Broody Hen Switching Nest Boxes Daily?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Patinas, Nov 18, 2017.

  1. Patinas

    Patinas Songster

    Mar 22, 2017
    I have a Dixie Rainbow (hybrid) that is shown in my avatar that went broody about 2 1/2 weeks ago. she is almost 9 months old.

    I know she is getting off the nest in the mornings because each afternoon when I tend to the flock, she is in a different nest box.

    Question 1: Is this normal for a broody hen to switch nests daily?? I have 6 boxes and she's been in all of them. She doesn't appear to have a favorite.

    The other weird thing is I always check under her when I'm collecting eggs and often there is no egg under her while the other boxes may have some in there.

    Question 2: Is it weird that she would switch to a box with no eggs in it?

    I haven't picked her up but I'm sure she's lost weight over the last couple weeks. Each day when I go in the coop I do offer her some feed in whichever box she's in and she gobbles it up so I know she's hungry. Outward appearance is good though. Her comb is still bright red and she's alert and watches and talks at me while I'm cleaning up things in the coop so at this point I'm not worried about her and haven't tried to force her off any of the nests but just think it's strange she keeps switching nest boxes. I thought broody hens would pick a nest and stay there?

    Lastly, I don't have a rooster so she's not getting any action.
  2. Texas Kiki

    Texas Kiki Don't lie. Don't cheat your way through life.

    If you don't have a rooster why are you letting her stay broody?
    Why not try to break her so she doesn't continue to loose weight?
  3. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    I've had broody hens switch nests which usually kills the embryos.
    It isn't unusual for a broody to sit on an empty nest.
    However, a bird that continually switches should be broken from being broody. She's just wasting time.
    The tried and true method is a wire bottom elevated cage, no bedding and just a bit of food and water. If caught early enough, it just takes a couple days at most. After that long, it may take a while.
    You're not doing her any favors by allowing her to remain broody. Some birds will remain broody till their health goes way down hill.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2017
    Ishcabibble, Patinas, aart and 3 others like this.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Are you sure she's broody?
    Is she staying on nest all night too?
    Might she be hiding in the nest....and that's why she's so hungry?
    Broodies usually squawk and scream if approached in the nest.
  5. Chooky Jo

    Chooky Jo In the Brooder

    Nov 9, 2017
    Hormones are a crazy thing and creates unpredictability. Who knows what our ladies are thinking when they go broody, especially why they would sit on empty nests?? In my limited experience, like aart said above, she will cause a scene when approached which confirms her broodiness. I have tried to let my girls 'ride it out' but I get too concerned about their health, so in the end always have to break them. For her health it would be best to take care of this before its too late. Good luck.
    Patinas likes this.
  6. JeanR

    JeanR Songster

    Jul 6, 2009
    Even if you have given a broody, fertile eggs to hatch AND DO NO MOVE HER to private pen or area, where other hens cannot lay in her nest of eggs, she may go back to another nest with even a single egg in it instead of her own. If you collect that egg or others from other nest boxes, she will go back to her own, but if you leave her off her eggs for an hour or more, her own eggs will be interrupted and may not hatch at all! Why is she going another nest with a new egg? Wouldn't you like to crawl into a warm bed--a nest with a warm egg is too good to not "crawl" in!
    Patinas likes this.
  7. Patinas

    Patinas Songster

    Mar 22, 2017
    Thanks for all the info and suggestions. She stays on the nests day and night. I have no fertile eggs since I don't have a rooster and have no interest in hatching chicks.

    She will make little warning noises when I come in the coop but she will allow me to reach under her without pecking me so I have been checking daily and gathering any eggs I find under her. The ones I do find are clearly not hers since she's getting next to no daylight and barely eating and I can tell her eggs from the others.

    It seems strange to me that an animal/bird would basically starve themselves so I keep hoping she will break the broodiness on her own. My biggest concern is just the deterioration of muscles from just laying there.

    I still haven't forced her off the nest yet but it's now been 3 weeks so I'll try removing her and see what happens.
    KikisGirls likes this.
  8. Texas Kiki

    Texas Kiki Don't lie. Don't cheat your way through life.

    Please try to break her broodiness. It is soooo unhealthy.
  9. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Chickens are never barnyard valedictorians, and some just don't get it. In an environment where hens pick their OWN nest site they bond to that site. In most of our generic coop/nest set ups there is not enough difference between nest boxes for them to differentiate. This is why it is generally best to move a broody hen (when you want to hatch chicks) to her own environment where she can't screw things up.
    ChickenCanoe likes this.
  10. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Let me refer you back to post #3. An elevated open bottom cage is the tried and true method of breaking broodiness that has been used for centuries.
    They don't intend to starve themselves. A broody will get off the nest as often as once a day to defecate, eat and drink. However, that means they will be in that routine for 3 weeks under normal circumstances because they will have baby chicks by then.
    Without a rooster, fertile eggs or intent to hatch chicks, you are the one starving her by not breaking her broody hormone cycle.

    I have a friend that never bothered to break her broody birds. She had a turkey hen that sat on the nest for well over a month. When she checked on her, she couldn't move on her own. After over $2,000 of vet bills and nearly 3 months of physical therapy, the hen died.
    sourland likes this.

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