How to stop a broody hen and control the population of your flock

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by BANTAMWYANDOTTE, May 7, 2011.



    Mar 2, 2011

    By BantamWyandotte

    Since I created this thread a couple people ask me why I hated broodiness and if I ever kept a broody hen. This is the reason I created this reply, to share my experince and hope with BYC and to better explain myself. I read above this about letting a hen set on eggs that were not fertile.....well that wil be a great place for me to begin.

    I breed American Gamefowl and every once in a while on a warm spring day a hen will disappear from the free-range flock (not bred to a rooster because they are too young) Then after a month or two I will decide that a wolf or coyote got her. Then I'll go for a walk and find her dead body on top of a clutch of un-fertilized eggs.

    This is not a lie and not the only time it happened. So many times that we no longer keep American Gamefowl Hens (except one who is broody right now) To really think about this shows what an amazing creature we are dealing with here. The drive to reproduce and continue the species is so strong that hens litterally die trying to become mothers. If the are fortunate enough to brood and hatch a little gang of chicks then the drive is protection and here agian, she will endanger (or even give) her life to protect the future generations.

    Broodiness is a powerful instinct that even the best genetists working for the richest Hatchery in the USA can't fully breed it out or guarentee it won't happen. This is why I had to find a safe way to do this so that the hen and myself both walk away un-harmed. This maternal drive they have is the most incrediable things I have ever witnessed first hand.

    The story of Gamefowl hens is not a typical case. However you should know that broodiness rate is NEVER a deciding factor for adding or removing a hen into an AGF breeding program from my farm. Their natural beauty is all that matters. The eggers like the leghorn and RIR are often culled in hatcheries for broodiness to avoid passing on the gene to the chicks theysell. I think it is natural as catsup on fries in humans. Some like it some dont't. No one would ever believe that a particular gene causes this preferance, No, we are each simply unique. This is the same with broody hens. Some will and Some won't . I think it is sensable to try and discourage certian breed stock from broodiness because it halts egg laying but I also think that man cannot take away something he did not give.

    Not everyone agrees on this topic but I have to say that if you take away a hens drive to reproduce (esspecially knowing how strong the drive is) what exactly is left for her to live for? Don't get me wrong I will stop broody hens if I find her. I have and am let hens brood and hatch in pens when buyers ask for a naturally hatched chick. In that case I always have a Game hen handy. I am not out to find the best broody or non-setter these characteristics are un-important to me. I incubate the number of eggs I choose and from which breed they come from. Then I hatch them. This way hens still lay , population is controlled and no crazed hens chasing dogs through the yard.

    I am not trying to rid the world of broodiness in chickens. I find this trait to be the most amazing thing about the females. Pair broodiness with their maternal abilities and willingness to sacrifice her life to save her children. No, this is a beautiful part of the life of a chicken and I appaulled those who have the means to allow for allowing it.

    I simply don't have the room for more and when the time comes, I may allow a Bantam or the Silver Laced Wyandotte to brood over their eggs. I just wanted to give a good way to control flock populations that worked and was safe for the hen. So that people who (like me) wanted to stop the hen without hurting her or causing her too much stress, they could find it here on BYC. I believe that a few chickens lives were saved today by this post and if another reply is never posted, that alone will help me sleep at night. I want people to knw tha controlling the population of the flock is a big part of raising and/or breeding chickens. It has been my experiance that the most eggs come from hens that are part of small flocks and are cared for by owners who knew better than to over crowd.

    Broodiness is not a bad thing but it has to come at the correct time and place....Making the descisions based on the future health and happiness of your entire flock is what this thread is about. Being responsible enough to not allow 10-15 babies to be born when you don't have space for one more adult in the coop. This is more than just being an adult , this is about being a true animal lover and taking the hard steps to get the easiest future possible. This about being human and passing on the advice you were given to people who want to hear it.

    That is what raising chickens is for me. Doing my part to make an animals life happy while enjoying their eggs and companionship. It is a win-win.....

