Have you ever went out to collect your eggs and found a chicken that won’t ever leave her nest? Well, it’s likely that you have a broody hen and so in the article, I will give you all the information you need about broody hens so that you can raise your chickens with confidence!
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I have had chickens my entire life and I absolutely love them! After having fresh eggs you just can’t go back to store-bought.
However, that’s one of the issues with broody hens. Once a chicken goes broody they quit laying eggs for awhile which can be pretty problematic especially if you have a small flock.
But one of the real issues with broodiness, especially if it’s your first time experiencing it is that you might think your hen is sick. Luckily if she is just a broody hen, there is nothing to worry about.
So let’s jump into everything you need to know about broody hens. Or if you want to skip to a specific section you can do that below.
Table of Contents:
- What is a Broody Hen?
- Broody Behavior
- What to do With a Broody Hen?
- Option One: Let Her Hatch Eggs
- Option Two: Break Her from Being Broody
- How Long Will it Take for Eggs to Hatch?
- When Do Hens Go Broody?
- Broody Chicken Breeds
- Non-Broody Chicken Breeds
What is a Broody Hen?
A broody hen is simply a female chicken that wants to hatch out eggs. As long as the eggs are fertile and you leave her on the nest she will be able to hatch out baby chicks.
Broody Hen Behavior
Figuring out if a hen is broody is very easy. But if this is your first time experiencing it, you’re likely to be a little worried at first.
A broody hen will stay on her eggs all day long only leaving the nesting area once or twice a day to quickly get some water and a little food.
She pretty much neglects her own health while prepping for her babies.
She may even stay on an empty nest all day which is especially common if you collect the eggs out from underneath her.
The next sign is that she’ll likely get pretty feisty.
You may notice her feathers puff up and she may even bite or peck you. So if you have to deal with an aggressive broody hen it’s important to wear gloves and protect your hands.
I get scared from just regular chicken pecks and so I am definitely prepared and protected if I have to move or collect eggs from broody birds.
Another sign of broody hen behavior is that they may have feathers missing from their chest and belly. Sometimes they will pluck out their own feathers so that they can add more warmth to their eggs.
What to do With a Broody Hen
There are really only two things you can do with a broody hen. Leave her on the nest and let the eggs hatch or try to break her from being broody.
Either option is completely fine but one thing you do have to make sure of is that the eggs are fertilized. If you don’t have a rooster there is no way that the eggs are fertile which means she can never hatch chicks.
If this is the case you should collect the eggs each day and try and discourage your hen from being broody.
But if you do have a rooster and you’d like to have baby chicks you can let the mama hen do her thing and hatch out babies.
So depending on your choice, I’ll explain each option more in-depth below.
Option One: Let the Hen Hatch Her Clutch of Eggs
If you’ve made the choice that you want new chicks it’s very easy to let a mother hen take care of them. So if you have a broody hen with a nest of eggs, and you have a rooster, then go ahead and let her be and in 21 days she will hatch out babies.
During this time it’s important to not disrupt her or mess with the eggs though. If you do it may cause her to abandon her nest which is not good if the baby chicks have started to develop.
Option Two: Discourage and Break Her from Being Broody
If you decide to go this route, you’re likely wondering how to break a broody hen in the most effective and safe way.
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way but there are a few things you can do that should work!
1.) Collect eggs often. Of all the options, this is really the easiest and most important, especially if you don’t want chicks.
Plus it’s a good idea to be collecting your eggs often anyways. So at least once a day, or twice a day if possible, you should go out to the chicken coop and collect eggs.
But remember if you have broody hens that are wanting to bite or peck, it might be smart to put on gloves to protect your hands.
2.) Remove her from the nesting box. This tip goes along great with the first tip.
Each time you go out to collect eggs you should remove each individual bird that is broody and gently set her on the floor of the coop or outside with the rest of the flock.
You will likely have to do this for a week or so, but it’s very helpful. Other than collecting the eggs every day, this is the first thing I try when I am determined to break a broody hen.
It often feels like it’s the same thing every day, but before I know it her broody behavior has ended and I don’t usually have to hassle with any of the other steps below.
3.) Put her on the roost after dark. The reason this step is effective is because chickens do not see well at night.
This means if you remove her from her nest and set her on the roost at night she likely won’t try and make her way back to the box.
