Why Is My Broody Chicken Not Eating?

Poultry farming is no doubt a lucrative venture. Other than the profits from selling eggs and meat, you will benefit emotionally from your interaction with chickens that are friendly and fun to be around.

Nonetheless, a few behaviors in your flock might leave you distressed. One of these is a broody hen. Brooding is an annual instinct in some hens that comes when they turn 5-8 months and are ready to start laying.

When they start laying, the hormones in your chicken kick in much like a pregnant woman’s, so they focus their energies on caring for their clutch of eggs. The main sign of a broody hen is spending most of her time sitting on her eggs in the nest.

This is ok when your hen has eggs to hatch but becomes an issue when a hen sits on imaginary or unfertilized eggs. Hormonal imbalance and warm weather sometimes spur broodiness in a hen for weeks.

When a hen starts brooding, she might simply sit in the nest and refuse to feed. This is undoubtedly distressing because it puts your chicken at risk of death. Below are tidbits on how to handle a broody chicken that is not feeding.

How Often Will A Broody Chicken Eat?

Broody hens will eat twice or thrice daily compared to other times when they always seem to be eating, even if it is in small portions. In general, broody hens will prefer sitting in dark, comfortable locations where they pluck their feathers to expose their eggs directly to the moisture and warmth on their skins.

The hen will sit in its nest all night and day, with some only leaving for fifteen minutes or less to eat, drink or relieve themselves. This means that your chicken will not eat as much food as it needs to remain healthy.

In fact, most broody hens will eat 80% less than they usually do. You can provide enough food and water for the hen, but the effort to leave her eggs seems too much for a broody chicken, so she might still not feed as well.

When Should You Be Worried About A Broody Hen?

Hens who remain too long in the broody phase often lose weight because they are not eating right and might become ill. Some signs of an ill broody hen include a pale, sickly-looking comb, a droopy head, and listlessness.

The pale, floppy comb in a sick broody hen often results from dehydration and malnutrition following poor feeding. If you notice any of these signs, breaking the brooding is a matter of life and death, more so when you do not want chicks or the hen is incubating unfertilized eggs.

Other than contacting a vet to manage the effects of prolonged brooding in your hen, here are some steps you can take to break the habit and protect your bird.

  • Remove the hen from her nesting box. You might have to do this a few times before the broody habit is broken.
  • Block off the nesting box when the hen gets out for a few minutes to feed, drink or relieve herself so that she does not go back in.
  • Place frozen vegetables in the nesting box to lower the temperatures. This sends a message to the hen’s brain that she is not broody anymore. You can also wash your hen in cold water to trigger the same effect.

What Can You Feed A Broody Hen When Sitting?

When your hen is sitting, take her out of her nesting box for 20-30 minutes daily for her to have a dust bath, feed, drink, and defecate. At this point, feed the hen from a private feeder and water bottle so that other chickens do not have access to the food and water.

If your bird has lost too much weight, you can correct this by feeding her hard-boiled eggs, high-protein commercial feeds, mealworms, and fresh corn. Add some fruits like cherries, apples, and melons for a balanced diet.

Since the goal is to get your bird eating, try various foods to see what the bird will like best. It is advisable to negate salt foods like salted meats and salted crackers from the diet because these can be harmful in birds that have not been feeding for a while or are not feeding so well.

How Do You Get A Broody Chicken To Eat?

Encourage a broody hen to feed by placing food and water as close to its nesting box as possible. You can tempt the bird to feed more with a few treats like sunflower seeds, hard-boiled eggs, chopped peanuts, and millet.

Some people choose to hand-feed their hens to encourage them to eat, but this is dangerous for broody birds because they are often aggressive and might injure you. Breaking the broody behavior can also get your chickens eating as they normally do.

Will A Broody Chicken Starve To Death?

Thankfully, it is rare for a broody hen to starve herself to death, but sometimes the hen might die in its nest. A hen’s instincts will lead her to nest for three weeks, but in some cases, she might nest for longer than this and become too weak to get out of her nesting box for feeding.

If your hen has been broody for a long time and is no longer feeding, offer her some nutritious, high-fat treats to keep her nourished and strong. Ensure you periodically check on the broody hen to pick any signs of starvation and dehydration early and consult a vet.


Keeping chickens will be quite a breeze when you know what to expect and how best to handle it. From the article above, you can adequately deal with a broody hen. Brooding chicks from your flock will be exciting as you watch them hatch and grow.

Some people even argue this is the most rewarding element in chicken farming. As long as you keep your hen safe and in good health during this time, you will be a happy farmer.


avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *