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Broody hen questions

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Greetings knowledgable mamas,


I think one of my three hens is broody (or brooding, I don't know the correct terminology).  She is a one year old buff orpington.  Anyway, she is hunkered down in the corner of the coop where they normally lay (they always lay in this corner, never in the boxes).  She won't move out of that spot.  I have moved her a couple times much to her dismay.  Even when I left the front door open to let them free range which they love, she stayed behind.  She also isn't going into the run to eat her favorite treats.  


The other two haven't layed in a couple of days.  This is no skin off my back as I don't sell the eggs or anything and we have plenty for the family.  Is this uncomfortable for them?  Those two seem perfectly happy.  


How long will this last?  Should I keep on moving her even though she just goes back?  


I understand that she thinks she is hatching an egg into a chick (we have no roosters), I'd just love some advice.



post #2 of 15


Discouraging a Broody Hen


If you don’t want the broody hen to hatch out any eggs, the most common advice is to remove her from the nesting box or wherever she is sitting on the eggs. It’s best to place the broody hen in a brightly lit (not in full sun, though) isolation cage without bedding for several days to a week. I usually use a wire-floored rabbit cage and place it where she can see the other hens, but is out of the weather. If the hen is really determined, you might have to raise the cage up off the ground, so that air flows underneath. You still need to feed and water the hen, but the main idea is to prevent her from getting into the nesting boxes or wherever she wants to sit on those eggs. Some people have given their hens a cold bath, placed ice cubes under them in the nesting box, and many other hilarious methods that occasionally work. Most people have great success with “breaking a broody hen”, but some hens are very determined and will be constantly in the “Broody Buster Cage”. If you have a die-hard broody and don’t want to use her for hatching eggs, you might consider finding her a home who’d love to have a broody hen.


from backyard chickens.com

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your advice, Granolamommie!  I will look into getting a cage for her.  In the meantime should I close the door between the coop and run and just keep her in the run?  Should I leave the other two in the coop so they can lay again?  

post #4 of 15
I think if she is safe from weather and predators in the run that's fine. Otherwise take all of them in the run and close it in the day and put them in the coop at night
post #5 of 15
A broody hen can quickly become really difficult. It's obviously been a few days but it's important to get a handle on the situation asap. The best article I've read is from The Chicken Chick (by the way, read the rest of her stuff. Very informational.). http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/05/broody-breaker-when-hens-mood-to-hatch.html

We have five year-old chickens. Our silkie goes broody about once every two months and usually stopped herself in about a week, laying again in about two to three weeks until we got our cage (which we have in the garage and broke her in ONE day). Our buff orpington went broody and we just kept putting her outside, but this seemed to stress her out, make her angry, and generally accomplish nothing. It went on for three weeks (prior to getting our cage), but her comb started going very pale, she lost weight, and she was only eating and eliminating when we forced her to. I wa dgetting concernd about the possibility of her sickness but she is fine.

In short, I steongly reccommend the measures the chicken chick suggests for your sanity and the safety and health of your chicken. By the way, I'm with her in that I do not like cold water or ice baths as I think they're unkind.

Let us know how you fare!
post #6 of 15

My sister in law has had good success placing frozen water bottles under her broody hens.  The ice brought down their body temp and broke the broody mood.


Best of luck!

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

Wow, everyone.  Thanks for all the advice.  I didn't realize the seriousness of this so I kind of ignored it the first couple days. Today I put them in the run but didn't latch the door to the coop and when I got home I saw she had snuck back in and she was in the laying corner.  Tomorrow I'll latch the door and try to figure out a broody box.  Hopefully I can borrow a rabbit cage or dog crate from someone.  Ofeliaknits thank you for the link.  It was really informative.  The author advises against repeatedly moving her which is what I was doing.  

post #8 of 15

You can buy a chick from the feed store and put it under her one night.  This will make  her happy, and is not cruel.  I have done this four times with my hens, and it's worked every time.

post #9 of 15
Originally Posted by sidandspencersmom View Post

You can buy a chick from the feed store and put it under her one night.  This will make  her happy, and is not cruel.  I have done this four times with my hens, and it's worked every time.


This is an amazing idea!  I might have to try this with my brooder.

post #10 of 15

Missed this thread when it came out.... not sure what the seriousness of a hen going broody is exactly, despite the (excellent) article.  Buff Orpingtons and Silkies are famous both for broodiness and parenting skills.  I've only ever tossed them off the nest every couple of days if it seemed like they weren't getting down to eat and drink.  I do agree with the article that stated that one broody hen encourages others.... to some extent.  I had 2 BOs that really did go broody together, but my current flock doesn't seem prone to broodiness so much-- one hen brooding didn't seem to make a bit of difference.  It was frustrating for sure (unless I had eggs I wanted to hatch) but I never counted it as being serious, and never did anything particular about it except make sure then hen got a chance for food and water regularly.


How'd it go, BTW?  I remember getting to the point with my 2 broody gals that when they started laying again, I would inevitably look for signs of broodiness.  On the positive side: many hens simply arent' capable of brooding properly or for the right length of time.  It can be a positive thing to have a proven broody hen or two.  Raising chicks (from donated fertilized eggs) can be a really fuss-free way to increase a flock.

post #11 of 15

I have about 20 hens and 3 roosters, with usually 3 or so being broody at one time or another.  I don't see it as a serious issue at all.  I often take advantage of the situation and buy some day old meat chicks for them to raise, much easier than doing it myself.  Also, none of my other hens are affected by the broody hens, they just usually lay their eggs somewhere else.  If I don't want the broody hens hatching eggs, I remove the eggs that might be laid by other hens who snuck in, or put golf balls under them.  If I want them to hatch out fertile eggs, I label them as fertile, mark the calendar, and remove any extra eggs daily.  In 21 days, I have new chicks.  Either way, a broody hen can be a great learning opportunity for kids.

post #12 of 15

If they don't kill the first chicks (it happens), it can be fun to see the look on the mother hen's face the first day.  You'd think chickens couldn't express that much with their face, and maybe it's the way they move their heads and look at the chicks, but it's hilarious.  Its a combination of excitement, surprise, confusion, rapture.  The next day they are all business as they fully own this brood.  

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

Well I wound up scoring a free cage on craigslist but didn't need to use it.  She seemed to snap out of it in a few days.  HOWEVER, she seems to be at it again, just a month later.  The other two are great and haven't exhibited any signs of broodiness.  


I'm really not interested in adding to the flock.  Sure I'm tempted when I'm at the feed store but things feel balanced with the three hens, old lab, little kids, etc.  I don't really want to take on any more.  


Honestly I feel weird putting her in a cage.  But I guess it's something I need to get over.  Today they spent the whole day locked in the run.  There was a bobcat in the yard a couple weeks ago (which was a first) so I'm not so comfortable with them free ranging all day.  We've had some coyote visitors as well.


Is this just going to be a continuous problem with her?  



post #14 of 15

Yes, some hens, especially buff orps, really do go broody a lot, which is why I said that I started getting suspicious when my 2 would start laying again, especially when they would lay every day.  I'd start listening for those noises (a funny cooing) and the tell-tale puffing up when I approached them in the yard or nest.  So, for your girl, this is very likely to become a "habit."


Funny thing is, when I did let them sit and hatch fertile eggs (both broody--2 eggs each--we also had to keep a small flock) they didn't go broody after that, at least for the rest of their lives, which was admittedly not long due to predation.  But I'd say that was 1 year for Petunia (raccoon feast) and 2 for Buttercup (heartattack?)  So, consider this a limited sampling, but considering Buttercup went broody (5 weeks broody!) 5 times before that, I consider 2 years a victory!  Both were "proven" broodies-- they demonstrated (over and over and over and over) that they could sit long enough to hatch a brood.


ETA:  I must tell you this story-- out of 4 eggs, 2 hatched--1 for each of them.  A couple of days after both were hatched, they kept trying to sit on each other's chick.  In not very long, both mothers and chicks seemed to forget who belonged to whom, and both hens would cram into one nest, while the 2 chicks had 2 big mama hens' worth of fluff to play under.  Adorable!

post #15 of 15

I've never felt comfortable putting them in a cage just to get over their broodiness. It just seems so unnatural.  I'd rather they just stay broody since I'm not into raising chickens for profit.  However, I do agree with SweetSilver that once I've let them raise chicks, for the most part, that was the only time they were broody their whole lives.  I did have one hen who every year raised at least a dozen adopted meat chicks for 4 years.  After 8 weeks, they went in the freezer.  They were the yummiest chickens.

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