And after being off her eggs for so long it is discouraging for her to start sitting on them again.
Note: One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to remove a hen from a nest of eggs with partially formed chicks. At least not intentionally… So you really have to make up your mind right away and stick with either letting her hatch her eggs or removing the eggs from the coop every day. This way, you don’t end up having to toss out rotten eggs or worse yet, eggs with partially formed babies inside.
4.) Block the entrance to her nesting box. A broody hen will usually have her “favorite nesting box” (or area) where she will stay the entire time she’s trying to hatch eggs.
So once you have collected the eggs and removed her from her nest you can try blocking the entrance to keep her from going back.
5.) Remove nesting material. Hens will naturally try and create the most ideal area for their babies which is often a nesting box filled with nesting material.
If you remove the nesting material it’s no longer such a great spot and so it helps discourage her from staying there.
But I’ve also heard that sometimes very determined hens who want to stay in that spot will pluck out more of their own feathers to create a better nest. So if all else fails and you try this, be sure to keep a close eye on her because you don’t want her plucking more feathers than needed.
6.) Put her nest into a bright and busy area. Most likely your hen is sitting on eggs in the chicken coop and it’s not likely that you can move her nest.
But if she happens to be sitting on eggs somewhere else such as in a bucket or milk crate, you should move the nest to an area that is well lit and busy.
Hens prefer an area that is quiet and dark. So giving her the opposite situation is ideal for discouraging her broodiness.
7.) Move her into her own pen. If you have a very determined hen and nothing else has worked, you can try moving her into her own pen. Something somewhat small such as a dog crate or rabbit hutch with a wire bottom would work best.
Be sure that it’s well ventilated and that you give her food and water, but don’t give her soft bedding. After a couple of days in the cage, her broodiness should pass and you can let her out to see what she does.
Hopefully, she will go back to socializing with the flock and not straight back to the nesting box.
All in all, of all the options above the best way that has worked for me, is collecting the eggs often and removing the hen from her nest every day. After a length of time anywhere from a week to two weeks, the broody behavior usually ends.
How Long Will it Take for the Eggs to Hatch?
So now to the exciting part! If you want new chicks the best thing you can do or maybe the better way to put it is, the easiest thing you can do, is to let a broody hen hatch eggs.
She will be the one doing all of the hard work such as taking them to water and feed and keeping them warm.
So if you decide to go this route, it will take 21 days for the eggs to hatch.
Once the chicks hatch it’s easiest to let the mother hen take care of them. But if you feel it’s unsafe for her and the babies you can move her and the chicks to their own safe area or take the babies and raise them yourself.
Learn more about raising chicks in this post here: How to Care for Baby Chicks
When Do Hens Go Broody?
Hens will start going broody in the warmer months of spring and summer when their maternal instincts kick in and let them know it’s warm enough for their babies to survive.
So as the warmer days arrive you can expect broody hens unless you happen to only have non-broody breeds which we’ll cover in the next section.
Broody and Non-Broody Chicken Breeds
Whether you want chicks or don’t want chicks, it’s super important to know which breeds are broody and which are not.
If you are certain that you never want chicks it can get really frustrating dealing with broody hens. But on the other hand, if you do want chicks at some point, you have to have breeds that will go broody because not all breeds will make great mothers.
So below I will cover the breeds that are known for being extra broody as well as those that are pretty much guaranteed to never go broody.
- Buff Orpingtons
- Light Brahmas
- Speckled Sussex
- White Leghorn
- Red Star
- Rhode Island Red
Learn more in my YouTube Video below!
Broody Hens Summarized
Here is a quick overview of broody hens and what you need to know!
- Broody hens are female chickens that want to hatch out eggs.
- They instinctively go broody as the warmer months arrive.
- Signs of broody behavior include hens never wanting to leave their nest, mean behavior such as pecking and biting, and puffing of feathers.
- Your two choices for dealing with broodiness are to either let them hatch out chicks or to break them from being broody.
- When deciding which chickens to add to your flock you can choose broody and non-broody breeds depending on whether you do or don’t want baby chicks.
More Tips on Raising Chickens:
- How to Make a Dust Bath for Your Chickens
- 5 Best Chicken Breeds for Beginners
- The Best Chickens for Eggs
- Baby Chick Brooder Ideas and Setup