Broody Hen – What To Do With A Broody Hen


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broody hen

All of the sudden, your usually sweet hen is pecking and hissing at you when you come to collect the eggs. She rocks back and forth while sitting on the clutch of eggs and isn’t going to move without a fight. You have a broody hen on your hands, so let’s talk about what to do with a broody hen.

What Is A Broody Hen?

A broody hen is a hen that has experienced a hormonal shift and has decided she wants to sit on a clutch of eggs to hatch them. If you keep a rooster and want some fresh chicks on your farm or homestead, this can be a great thing! However, if you don’t keep a rooster and those eggs are not fertilized, the broody hen becomes a problem, here is why:

  1. The broody hen will neglect herself to protect those eggs. Sometimes the hens will only get off the nest once a day to eat and drink, otherwise they just sit there. Even if it’s really hot.
  2. The broody hen will quit producing eggs.
  3. She will try to keep you from collecting the eggs by puffing up, pecking, and hissing at you.
  4. Sometimes the hen’s “broodiness” will rub off on the other hens and encourage others to go broody as well.

Some breeds are more prone to going broody, like silkies, Cochins, buff Orpingtons and Sussex.

How Can I Tell If My Hen Is Broody?

It’s not usually difficult to spot a broody hen. Let’s go over how to tell if your hen is broody.

  • Is she sitting on a clutch of eggs? Maybe in the nest boxes or even in a quiet corner of the yard?
  • When you approach her, does she puff out her feathers and rock back and forth, attempting to make herself look bigger and more intimidating than she actually is?
  • If you try to reach under her to get the eggs, does she hiss and peck at you?

If you answered yes to those questions, then you undoubtedly have a broody hen on your hands.

What To Do With A Broody Hen

broody hen

Once you are sure that your hen is broody, you have two options:

  1. If you keep a rooster with your flock, then 9 times out of 10 the eggs will be fertile, so you can allow her to set on the clutch of eggs for 21 days and hatch the chicks or
  2. you can force her off the nest(I have found the feed scoop works well for this, just place the feed scoop over her head so she can’t peck you and gently push her off the nest) and collect the eggs to bring inside. As long as she hasn’t been sitting on the eggs for too long, these eggs should be safe to eat, but you can perform the float test if you don’t know if they are fresh or not.
  3. If that doesn’t work, see more tips below for breaking a broody hen, they can be quite stubborn

Do You Want To Hatch Baby Chicks?

So if you are opting to go with the first option above; allowing the hen to hatch the eggs, then you will need to do a few things to aid in this process.

  • It is best to separate the hen and her eggs and put them in a safe area away from the rest of the flock
  • Make sure the separate area has food, water, shade etc. all the normal things chickens need to survive 😉
  • By giving her a separate space of her own, this will ensure that she doesn’t get pushed off her nest by another hen and be forced to move to another clutch(and thus leaving behind the other eggs only partially developed)
  • It takes 21 days for a chick to develop inside of an egg, so mark your calendar and keep a close eye on things. You can also candle the eggs at certain dates to look for development, more on that here.
broody hen eggs
raw eggs in basket on wooden table outdoor

How Do I Keep Eggs from Hatching?

If you don’t have a rooster, or you just don’t want baby chicks on your homestead at this time, you need to remove the clutch of eggs from your broody hen and work on “breaking” her. Don’t let that word scare you, no chickens will be harmed during this process.

How To Break A Broody Hen

The process of breaking a broody hen is simple, but some hens can be quite stubborn and really want to hatch those eggs.

Here are some things to try for breaking a broody hen:

  • disturb the mama hen while she is in the nest box. Push her off the nest and collect the eggs. Sometimes this is all you need to do and she will get up and run away like nothing ever happened.
  • if that didn’t work, another thing you can do is fill a little ziplock bag with ice cubes and replace the eggs with that. It will be uncomfortable for the hen to lay on and often this will break the hen.
  • a final resort would be removing her from the coop/nest box area to a totally separate space. You will need to make sure she has food, water and shelter. And the key here is to put her in a cage or crate without bedding or anything comfortable. Think wire crate. Something she won’t enjoy sitting on. This may take a few days, but it usually works.

