, I can’t just let nature take its course.
I’ve purchased eggs for the hens to hatch and have also had great success with sneaking
newly hatched baby chicks under my broodies at night.

Penny, my Barnevelder, protectively watching over her little ones


Letting your broody hen hatch fertile eggs.

If you have a rooster, most likely your eggs will be fertile.   Start gathering eggs from your hens and store the fertile eggs in a cool room.   For best results, you can collect eggs up to 1 week from the time they were laid.   Eggs gathered from your own back yard will usually have a better hatch rate than shipped eggs, but if you do not have a rooster or want to raise different breeds of chickens than what you can find locally, purchasing eggs is a great option.

Once you have purchased or collected enough eggs for your hen, remove the fake eggs, golf ball, or whatever she was setting on and replace with the fertile hatching eggs.   Make sure you do not put too many eggs under the hen – she needs to be able to completely cover the eggs with her body.   I like to separate a broody hen from the other chickens and let her raise her chicks by herself, for the safety of the chicks.    I’ve used a small dog kennel, but My Pet Chicken’s smallest coops also make excellent broody boxes and are safe against raccoons and other predators.   If your hen has not been separated from the others yet, make sure to mark her new eggs with a marker, so that if any other hens lay eggs under your broody, you’ll know which eggs to remove from the nest.   Your hen knows what to do now – hopefully, in 21 days, you’ll have some new baby chicks!


Tricking your broody by sneaking newly hatched baby chicks under her.

This is my favorite – instant gratification and hopefully, no baby roos!   After you have
picked up your new baby chicks, place the chicks under a warm lamp inside and give them
chick starter and fresh water.    Once it gets dark, remove the wooden eggs or golf balls
your hen has been setting on and then place the baby chicks underneath her.   I typically
go out again and check on my hen and babies with a flashlight before going to bed, just to
make sure no-one has been kicked out of the nest or has fallen out from under the hen.

Blue instinctively covers her newly adopted babies with her wings to keep them warm.

Next morning – go out to check on the
new family.  Your hen thinks her babies
have just started hatching and does not
realize that they are at least 2-3 days
old and are needing to eat.   She will not
leave her nest to show the chicks where
their food is for another day or so – You
need to do this for her!

The nest box should be at ground-level,
so that the chicks don’t fall out and injure
themselves.   Make sure the baby chicks
are able to hop in and out of the nest box.
If there is a high lip on the box, you can
use a brick or rocks to give them steps
both inside and outside the nest box.
Show the chicks where their food and
water is and watch to make sure they
rejoin their mama after eating and
drinking.  After a day or two, Mother
Hen will join her babies outside the nest
box and start taking care of them on her own.


Mom hasn't left the nest box yet, but her curious chicks are able to eat and drink while waiting for her.


Taming the Beast

(How to Stop Your Hen from Being Broody)

Letting a broody hen raise a batch of chicks is
heartwarming, but not always practical.   I love
raising baby chicks, but can’t do so every single
time one of my hens decides to take on the task
of raising little ones.   If your coop is stretched
to its limits and one of your hens has gone broody,
you have 2 choices.   You can either let her be
and she’ll get over being broody in 3-5 weeks on
her own or you can choose to  break her of her
broodiness.  Personally, I see no benefit to
letting the hen tire of being broody on her own.
She will not lay eggs while broody and may have
more trouble rejoining the flock after being broody
for up to 5 weeks or so.

When I am not in a position to let my hens raise chicks, I take my broody hens and move them into a small pen or dog crate that does not contain any nesting areas.   This broody-breaking-pen must give the hen access to food and water and provide her with protection from predators.  Usually, within 2-6 days (depending on the hen), they give up their broodiness and are ready to rejoin the flock.

 

50 Comments
Leslie Standen February 15th, 2012

I’m getting ready to receive my first batch of chicks from My Pet Chicken and brood my second batch of “laying ladies”! I am really looking forward to some of my last years hens going “broody”. I hope to replace eggs and give them babies to nurture.
I have a beautiful coop, covered patio and a fenced off 1/4 acre for the “girls” to live in. They are fed only organic food, both pellet and fruits and veggies and are very healthy, and very spoiled…..but the eggs they give me are definitely worth the investment. Their antics and unique personalities put them on my “best friends” list. It would be really exciting to win one of the Baby Chick prizes in the contest.
Sharing for the first time on Facebook,
Leslie
Rhododendron, Oregon

Steve May 6th, 2012

I,ve got a hen (Buff Orpington) that went Broody and gave her day old chicks as recomended and it has worked well. We’ve got her in her own space with the babies and she’s a good mother ,chick are doing well.
When and how do I introduce mom and babies back to the rest of the flock?
How do I feed the chicks the starter feed and everyone else layer feed ?
Only been 2 weeks ,so I have some time.

