How to Break a Broody Hen

Sunny Side Up

Count your many blessings...
11 Years
Mar 12, 2008
4,730
183
294
Loxahatchee, Florida
It seems I've been answering this question a lot lately, so I thought I'd write it all up to better show up in a search on the subject. Please feel free to add your wisdom to the topic.

A hen "goes broody" when she wants to set continuously on a clutch of eggs for 21 days and have chicks hatch out. Some hens will never go broody, some will go occasionally, some go very frequently, even weeks after leaving their last batch of chicks. It's difficult to "make" a hen go broody, this mood is determined by her own instincts, hormones, voices in her head, instructions beamed down from her Mother Ship.

The best way to tell a hen has gone broody is when she wants to stay in her nest spot at night instead of going up to the roost to sleep. She'll puff her feathers out, flatten her body over the eggs, growl or shriek if disturbed, and often peck or bite any hand that dares come close. She may be setting on real eggs, fake eggs, golf balls, or imaginary eggs, it doesn't matter, they're important to her.

Of course you can allow her to incubate the eggs she's collected, or swap them for other fertile eggs from your own flock or someone else's. How to do that would be the topic of a different thread. This is about what to do if you want to break your Broody's mood and get her back to the work of laying eggs.

I don't think it breaks a hen's heart to break her broody mood. You have to give her points for being determined, but really, her mood can be adjusted without doing mental or emotional damage to her. Some hens are easier to refocus than others.

With some hens, all they need is a few times of being physically removed from the nest and carried out to the yard where their flockmates are ranging. A little bribe of cracked corn will help them see the benefits of not brooding.

Other hens may need a different treatment. The best way I know to break a determined broody hen is to confine her to a wire-bottomed cage, like a rabbit or parrot cage, and place that cage up on sawhorses, blocks, or hang it from the rafters, so that air can flow up underneath. Provide food and water, but NO bedding. Keep her in there for 3-4 days, unless she lays an egg earlier.

Let her out one morning and watch what she does. If she hurries back to the nest spot, she'll need a few more days in the Broody Buster. But if she goes back to hang out with her flockmates, her mood has changed.
Repeat whenever necessary. broody?
not broody!
 

tattooedchickenlady

Songster
11 Years
Jul 23, 2008
401
5
131
Dinky Springs, la
Man, this is so time-sensitive to me! I have a broody who is really a sweet girl, but stubborn! I took her out of the nest box a dozen times in a half hour...........I'll try to cage method and see what happens. But what I suspect will happen is that as soon as I get her broken, 2 more will be taking her place *sigh*
 

Sunny Side Up

Count your many blessings...
11 Years
Mar 12, 2008
4,730
183
294
Loxahatchee, Florida
I've had some hens that have only gone broody once or maybe twice in their lives. And others that go broody with the phases of the moon. I finally found a great wire parrot cage someone was discarding, about 2' square on a heavy wire stand about 3' high. That's my Broody Buster, and it sits in a corner of the pen under a cover, ready to receive company. I have lots of bantam hens so it can do a brisk business.
 

Sunny Side Up

Count your many blessings...
11 Years
Mar 12, 2008
4,730
183
294
Loxahatchee, Florida
Quote:You're right, that makes good sense. My Broody Buster is kept in a corner of the pen, under cover to protect the birds from rain & sun. But it still gets good light under there, and that must help too.

Another thing I've found helpful is to wet the food a little, so it's the consistency of oatmeal. Otherwise the hens push all their feed out of their bowls to the ground below, and their flockmates gather 'round to eat it up amongst the poop.
 

obchix

In the Brooder
10 Years
Mar 4, 2009
39
2
24
San Diego, CA
Hello! I have had two of my BR go broody in the past month. I went with the rabbit cage method and they were both persuaded to unbrood themselves within 36 hours. I just took them out and watched to make sure they didnt go back to the nesting boxes. Good luck!
 

usschicago1

Suburban Cochins
10 Years
Aug 11, 2009
4,349
35
274
Taunton, MA
I think my hen may be broody and i was just planning on sending out some of her SQ hatching eggs. MAN i hope this works!
 

Casey3043

Songster
10 Years
May 19, 2009
468
29
179
Simpsonville, South Carolina
I had good luck with a wire dog crate up on some pieces of 4 X 4 posts laid on their sides. My RIR broody gave up after only 2 days in this contraption, which I kept in my workshop with the lights on.

She had been broody for at least 3 or 4 weeks with me pulling her out of the nest box 2 or 3 times a day before I got desperate enough to allow her to stink up my workshop for a couple of days. She went back with the others and has stayed out of the nest box (so far).
 
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