A simple way to help prevent broody hens is to make sure you collect your eggs daily or even twice daily. Some hens will still go broody even with no eggs in the boxes, but it’s worth a shot.

How To Place Chicks Under A Broody Hen

So maybe you don’t have a rooster on your farm or homestead, but you would like some new chicks this spring. A fantastic way to raise baby chicks is by placing them under a broody hen. Here are some benefits to raising chicks this way:

  • less mess to clean. By having the mama hen raise the chicks you can keep them outside, which means no stink or mess in your house or garage.
  • no heat lamps and risk of fire. I love that the mama hen provides all the warmth the chicks need from the day they hatch all the way until they are fully feathered. No lamps or heat plates are needed, which means you don’t need electricity and it also means there is no risk of fire.
  • A more natural way to raise chicks. There is just nothing like a mama hen and her chicks. I think there must be some sort of benefit to having the chicks raised with a mama hen just like God intended.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely love placing chicks under my broody hens. It takes a lot of work out of my hands and we get to watch this beautiful thing unfold right before our eyes. I will always choose this method over any other method if I have the choice.

Here is my method for placing the chicks under the broody hen:

*Note, I like to lock my other birds OUT of the coop on this first night to ensure no one messes with the chicks. So I leave just the broody hen in the coop on the night I plan to place the chicks under the mama.

  • make sure you have a solid broody hen. Make sure she’s been sitting for at least 4-5 days and that she isn’t going to change her mind.
  • source FRESH day old chicks. Preferably locally so you don’t have to wait for shipping(and supporting your local homesteaders and farmers is always best). It’s important that they are not more than 2-3 days old, preferably just a day old, so the mama hen will accept them.
  • sneak out to the coop after it is dark and remove the eggs from under the broody hen.
  • replace the eggs with the tiny chicks, stuffing them under the hens wings and then wait and listen. If you don’t hear any loud squawks or squabbles, set a timer on your phone and come back to check on them in 10-20 minutes.
  • when you come back to check on them, you would ideally like for them all to be safely tucked underneath the mama hen. They shouldn’t be making too much noise because that would indicate that they are either cold or not being accepted by the mama hen. If all looks good, set another time and come back in 30 minutes.
  • if the chicks are still under the hen, no issues that you can see, then you should be good to let them stay with the hen overnight.
  • If all is still good in the morning, you can either leave the chicks with the mama in the coop, or transfer them to their own space(that is my preference). Sometimes other hens will pick on baby chicks so keep a close eye on them if you choose to leave them in with the flock.

How To Place Fertile Eggs Under A Broody Hen

Very similar to how I place baby chicks under a broody hen, you can also place fertile eggs under a broody hen. Again, let’s say you don’t have a rooster, or maybe you want some special egg layers like Easter Eggers, olive eggers or some other special breed. Here is how you can place fertile eggs under a broody hen:

  • make sure you have a solid broody hen. Make sure she’s been sitting for at least 4-5 days and that she isn’t going to change her mind.
  • Source your fertile eggs from a local homesteader or farm. Make sure they are fresh and have been kept at the right temperature.
  • after it is dark, remove the clutch of eggs that your broody hen is sitting on and carefully replace them with the new hatching eggs.
  • watch to make sure the mama hen rolls the new eggs under her breast and if she does that, you are golden.

Some of the other hens in the flock may try to force the broody hen off her clutch of eggs. So if you want to make sure the eggs don’t get left half developed, it’s best to keep the broody hen in a safe place where she won’t be bothered by the other hens.

I hope all of this information about what to do with a broody hen was helpful for you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out in Instagram or shoot us an email.

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