Broody Hen -Tips & Pictures on What to Do

By Jkraft · May 25, 2016 · Updated May 26, 2016 · ·
  1. Jkraft


    What does Broody mean?

    A hen goes broody because she wants to sit on a nest and hatch chicks. During that time the hen can be very protective, growl, peck, and your sweetest hen could turn into a meany. The hen will get a clutch of eggs and sit on them if they are their own eggs or not. I have had hens steal other eggs to put in her clutch rolling the egg with her beak. I have also removed eggs from under a broody and she continue to sit on nothing.

    Certain breeds are prone to going broody while other breeds never go broody as they bred the gene out. Some breeds that tend to go broody are Silkies, Buff Orpingtons, and Cochins. I have all 3. I also have a Polish hen that has never gone broody and is not known to do so. A hen will go broody whenever the timing is right. You do not need a rooster or fertile eggs, it's just in their nature.You can try to encourage broodiness by leaving eggs in the nest but ultimately it's up to them.

    Broodiness can be contagious! Once my silkie hen became full broody a few days later my Cochin became broody, and a few more days after that so did my Orpington.


    -Bare belly
    Broody hens pluck out their breast feathers to allow their skin to touch the eggs when they are sitting. So you may find a bunch of feathers in the nest.
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    -Large Poop
    Broody hens hold it while they are sitting on the nest and will only go to the bathroom once or twice a day so when they do go, it's large.

    -Sitting on the nest longer, and longer
    In my experience my hens worked up to being broody. They started sitting on the nest longer and longer during the day until they stopped coming off it completely.

    -Stops eating, drinking, even treats
    The hen stops eating, and drinking besides one short daily break. This is because she has to keep the eggs warm and can't leave long or the eggs will get cold and not hatch.

    -Feathers Puffed Up
    A hen will puff up her feathers and make her body look larger. She will continue to do this even pulled off the nest. This helps keep the eggs covered and warm. When you get near you may her hear make "buk" noises or even growl. She is in protection mode.


    -Stops Laying Eggs

    You have a Broody Hen... Now What?

    There are a few options:

    - If you have fertile eggs, room for more chicks/chickens, and the needs to care for the chicks if the mother cant take care of them than let her hatch the eggs. It takes about 21 days for them to hatch.
    -You can also put fertile eggs under her to hatch
    -Slide very young chicks under her at night.

    If you do not have fertile eggs or do not want/can't have chicks for whatever reason you should Break Her:

    - She should be removed from her nest and placed in a cage with water, food, oyster shells or egg shells (for extra calcium). The cage must have a wired bottom. The wire bottom is important because her belly is plucked bare and it will be uncomfortable for her to sit. I use a rabbit hutch and in my experience it usually takes about 3 days in the broody breaker. You could also a dog cage but as long as it has a wire bottom anything should work.

    It can be unhealthy for a hen to sit when no eggs will ever hatch because they stop eating, drinking, going to the bathroom like normal, stop laying, and give everything to their clutch of eggs. That means after 21 days and the eggs don't hatch not only will you have a upset Momma but she may continue to sit. After awhile the Hen can become dehydrated. I have heard of other ways to break a broody but have not tried them. I found the broody breaker cage method to work best and will continue to use it if needed.


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  1. Lady of McCamley
    I've also broody hatched in all types of weather, in all seasons. It will blow your mind to see the little ones scratching and running around with snow on the ground. But they don't care. They have their wonderful little down jackets to keep them cozy and momma as a warming hutch when they need a warm up. They just need to be out of direct bad weather and have a nice place for momma to bed down.
  2. Lady of McCamley
    I hatch almost totally with brooding hens now. I keep a "stable" of them. My favorite breeds are Silkie and bantam Cochin, which favor me with regular broods generally 3 to 4 times a year such that I can almost plan around them. I have a rooster, so fertile eggs is easy now, but when I didn't, it can be a bit tricky to find fertile hatching eggs in a timely fashion for a broody. Shipped eggs are risky and most people have a poor hatching rate. (Mine was about 25% or 4 of 16).

    For important hatches (specialty eggs from breeders or a special line I really want), I use a designated broody hutch with enclosed run. That separates my broody from the flock so that eggs aren't tussled which can happen in coop hatching. For my general backyard mixes, I have several large hens that eagerly do that job for me in the main coop. I have more loss that way as eggs do get walked on and chicks can get crushed, but the chicks grow up immediately in the flock with no integration problems at all. My rooster makes sure mother and babes are never hassled by the flock. I highly recommend broody hatching as my broody babes grow faster, feather quickly, and integrate into being chickens much faster than my artificially brooded chicks have.
  3. Liddy
    Late last July I had my first hen (a Dixie Rainbow from TSC) go broody. Every time I found a warm egg, I tucked it under her. out of the 13 I let her sit on, two had not been fertilized, she broke one, eight hatched and two were quitters. Of the eight that hatched, one completely disappeared from the dog crate I had them segregated in. Possibly climbed over the 6" liner? I timed a purchase of shipped chicks so they would all be the same age and it was a great experience! She was a great mother to her chicks, never took to the new ones. I just wish she'd raised more than 2 pullets. I will definitely do that again, although this year, no broodies. :( As an aside, I have never smelled anything as bad as the quitters. The fluid that leaked through the shell's pores was WMD quality. Really. And I had thought that the broody poop was awful.
  4. Whittni
    I encourage nature and hens hatching chicks. Plus it's adorable!
  5. Jkraft
    You have a broody Polish! It happens but is rare. I'm hoping my Polish hen doesn't go broody. Almost half my flock is broody right now and we don't need any more babies.
  6. crazyfeathers
    My broodies are Turkens, Polish, BO, and a production red mix.

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