    Hope this made sense (I get vert passionate about why I love my chickens and felt like not letting them brood was unfair. I may have gotten a little too passionate but I made my point)


    TIM [​IMG]
  2. Dowie

    Dowie Songster

    Apr 29, 2011
    Thanks so much for your advice, it's very wise. I have my first broody hen ever (surprisingly, not my pekins, but a Rhode island white!) and she is determined to breed. Nothing I've done so far works, so I will try the wire cage...and then the ice cubes. I noticed when I pick her up that the eggs are super warm, and so is she. I just worry she'll get sick if she stays like this for too long. Great to get some informed advice.
  3. galanie

    galanie Treat Dispenser No More

    Aug 20, 2010
    I recently used the wire cage off the ground trick and it does work. I had 2 of my 4 orp laying hens go broody this year and while it nearly broke my heart to do it, I just had to break the last one of it. I simply could not have any more chicks this year. It only took her 3 days and that was a week ago and she is still back with the flock and out of the nest.
  4. happyhappy

    happyhappy Chirping

    May 24, 2010
    Napa, CA
    Quote:Galanie how far off the ground was the cage? I have used the "cage" method for my BA for at least 11/2 weeks with the ice cubes sitting directly under her belly and a fan blowing on her from about two feet away. This hen is stubborn and I orginally named her Sweetie Pie I now call her Big Turkey! I am almost at my wits end and ready to give her some eggs to hatch. But after ready Tim's thread it's not the thing to do, I cannot take anymore hen's or roos!
    I will try the the ice thing until my hands freeze and I run out of ice.

    If anyone has anymore suggestions PLEASE help, she is disrupting my flock and taking out my back from dragging her out of the "only" nesting box that everyone uses!

    Thanks in advance! Can you tell this is my first broody, now I hear that my two LB may get broody![​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Last edited: May 8, 2011


    Mar 2, 2011

    My advice to you is too let her get it out of her system. She sounds like a type of hen I call "genetically-broody".

    This is how the hens get this way (as it was explained to me by a hatchery breeder of twenty-five years, now retired)

    This is just way of saying she has a long family history of overly broody hens in both her mother and fathers bloodlines. This works the same why when creating breeds. There are several traits that the breeders or hatcheries encourage or discourage in there breeding stock to produce the type of chicken they want. Through this selective breeding sometime they miss the broodiness trait because most breeders and hatcheries incubate a large number of eggs (without knowing which hen produced them) and stop the breeding stock hens brooding as it happens (they sometimes cull her if they are looking for broodiness in chickens like egg-layers but with dual purpose and ornamental breeds usually they don't cull broody hens they just stop her). Then they have some chicks from a broody hen hatched and the they grow up and the cycle continues. This causes them end up with several hens from each hatch that are GOING to broody no matter what humans do, simply because they are from a line of hens that were very broody. Hatchery's and Breeder's are un-knowingly creating hens that are from broody mothers and grand-mothers (etc) on both sides and causing alot of upset customers. This causes an extremely broody hen that will not quit. This also works both ways; hatcheries and breeders can also end up with non-setters. (Imagine how you would feel if you had a White Leghorn that behaved this way.....I have had one)

    This is all just the expert's opinion. I used to not believe in the broody-gene but after some research and a talk with the chicken expert, I am convinced that is a combination of the gene and mother-nature. I believe that is a perfect explanation for why some hens are more determined. But I also believe it runs deeper that genetics, I think some hens just want to be mom so much that they are willing to do anything to reproduce.

    You have three types of hens that are very different on their broodiness levels (according to you signature): Your Plymouth Rocks, Light Brahma's and Black Austrlorps are considered average-setters by most hatcheries. However, quite a few of the broody hens I have either seen or was told about were members of those breeds families. I have six Red Sex-Link hens and have never had a broody in three years, I am unsure about that hen. So I would expect this to happen at least one more time this year from the other hens. It has been my experience that brown egg-layer chickens from Cackle Hatchery tend to be more broody than most other hatcheries (My broody white leghorn came from Cackle). So if these all came hens from Cackle or a local feed store (Cackle supplies alot of them, you can call the store and ask which hatchery they used) you may have more than just one or two broody's before winter.

    My advice is simple, put about three fertile eggs under her and allow her to hatch and raise the chick or chicks (not all of them will hatch unless you just are really un-lucky) until they are six weeks old and re-home them if you can't keep them. This is the only answer I see unless you are willing to eat her (but I would just go with the three eggs idea personally) It seems this hen just wants to be a Mother.
    I would let her try it out.

    However, if you do this, please understand that you will be encouraging this behavior and she will likely brood again and you'll go through this each year. (Maybe twice a year if you're real un-lucky) I am only telling you this because I want to help. It is not fair to tell you to put three eggs under her and give you the impression this solves the problem. You should be given honest advice that includes all the information available. This is a temporary solution to the problem at hand. I see no way to completely stop this broodiness problem. Also, if you are going to re-home them, you will have about three weeks to find them a good home but make sure this is what you want to do before you offer them to someone. This is because chicks are very easy to live due to how cute they are.

