What to do when you have a broody chicken

Broody Orpington Chicken

Every June, our Orpington (yellow) chicken goes broody. This has happened every year since we adopted her, and she goes ‘broody’ almost the same day towards the middle of the month! It’s also contagious behavior as another hen typically starts to go broody a few days after she watches the yellow chicken’s temperament and behavior change.

Broody chicken behavior:

  • Hens may sit on the nest and refuse to move which is a strong indication they’re broody
  • Your hen will stop laying and this impacts egg production, and the entire flock is grumpy
  • If you’re a newbie, there are many signs to look out for and you may want to break this behavior if you don’t want chicks

As a newbie chicken keeper, you may be afraid at first of your broody chicken. The sweet hen that usually greets you for mealworms and watermelon is now growling! She only wants to sit on eggs, and these can be fake eggs. You may or may not have a rooster, but she’s still sitting all day long and won’t move.

There are many reasons this broody behavior isn’t something you want to encourage unless you want chicks. If you do want chicks then breaking a broody hen is not the best course of action! Many chicken keepers are busy and perhaps their chickens don’t live in an environment suitable for littles.

Breeds That Go, Broody

Broody chicken, Bantam breed

According to chicken expert, Fresh Eggs Daily, certain chicken breeds like to go broody. We’ve included a list below, but it doesn’t mean it’s a 100 percent guarantee your Brahma chicken will become broody but if you have a Silky chicken then you should expect it every spring. Silkies are known as good moms and they like to sit on eggs.

  • Australorps
  • Brahmas
  • Buffs
  • Cochins
  • Columbina Wyandottes
  • Cornish
  • Orpington
  • Partridge Rocks
  • Silkies
  • Speckled Sussex

What is a Broody Hen?

Fresh Eggs Daily says a broody hen wants to sit on a nest of eggs for three weeks until they hatch. “instead of laying her egg and then hopping back out of the nesting box to do all the usual things that chickens do.”

Hens will signal their intention to become broody by sitting on the nest and refusing to move. 

Signs of a Broody Hen

There are some obvious signs and other signs are subtle. It may take a few years watching your chickens over the spring months to know your chicken is broody.

A few signs are:

  • She won’t move off eggs all day and stays on the nest for over 24-hours.
  • Growls and puffs up when you try to move her (anywhere).
  • The hen has an obvious ‘clutch’ of eggs (8 to 12) as she wants them to all hatch together.
  • Your chicken is pecking at other hens when they want to lay eggs!
  • She has literally taken over one of the nest boxes and everyone is grumpy.
  • You’ll notice a large pile of very smelly poop as she only goes to the bathroom once a day.

Gear to consider

Every chicken keeper needs a good pair of garden gloves. The best way to break a hen is to remove her multiple times a day from the nesting box and you’ll likely want to wear gloves in case she tries to peck you.

Why Don’t Chicken Keepers Want to Keep a Broody Hen, Broody?

Your hen will stop laying eggs and take over a nesting box. When she’s pecking at other hens they may just give up from laying until she’s done with her broody behavior or worse the hens will ‘hide’ their eggs and lay somewhere ‘in secret.’

The others may bully her when she leaves, or you remove her to eat since they haven’t seen her all day! The flock may even start to forget about her, and the flock dynamics will change – and sometimes this is complicated. If the eggs aren’t fertile and you don’t have a rooster then this is a big waste of time!

How Do You Break a Broody Hen?

According to Fresh Eggs Daily, there are a few important steps, and the one I’m the biggest fan of is simple. A few times a day (as many as you can) you should remove the hen from the nest. I typically remove our Orpington chicken at least three times a day and place her right in front of the food and water dishes so she immediately eats. This goes without saying but always collect eggs. Every day (every trip to remove her) we remove eggs from each of the boxes.

  • Block the nest so she doesn’t have that area to sit on eggs.
  • Put a frozen water bottle in the nest.
  • Remove all the nesting material from the nest she’s sitting in.

If You Want Chicks Than Encourage a Broody Hen!

If you have a rooster and your eggs are fertile, then let your chicken sit on eggs. This is the best way to have chicks integrated into your flock as the brooder technique is a little complicated.

My broody chicken always gives up after about two weeks. This may sound like a long time but think of the extra trips to the coops as a great reason to visit and give them more snacks.

If you’re interested in more tips or just want to chat about your chickens, please ask our staff as we have chicken keepers at Fang! Pet & Garden Supply and Salty’s Pet Supply are happy to help.

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