Aurelia June 17th, 2012

Steve I just put the mom and the babies in a separate area with both chick starter and regular and the chicks seem to know what to eat

Aurelia June 17th, 2012

In August I’m getting some silkies from MPC and are exited for next years setting

Cheryl Penninger July 5th, 2012

After the babies hatch, how long until momma starts laying again?

Jennifer July 7th, 2012

Can I put my hen and chicks in a rabbit cage until we finish a coop? I know close to the ground is better. If not recommended what do you suggest? Also when do chicks start eating starter food? The hen is laying on the chicks and I have not seen them out and about. Do i need to touch the chicks or will my hen get upset and then not take care of them??? I know alot of questions but want to do what is best. Did not know this would happen as soon as it did. We do not have a coop completed yet. Help!!

Lisa July 31st, 2012

I plan to give my broody hen some baby chicks to raise..Can I keep her and her chicks in a 46″x20″ rabbit cage and if so for how long? When can I put them with my other hens? Also, can mama eat the baby chick food too? Please advise asap!!

Mary Ann August 1st, 2012

I’m going to try to answer several questions asked in this comment section; 1 comment at a time for easier readability: (Q:) After the babies hatch, how long until momma starts laying again? (A:) This varies, depending on the hen, but most hens will start laying again when their chicks are between 3-6 weeks of age. Don’t worry if it takes even longer.

Mary Ann August 1st, 2012

(Q:) Can I put my hen and chicks in a rabbit cage until we finish a coop? (A:) A rabbit cage should work fine for a while, but you might want to take your broody out occasionally to let her get a bit of exercise or a dustbath – make sure not to keep her out more than 20-30 minutes so the eggs don’t get cold. I’ve used a wire dog kennel about that same size for my broodies before, but once the chicks hatch, they will enjoy more room than a small dog kennel or rabbit cage provides.

Mary Ann August 1st, 2012

(Q:) Also when do chicks start eating starter food? Can mama eat the baby chick food too? (A:) Chick starter should be offered right away. If your chicks were hatched underneath the hen, they will not eat their first meal until Mama Hen has left the nest with her chicks. She will then show her babies to the feed you have out for them. If your chicks were already hatched before placing under your broody, they will need to eat right away and you’ll need to show the chicks where the food is (see my blog for more details on this). Mama Hen can eat the chick starter also, since she won’t be laying eggs for awhile. Once your hen starts laying eggs again, you can provide pellets for her or switch the entire group to a ‘developer’ feed.

Mary Ann August 1st, 2012

(Q:) When can I put them with my other hens? When and how do I introduce mom and babies back to the rest of the flock? (A:) This will depend on your hen and her position within the flock. Generally, a hen that is high up on the pecking order is better able to protect her chicks than one at the bottom of the pecking order and the breeds and number of chickens you have within your flock will also make a difference. I usually wait till my chicks are about 6 weeks of age, but that is just me personally. You can try earlier, just make sure you watch the dynamics of the flock carefully when the mom and her babies are with them to see how they do. Some flock owners don’t even separate the mothers and their babies from the flock, but I’ve been afraid to take the chance of injury with the tiny babies.

Mary Ann August 1st, 2012

(Q:) The hen is laying on the chicks and I have not seen them out and about. Do i need to touch the chicks or will my hen get upset and then not take care of them???

.

(A:) Your mother hen will not take the chicks off the nest for the first few days – she is waiting for all her eggs to hatch. Once the hen has left her nest, touching and handling the baby chicks is a great way to get them used to you and will not interfere with the hen’s instinct to care for her babies.

Debs September 8th, 2012

Ive also got a broody hen. If I remove her from the others to get over her broodiness, when the time comes to put het back with her flock, will they accept her or will they peck at her, due to the fact she been away for somtime??
If this is the case, then what am I to do?
thank you for ideas

Mary Ann September 11th, 2012

Hi Debs —- I haven’t had any trouble integrating my broody hens back into the flock after they’ve been separated and given up their broodiness, but typically my broody hens are still within visibility of the flock, so not so easily forgotten. Most of my hens give up their broodiness within 3-5 days of not having a nest to set on. If you can set up a wire dog kennel for your broody inside or near the chicken run, this should help. There may be some mild squabbling due to your hen getting re-established into the flock, but this can happen even if you don’t separate her from the others. I find my broody hens have such a terrible disposition that they tend to squabble a lot with the other hens when off their nest even when left with the flock. If you do have any trouble, you can read the 2nd part of this article for some helpful tips:
http://www.mypetchicken.com/backyard-chickens/chicken-help/How-do-I-introduce-new-chickens-into-my-old-flock-H128.aspx?

Emma September 18th, 2012

You said that if you sneak day-old chicks under her, you will have to show them where their food and water are because the hen won’t leave the nest for a couple more days. How do you go about showing the chicks where everything is?

Mary Ann September 18th, 2012

Hi Emma — After leaving the baby chicks under the hen all night to bond, I go out in the morning and take the chicks out from under Momma Hen to show them the chick feeder and chick waterer. They’ve already learned how to eat and drink, since they were fed before being place under their new mother and will eat with gusto. The baby chicks will run back under the hen when finished eating and will come out again on their own when they are hungry. The chick feeder should be filled with chick starter (the mother will eat it with her chicks) and should be near the nest (see the last photo in my blog). I would also make sure other chickens do not have access to this area, since the mother hen is in no position to protect her chicks yet. You should stay a few minutes and make sure the chicks are able to get in and out of the nest on their own. You can use a brick if the lip on the nest is too tall and the chicks will use that brick for a stepping stone, if needed.

kimmie,marie October 3rd, 2012

yes ive never had chickens and strange but true we live in city dowtown but have a farely nice chicken pin.we got our first hen sitting she comes off the 13 or close to it..could you step me threw what to do including dealing with the other 2 roosters and 1hen..thanks alot..

kathryn jon October 24th, 2012

Mary Ann, so grateful for this website! my husband and I have a hen who started sitting a couple 3 weeks ago and the chicks are hatching this very minute! we have a very warm coop and good nests but the nests are high (two and a half feet). we are in southeast idaho; it only got up to 45 degrees today and our rain today was our first snow! We have a farm and our hens and rooster free range every day. what do we do with mom and new chicks? let them be for a day or so til hen leaves nest? can we just leave them in the coop or should they be moved?obviously the nest is way too high. our grandmothers all raised chickens but we aren’t sure what to do next! this is a great surprise–and in the autumn, too! we have 8 hens a rooster and 7 guinea hens in the coop as well!

Mary Ann October 24th, 2012

Kimmie — I’m sorry I missed your question and didn’t get back to you before your chicks hatched. I hope the hatch went well.

Some chicken owners are able to safely leave the hen and babies with the rest of the flock, but it is a risk and increases your chance of losing baby chicks. I like to keep the chicks and hen separate from the other chickens. In the past, I’ve used a wire dog kennel, a chain link kennel, and most recently a large indoor aquarium!
http://blog.mypetchicken.com/2012/10/16/my-broody-bantam-hen-recipe-for-tame-chicks/ You can also use a rabbit hutch.

Kathryn — Congratulations on the new chicks! You don’t want to move the hen while chicks are in the midst of hatching. Typically, I’d suggest either moving the hen with her eggs during the night before day 18 or waiting till the chicks hatch and then move them all together.

Your hen will not leave the nest for the next couple days and most likely, your chicks will stay underneath her, but I’d block the nest off from the other hens (and keep the babies from falling) with some type of wire covering (for ventilation and safety). You may also want to place a small feeder and waterer within her reach, just in case she is up earlier than you expect. Once she is standing, those chicks will be up too and you don’t want them falling out. Be sure to check on her frequently and once she is up on her feet move the brood to a safe location where they can all eat and drink.

Nicole B November 2nd, 2012

My broody just hatched her first 7 chicks. I brought her into my basement in a cage to incubate them and hatch them.
I am now wondering when I should move her and her babies back into the unheated coop, or if I should be at all.
I have read that I should not remove the mother from the babies. But I feel bad keeping mumma cooped up as all of my chickens are true free range and I am assuming baby chicks should not be allowed to free range in cold weather.
When & how would be the best way to reintroduce the mother and/or babies to the flock during the colder seasons?

Lissa November 3rd, 2012

Mary Ann wrote another blog post on this very subject, raising a hen with her chicks inside for a time. Read about it here.

Shannon T November 22nd, 2012

I have a buff hen that has been sitting in the nesting box for 2 days now.She is in with other chickens along with 2 roosters. She is the only one that is older and probably not even laying but sitting on others eggs. Do I let her sit and move her from the rest of the flock or do I leave her be? Other question,Can hens go broody in the winter/fall when we have had very mild weather,rainy but cold and no snow yet?

Thx for ur help
Shannon T.

Mary Ann November 29th, 2012

Shannon — Yes, even though a higher percentage of hens will go broody in the spring and summer, your hen can go broody at any time of the year. I currently have 3 broody Silkies right now. If you want your hen to hatch and raise baby chicks, you can separate her and the eggs from the rest of your flock. If instead, you decide it is not the right time for your broody hen to raise a family, you can break her broodiness by giving her a place to stay fro a few days that does not have a nest box in it.

Shannon T December 1st, 2012

Thanks Mary Ann!! Now I have another question to ask. I have 2 roosters,one is an araucana and the other is a RIR. Now since the setting hen is a buff and ANOTHER one is setting also is a RIR,What breeds are these chicks going to be?

Thanks,
Shannon

Mary Ann December 1st, 2012

Shannon — The breed of your chicks will be determined by the hen that laid the eggs and the rooster that fertilized the eggs she laid, and has nothing to do with the hen that is actually setting on and hatching the eggs. If your Rhode Island Red is dominant and is the rooster that mated with your hens, your eggs from the RIR will be pure RIR while the eggs that your buff hen laid will be a mix. If the Araucana is the father of those chicks, all the chicks from this batch will be Easter Egger type chicks. You probably won’t know what type of chicks you have till after they get older – hope you have a great hatch!

Barbara December 30th, 2012

Help!! Our silkie has been sitting on 4 eggs. One hatched about 3:30 a.m. this morning. she is still sitting on the other 3. How long do we let her sit on the other 3 eggs? Do I introduce chick starter to the one chick right away or let her show the new chick the food? I have them in a plastic tub lined with hay. Do I seperate the new chick from the mom and put a heat lamp on it and give it chick starter until the other 3 eggs are hatched? again, HELP!!!!
thank you.

Lissa December 30th, 2012

It can take 24 hours or more for chicks to hatch; there will probably be more chicks. Whatever you do, don’t separate the chick from her mother. They won’t need a heat lamp when they have mother hen to warm them, and they don’t need to eat for two or three days, because it does take some time for everyone to hatch. This allows the early hatchers to wait until mother hen is done hatching. Just let Nature take her course. You can read on our website about using a broody hen to hatch and raise chicks HERE. We also have information about using a broody to raise shipped chicks HERE.

Barbara December 30th, 2012

Thank you Lissa. I was really worried about the chick not eating at first. Mother and chick are very happy and other three eggs are very warm. Your website is extremley helpful. I will keep in touch.
Thank you again,
Barbara

Julie January 9th, 2013

I’m not ready for my broody hen to raise a clutch. I would like to introduce the rooster in about a month. Should I let her continue to be broody until then or should I break up her brood cycle now. If I break it up, will she easily go broody again in a month? Thanks

Mary Ann January 9th, 2013

If you won’t have any fertile eggs available for another month, you should probably break her broodiness. Even if your hen stays broody for another 4 weeks, there’s a good chance she won’t continue her broodiness for the 3 weeks needed to hatch the eggs, plus it’s hard on her body to stay broody that long (7 weeks total). There’s no telling when this particular hen will go broody again – some hens go broody just once a year, but some will go broody several times a year. It may take a little while for the rooster to get accepted into the flock. Hopefully, either she or one of your other hens will go broody in a couple months. Good Luck.

Mandy March 20th, 2013

I can’t thank you enough for this post!! I will be purchasing mail order eggs, and I’ve started leaving eggs in the nest so one of my buff orps will go broody. I have 4 hens, 2 are not laying due to molt, but both the buffs are laying daily.

How can i plan for when to order the eggs? will she go broody in a week? 2 weeks? should I wait until she’s broody to order? the website i’m ordering from says they ship on Weds or Thurs for Friday delivery… Any advice is appreciated.

Mary Ann March 21st, 2013

Hi Mandy — Unfortunately, we can’t predict when or even IF a hen will go broody. Some hens go broody several times a year, others once per year, and some never go broody in their entire lifetime. I collect my eggs daily and still have broody hens – my silly Silkies will set on a nest of pure shavings, no eggs even. Don’t order any eggs for your hen to set on, until she’s actually gone broody. Once you’re sure she’s in that mode, you can order eggs to be shipped right away. My Pet Chicken offers fertile hatching eggs — this assortment can generally be shipped within 48 hours of being ordered and priority mail shipping is included in the price: http://www.mypetchicken.com/catalog/Fertile-Hatching-Eggs/Hatching-Eggs-for-Education-Ships-free-p911.aspx
We also offer many other breeds, but you’ll need to check the dates on each type for availability: http://www.mypetchicken.com/catalog/Fertile-Hatching-Eggs-c39.aspx Good luck — I hope at least 1 of your Buff Orpingtons comes through for you :)

Chris Anderson May 10th, 2013

Thanks for posting this. I’ve been dealing with a nasty broody hen for almost two weeks. I wasn’t totally sure what her deal has been until I read you post. I had a hell of a time getting her out of the nest box and coup this morning, but I have moved her to a small dog cage with food a water. She must not have been drinking much water because she pounded down the water. I’m glad I moved her. She is none too happy right now, but if this snaps her out of this it will be a good move, because she has just been a nasty hand full. My once sweet Australorp actually chased me out of the chicken yard yesterday!

