How to Stop a Broody Hen

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Chicken in Nesting Box (2) - EDITED 

I love it when I want more chicks and a hen or two goes broody just in the nick of time.


What I don’t like, though, is a broody hen when I have no fertile eggs.

But, what’s even worse is a broody, bitchy hen. One that is territorial, that squawks at you every time you walk into the coop, one that pecks at you when you try to remove her eggs, and one that stays on the nest for days or weeks not laying eggs and getting thinner because she is not eating.

I have one such hen…and she is driving me nuts!!

She could be in the Guinness Book of World Records for the amount of time she has been sitting on her nest.


What makes a hen go broody?


No one knows for sure the exact science behind a hen going broody, but we do know it’s a combination of hormones, instinct and maturity that makes a hen want to sit on her eggs (or anyone else’s for that matter) and make them hatch. Not a bad proposition if you have fertile eggs and want a new batch of chicks. But, it’s not as desirable when you don’t have a rooster and there’s no chance of fertile eggs much less hatching chicks.


Why don’t you want a broody hen?


If you don’t want to hatch eggs then a broody hen can become a bad thing, one because she is not laying eggs while she is broody, and two, she can entice her fellow coop mates to go broody too. There goes you egg production!

Fortunately, my other hens have jumped on the crazed motherhood bandwagon. If they did I’ve have no eggs at all, and breakfast would go out the window.


What can I do about a broody hen?


The ultimate goal is to not have a hen go broody in the first place, unless you have fertile eggs you want to hatch. Removing eggs as soon as they are laid and keeping the hen out of the nesting box after she has laid eggs are both good starts to keeping a hen from going broody.

I’ll admit it…this is where all my troubles started. Long days at work and early morning meetings meant that eggs were being left in the nesting boxes for most of the day, or sometimes until the next morning. It was a perfect recipe to send even the most reluctant hen broody.

If practicality and time keep you from collecting eggs or shooing your hens out of their nesting boxes, here are a few more tips that should break her habit. Operative word, should.

1.  Kick her out with the rest of the flock. Taking her off the nest and getting her outside the coop will help break the broody cycle. Feeding time is a good time to do this because it will distract her from being off the nest. Remember though, broody hens can be bite, so be cautious.

2.  Block her out of the nesting box. To dampen her instincts, put a piece of wood over the nesting box hole so she can’t get back in.

3.  Get her roosting again. As the sun sets and the rest of the flock is making their way to their place on the roost pick her up and place her on the roost. Chances are she won’t be brave enough to abandon the flock in search of her nest.

4.  Lower her body temperature. A few people have mentioned putting a bag of frozen veggies underneath the hen. This lowers her body temperature and signals the brain that she is not broody any longer. I’ve not tried this before. Although it sounds interesting I’m not sure I’d want to waste good veggies.

5.  If all else fails, cage her up. Sounds mean, but it’s not. Simply place her in a wire mesh cage in an area with lots of bright sunlight, and plenty of food and water, but no bedding for a few days. Afterwards, let her out and see if she socializes with the rest of the flock or returns to her nest. If she is socializing she is not broody. But, if she tries to return to the nest put her back in the cage for a few more days.


It shouldn’t take long to break a broody hen using any of these methods, unless of course you are ME. I think my hen is in perpetual broody mode.

So—what was my solution?

After weeks of admittedly, inconsistent, attempts to break her broody cycle the one thing that did work was a nighttime raid by a rouge raccoon.

Yep…that worked.

Luckily, my coop is like the Fort Knox of poultry housing, so the coon didn’t stand a chance. When I arrived on the scene, at two in the morning, she was up and about; a little stressed and sticking pretty close to the other hens.

Problem solved.

BTW — I don’t recommend the raccoon method:)




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