Recently we had our first broody hen. As you can see in the picture, she is flattened down in one of our nesting boxes. She refused to move, and complained when we went near her, though she did get out of the box once or twice a day to eat, drink, and poop. Her hormones had kicked in and she was seriously ready to hatch out some baby chicks. If we had let her, that would have taken three weeks, but with eight hens and a rooster, all not quite a year old, we have all the chickens and all the eggs we need.
After the first day or so, she didn’t lay eggs, but it was hard to tell exactly when she stopped because she wasn’t staying in one box. She went back and forth between the two boxes on the left side of the coop.
We just let her be, watching for opportunities to gather the eggs without being pecked. We usually got two or three out from under her, but yesterday my husband Kelly got seven, both brown and white. (She lays white.) When he went to make fried eggs for lunch, one of the brown ones was clearly fertile and she must have been sitting on it for a while. He called me to look at it in the frying pan, lovely little red lines going out into the yolk from a little reddish blob in the center of yolk. It was a miracle-of-life moment, but neither one of us felt like eating the egg. Our dogs were happy to.
Well, our broody girl spent some time out in the yard yesterday with the rest of the flock, and she’s been out there all day today, so it looks like she’s decided to drop the broody business.
Two Ways to Break the Broodiness
I’ve just been researching what people do if they want to stop a hen from being broody. After all, she isn’t laying eggs and it’s a bit hard on her health, so you may want to get her back to normal as quickly as possible.
I’ve come across two methods. One is to put her in with a rooster, if you have one, and let him keep her busy!
The other is more likely what we will do next time one of our girls goes broody: We happen to have an old wire dog crate that we don’t use with our present dogs. We will scrub it down and then put it in the chicken area, with just a wire floor, not with the metal sheet that it came with. We will rest it on some 2x4s for ventilation underneath. We won’t put any bedding in there, but we will put food, water, and the broody hen. We will leave her there for several days, however long it takes till she lays an egg. This works partly because her temperature will have been elevated in the broody phase and with no bedding, she will cool down. You could use a rabbit hutch or put together something just for this function.
What if you DO want chicks? Then be glad of your broody hen. Broodiness has been bred out of many breeds of chickens, or at least they are less likely to become broody, and it’s not something you can bring on, as it’s hormonal. As for what to do to have chicks, I may be researching that next year, or the year after, but not now!
More on Breaking Broody Hens
Here are three resources I found online. This article on the broody hen is well written and well photographed, and the author clearly knows chickens. I greatly enjoyed it. Here’s one that includes some youtube videos and a lot of advice. And for a good long LONG read, here is a thread about breaking broody hens on the Backyard Chickens forum. I got a ways into it, but it was 31 pages long when I was there, so I stopped after a while!