    When she hatches, put her in a pen with her chick where your other hens cannot reach them. I use a pen with wire big enough for the chick to pass through so I can give it Chick-Starter on a plate. Then when it is six-weeks or when she stops clucking for it to come to food, separate the mother and chick. At this time you would re-home it. If you are keeping the chick then house it separate from the flock until it reaches about five months of age (or is about five pounds). This is because the adult hens have a pecking order and may be aggressive with a new flock member. At five months she can withstand the pecking or defend herself.

    I wish you only the best and I am sorry I only had a temporary solution to your problem. There are other techniques but most are not good for the hens health and some even hurt her. I would never recommend them to anyone, ever. I am sure you would never do that either. I will see if I can find a more permanent solution. But please, just consider letting her brood, she wants it so badly....... apparently.

    Just out of curiosity, what breed is this super-broody hen?


    Timothy in KY [​IMG]

    Sorry so long winded, just wanted to give you all the information to help you make a well-informed decision. (It a character defect)
  6. flowerchild59

    flowerchild59 Songster

    Apr 25, 2010
    Southern IL
    Thanks for posting an interesting thread. I have never had such broody hens as this year and 3 of them are driving me insane. Two are dark cornish and one is a partridge rock. I am up for any and all suggestions.


    Mar 2, 2011
    Quote:Always try the wire-floored cage when stopping broodiness. The ice cubes should be a last resort. I have had people suggest a bathtub full of ice water and holding here stomach in the water until she shivers but this is very dangerous. This can kill a hen. A hen's body temperature is above average while broody and the cold water can shock her into a heart attack or cause any number of health issues. It is a cruel technique and is not one I condone. Anyone who does that to a chicken is a monster, nothing less.

    In your situation, the Cornish are the less likely of your birds to go broody and since you have two broody at once (likely sisters) then I would say another case of a "genetically-broody" bloodline. Your Plymouth Rock is more likley to try but they tend to be poor mothers with a high mortality rate so don't try the three fertile eggs unless nothing else works and you can provide a brooder for the chick until six weeks old.

    You should try the wire caged floor (at least twice) technique first. Put the hen in a cage (off the ground) with a wire floor that has no bedding in it. Put a small fan under the cage and aim it at the floor of the cage, and turn it on. Put her inside the cage and leave her there for a min. two weeks. When you return her to the flock and she goes broody again, use this technique again for three weeks. If it fails again try the ice cubes. If they don't work within 4 days stop them and try the three fertile eggs suggestion.

    I am glad you like my thread......I hope it helps alot of people find answers about broodiness!

    Tim [​IMG]
  8. mpguay

    mpguay Songster

    Apr 27, 2011
    what about giving a broody hen just one fertilized egg and let her hatch.
    OR, what happens if you put porcelain/wooden eggs under her? will she ever snap out of it when nothing hatches?


    Mar 2, 2011
    Well this question is asked alot in the forums and is answered in the same way each time. NO

    Hens that are broody will not move until a chick is under them. They will literally sit on the nest until she dies of starvation. This is no exaggeration on my part, please take me seriously. I would never tell you that unless it was the truth. I am all about being honest in the answers I post.

    Here is 100 percent honesty: If that hen is given a fake egg to sit on and you wait for her to become "bored" and leave, she will die. The broody instinct is so strong that a she is determined to hatch her young. This is due to the fact that from the beginning of the incubation process to the end, the temperature of the eggs must be within a few degrees either way. In other words, she know that if she leaves, the eggs will not hatch and that is not what she wants.

    If you want to give her a small number of eggs to hatch then the lowest number of eggs to use would be three. If you know for sure that the eggs come from both a hen and rooster that are fertile (hatched chicks in the past) then you can go with two. The reason is because the broody process is so delicate and requires almost perfection from the hen, sometime not all the eggs hatch. If you only give her one and it doesn't hatch then your in the same shape as with the fake egg.

    Please take my advice on this; either stop the broodiness now (see this thread for instructions on how to do this) or give her some fertile eggs. Take in to consideration that she will brood again in her life no matter which you choose.


    Timothy from KY
  10. Haych

    Haych In the Brooder

    thanks for the info, will give that a go for sure.

    Last year I tried many methods given on the net (bathing her belly, wetting her nest to make it uncomfortable) and in the end I just locked her out of the nest area, which eventually worked.

    This year though she was as stubborn as anything so I gave her a clutch of six eggs (I do have room for them)

    I do currently have another broody hen (did have three in total but one sorted herself out [​IMG] ) which I am going to use the crate on, but atm the mum and babies are in there for safety, so will have to wait a short while for that. I will however go and get some ice cubes to try today.

    Thanks again!

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: