Your hen is broody – now what!? February 15, 2012
( This is Part 2 of my broody hen series. Part 1 is here.)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.