Mary Ann May 13th, 2013

I bet you’ll be glad when your Australorp is back to her old self!

Rebecca May 18th, 2013

What do you do about seemingly cannibalistic hens? eating her own newly hatched chicks?

Lissa May 23rd, 2013

Some hens will attack hatchlings, unfortunately. Some just don’t make good mothers. Read more about broody hens hatching eggs at the link. If that’s the case with your hen, don’t allow her to hatch or raise chicks. Use another hen in the future, and for now, save the chicks you can by arranging your own brooder.

Chris Anderson May 26th, 2013

Hey Mary Ann, I wanted to follow up and let you know this worked like a charm. I had her in a dog cage for three days. On the third day she was back to her old self and not going nuts when I came near the cage. She still isn’t laying well, but the behavior part is much better and she’s back to her normal sweet disposition. Thanks again for the information..

Tina October 21st, 2013

My broody has been hogging the nest going on week 4. Ugh. She is obviously not understanding there is no rooster in our flock!

Janice raisanen March 28th, 2014

I just ordering baby chicks and they are due to arrive in 5 days, but I finally put 2 and 2 together and realized I have a broody hen. She has been squawking and staying in the nesting box for a couple of days. Would you recommend separating her and trying to introduce the day old chicks to her at night? Or how long should a hen be broody before introducing chicks? Thanks!

Lissa March 28th, 2014

This advice should help: How to have your broody hen raise your shipped chicks! If she is definitely broody, you can introduce them to her (read the info at the link above) more or less right away. Just be on hand to make sure everything goes smoothly! And congratulations! :)

Bunny June 8th, 2014

I recently got silkie chicks and one is a boy and one is a girl. This is my first time ever having chickens anyways my boy silkie keeps pecking the female on the back and sometimes the head mostly on the back and i also have ducks who live with them in the same pen house thingie (we are separating them soon) anyways what im trying to say is why does this happen? And should i separate them?

Jo Anne July 9th, 2014

I have a Black Australorp. This is her 3rd time in 6 months that she has gone broody. I have only 2 hens (micro urban). All 3 times I have used the broody breaker with success. This time it is now 16 days since she quit laying. The other 2 times she started laying within 5 days of coming out of the broody breaker. She is squatting, but no eggs. My questions is…. will she continue to go broody so often and is this normal for such a delay in getting back to laying?

Lissa July 11th, 2014

Australorps are not usually known for excessive broodiness, so you might inspect her carefully just to make sure broodiness is what you’re seeing (rather than some illness, like egg impaction, causing her to stop laying). However it’s always possible you have an exception and just have an especially broody australorp. Some hens are just more stubborn than others about it. The good news is that stubborn broodies tend to make great moms, if you ever want to hatch your own. There’s nothing like watching a mama hen with her chicks!

Sharon August 8th, 2014

I have a guinea hen that has been laying in the chicken coop. I was expecting her to begin to sit on the eggs but today one of the white rock chickens seems to have gone broody and is sitting on the eggs. Will a chicken sit on the nest long enough to hatch guinea eggs? Should I move the chicken to let the guinea hen have her way with the eggs?

Bob August 10th, 2014

Hi one of my hens has been broody for about a month now I have tried lots of methods to try and break her broodiness but nothing seems to work can you give me some advice please

martha September 8th, 2014

How long after a hen has stopped being broody can I expect her to start laying eggs again?

Lissa September 10th, 2014

It tends to vary based on season (in other words, daylight hours), age, and how long she’s been broody/how much condition she’s lost. A young hen who’s been broody only a short time and is coming out of it during the spring or summer may need just a week or two. An older hen who’s been broody a long time and is coming out of it in the late fall or winter may not begin laying again until spring.

[…] give her chicks, or break her broodiness? Tell us what you think in the comments! (P.S. Here is a link to 2 My Pet Chicken blogposts about […]

We Have Exciting News! November 2nd, 2014

[…] give her chicks, or break her broodiness? Tell us what you think in the comments! (P.S. Here is a link to 2 My Pet Chicken blogposts about […]

Kate November 4th, 2014

Question. New to chicken raising. Silkie broody. It is cold at night here. I am afraid to keep in her in a brood breaker at night due to temp. No room in the coop. What is best to help her?

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