Why Do Chickens Go Broody?

While keeping chicken assures you of an almost endless supply of eggs and meat, there are several drawbacks you might face during chicken rearing. One of these is a broody hen.

This is a bird that wants to hatch its own eggs. She will thus sit on her eggs for prolonged periods attempting to hatch them. Brooding is favorable for people who want their chicken to reproduce through a natural nesting process.

Nonetheless, it is detrimental for those who are only interested in getting eggs because it can reduce egg production by 8-10 eggs daily. Moreover, one broody hen can make your entire flock broody, thereby stopping egg production altogether.

Some signs of a broody hen include unwillingness to leave her nest or roost with other chickens at night and plucking feathers from her breast then using these feathers to insulate the nest for warmth. The hen will also become territorial and hiss, shriek, puff up, peck at you or growl when you come near her since she wants to protect the eggs.

Below is more information on broody hens to help you understand and handle this behavior in your flock.

What Causes Broodiness in Chickens?

Lighting factors and hormones influence broodiness in hens. These can be triggered when the birds see a collection of eggs in their nests or another hen being broody. Before laying eggs, hens have a hormonal surge that causes them to find and prepare nests.

After laying the eggs, the hormones will return to normal levels, but they remain elevated in a few hens. The elevated hormones cause hens to sit in one location for an extended time long after laying eggs.

Your actions like hovering over hens when they lay eggs can also lead to broodiness in hens. A few hen breeds have a higher predisposition to broodiness than others. Most hybrid hens, including leghorns and Sussex, will not get broody because this instinct has been bred out of them. These include Cochins, Orpingtons and silkies.

What Time Of The Year Do Chickens Go Broody?

It is challenging to know precisely when hens will be broody, so you cannot predict it accurately. However, hens will usually become broody in the spring because of the warm weather conducive for raising newly-hatched chicks at this time.

Hens will rarely brood in the winter because the freezing temperatures decrease the survival rates of chicks.

What to Do With a Broody Hen?

When hens are broody and sitting in their nests, they put all their energy into sitting on their eggs and neglect themselves in the process. They will not leave their nests to drink, relieve themselves, exercise or eat, thus becoming pale, losing their feathers’ sheen and losing weight. When the weather is hot, the hens might also become quickly dehydrated.

It is imperative to stop broody behavior in your hens as soon as you notice it. If you allow the behavior to extend for a long time, it will take longer for the bird to snap out of it. Below are a few steps for breaking broodiness in your hen:

  • Remove her from her nesting box. Pick the hen and drop it with the rest of the chickens in the pen. Remember that broody hens might attack you. It is thus best to use gloves when handling them. The hen might go back to the nest box you took it from a few times. Remove her from the nest several times to break this habit.
  • Block the nesting box. If the hen keeps going back to her nesting box, block it to break this behavior. You can consider using a piece of wood or nails to do this or removing the straw from the box.
  • Make the hen-roost again. When it is dark, and the other hens are going to their nesting boxes to roost, place your broody hen with other roosting hens. The hen will not be so brave to move back to the nesting box and will instead roost again.
  • Use frozen vegetables. When hens are broody, they do it because their body temperatures have risen. By placing frozen vegetables in their nests, you lower the body temperatures and send a message to their brains that they are not meant to be nesting. Ice cubes also effectively reduce the body temperature to show the hen that it should not brood. To lower body temperatures, some people also dunk their hens’ undersides in cold water.
  • Use a broody cage. The broody cage has a wire bottom. You can repurpose your cat or dog carrier as a broody cage but replace the bottom with chicken wire. This cage is uncomfortable for the hen, and its ventilation will cool down the hen, much like ice cubes and frozen vegetables. Ensure the cage only has water and food. Place this cage on blocks and let your hen stay in it for three days. Let the hen out and see if she socializes with the other hens or goes back to her nesting cage. If she returns to the nesting box, place her in the broody cage for another three days until she breaks the habit.
  • Give her fertile eggs. If you do not need the hen’s eggs for your table, consider humoring a broody hen by giving her some fertilized eggs to sit on. These eggs hatch within a few days. When they do, the broody hen will transform into a dedicated mother.

How Do You Stop Chickens From Being Broody?

Though it takes some work, you can stop your hens from brooding. Here are some steps for doing this:

  • Collect eggs regularly so that the hens do not have any eggs to nest.
  • Ensure the hens will not return to their nesting boxes after laying eggs.
  • Choose chicken breeds that are less broody if you are focused on maximizing your egg production.

Do Broody Hens Lay Eggs?

No, broody hens will not lay eggs. They might even discourage other hens from laying eggs or coming into the coop. This is why you should avoid broody hens in your coop.

How Long Are Chickens Brood?

You don’t always need to intervene when your chicken is broody. You can also let the behavior run its course if you want chicks. The eggs will take 2-3 weeks to hatch if you let the brooding continue. If you are going to let the brooding continue for the 2-3 weeks, it is crucial to give your hen enough food and water.

Withholding the food and water can be used to make the hen leave its nesting box and break brooding. However, this can cause your hen to become too weak and even die, so it is not advisable.

During the brooding period, your hen might not eat much even when you have provided the food. This makes it imperative to give the hen quality food that encourages feeding and carries high calories. Supplement chicken feeds with tasty treats that will encourage her to eat.

Some interesting treats you can consider include mealworms, scrambled eggs, grubs and chickweed. It is best to keep the hen in a nesting box away from the other hens so that the brooding is not spread to the other birds in your flock.

Conclusion

A brooding hen might seem like the worst thing when you start rearing chicken. From the article above, you can now understand the causes of brooding in your hens, its causes, effects and how best to prevent or handle it.

This information will go a long way in easing your chicken rearing and increasing egg production. It might be hard to pick the signs of a brooding hen initially.

Pay attention to your flock to become conversant with the hens’ normal behaviors. This way, you can promptly address broodiness when it happens.

Chickens   Updated: July 16, 2022
avatar 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.

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