Dealing with the broody chicken is something that most chicken owners will have to do at some point. As Springtime approaches, the chickens become more productive and lay a lot more eggs! Chances are pretty good that one or more of my chickens will become broody!
Broodiness is a maternal instinct within hens that causes them to sit on eggs in an attempt to hatch them. This is very natural and also a sustainable way to keep new chicks hatching on your farm. Mother hen makes the best incubator! If you’ve ever tried to hatch eggs in an incubator, you know managing all of the environmental factors that go along with getting that egg to hatch isn’t easy!
Honestly, I find it to be so heartwarming to see Mama hen and her little chicks following her, learning all there is to know about being a chicken! I love having new chicks in the Spring!
However, there are times when it’s just not feasible or doesn’t make sense to allow a hen to go broody, but first, let’s identify what a broody chicken looks like.
How Do I Know if I have a Broody Chicken?
Broody chickens have major attitude issues!
Hens become broody for several reasons, some including their breed, age and hormones. First-year layers are unlikely to become broody, it’s more likely in subsequent years.
Broody hens will sit on their eggs continually, even steal others’ eggs, leaving only once or twice a day for feed and water. They are also very defensive as they sit on their eggs, fluffing up their feather and even biting when approached.
You will also notice other factors, as if it weren’t obvious enough, that your girl has gone broody. Because of hormonal stress, her feathers and comb will not be as vibrant.
The maternal hen will also stop laying eggs.
Reasons to Break a Broody Chicken
Broody hens get a bad rap, but without a maternal hen, there would be no baby chicks!
However, there are times when it becomes necessary to break the broody hen.
- There is no rooster in the flock – If you don’t have a rooster, then the eggs cannot be fertile. Non-fertilized eggs do not hatch, but will become stinky and useless.
- You sell eggs for income and you need her to start laying again.
Reasons to Not Break a Broody Hen
In my opinion, if you have a rooster and do not depend on her eggs to pay your bills, I would leave a broody hen alone.
Sustainability depends upon the reproduction of animals and the mother hen is wonderful at it! Personally, I allow my hens to do what nature wants them to do, I still have plenty of eggs.
How to Break a Broody Chicken
Just because you’ve decided to break your broody hen doesn’t mean that you’ll be successful. I’ve had years of experience with hens and if a broody hen wants to be broody, there is little you can do to break her.
Years ago, I had one broody hen that was absolutely relentless! I did everything that I’ll list below, but she even went so far as to collect gravel and laid on it!!!
However, most of the time, these tips will help!
Collect Your Eggs Daily
Daily egg collection will frustrate the hen and many times cause her to concede.
Choose Less Maternal Breeds
Some breeds are more broody than others. If you want maternal hens, you might want to choose cochin, Buff Orpingtons, light and buff Brahmas, Cuckoo Marans or Silkies.
Less broody hen breeds include Barred Rock, Leghorn, Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire and Barnevelder.
When choosing chickens, take the time to read and learn about their traits, including their tendency to brood.
Remove Her from Nesting Box
After laying time, you will want to remove the broody hen from the laying area and place her with the other hens. Sometimes this works, other times, she’ll go find a new place to brood.
Placing ice under the broody chicken will sometimes “shock” her out of it. You could use ice cubes or even frozen vegetables in her nesting box, after you’ve removed the eggs.
Caring for the Broody Chicken
If you choose to allow your maternal hen to hatch eggs, there are some ways to make her experience more comfortable and safer for her chicks.
Separate her from the flock
Giving the broody hen a separate place, away from the rest of the flock, will help her to relax. Provide her with fresh food and water, daily, and a way to leave the nest.
Close off her area to other hens or they will invade and eat all of her food.
Encourage her to get off her nest occasionally by offering treats. This will allow her to stretch her legs and give her a break.
A mother hen will not need your help with the hatching or care of her chicks, she instinctively knows what to do!
Make the most of your chickens this year, whether you decide to allow your hens to brood or not. Backyard chickens are critical to a sustainable homestead!