Dealing with Broodies - A complete guide to dealing with broody hens!
Identifying a broody
When a hen is broody she will generally have one or more of the following characteristics;
- Puffing her feathers up; A broody hen will puff up to make herself look bigger to predators
- Growling and biting; Most broodies are grumpy and hormonal, and will peck you if you get to close to her or her eggs.
- Staying in the nest box; A broody hen will make herself a nest in a place she deems safe (normally in the place where she lays her eggs) and sit there most of the time, getting up only to eat drink and relieve herself.
4. Pulling her feathers out; A broody hen pulls her feathers out to keep her eggs warm.
Picture of a broody hen:
Do you want a broody?
Broodies can be very useful, if you want more chicks and you don't want to buy an incubator, or if you would prefer to raise chicks the natural way. Broodies can also be a hindrance because they don't lay while broody.
Breaking a broody
If you can't have any more chickens (or don't want any more ) it is possible to break a broody. There is several ways to do this - here are a couple:
- Taking her out of the nest as often as possible. This way doesn't work for stubborn broodies, and most people don't have the time to do this.
- Separating her from her nest. This way will work most of the time, you simply move the broody to another coop or even a dog crate so she can't go back to her nest. Just make sure you give her food and water or you might force her into a molt.
Should you separate her?
If you decide you want a broody you can let her incubate the eggs in the coop, but I don't recommend it if you have other layers in the coop, because they will steal her eggs and lay in her nest while she is taking a break. If you decide to separate her and you want a inexpensive coop to put her in here is an idea:
Incubation and Hatching
After you've separated her (or decided not to) it's time to give her eggs! A hen can hatch chicken, duck, turkey, guinea, and goose eggs (there is probably more, but these are the ones I know a chicken can hatch) Just make sure you don't give her too many, she won't be able to turn them if you do. My bantam Frizzle hen can cover 7 large fowl eggs and raise 10 chicks. Most hens will do very well with about 15 eggs, but some can do as many as 20, it really depends on the breed. You always need to give the hen at least 3 eggs in case something happens to one, so the others will still have a friend. The eggs should hatch on day 21, but they could hatch early or late depending on the temperatures during incubation. When my hens went broody last year it was 100 degrees most of the day so the chicks kept hatching a day early.
Buttercup with her new baby
After the Hatch
A broody hen will stay in the box until all of her chicks have hatched and then she will get out of the box and start teaching them to scratch and dust and do other chickeny things. We use unmedicated chick food and water in the coop that the babies can reach. Don't worry about giving her layer food until she starts to lay again. She should start to lay 4-8 weeks after the chicks hatch, this is a sign that she is ready to leave her chicks.
If you have any questions you can you can post them in this thread!