Grit Blogs > Lessons Learned From the Flock

When a Broody Hen Won't Stop Being Broody

broody hen 

Broody hens. If you only want eggs from your birds, sometimes maternal hens are nothing more than a literal pain, pecking at your hands as you try to retrieve the goods. But if you want chicks, broody hens are absolutely necessary. 

So what do you do when you have a broody hen who doesn’t want to stop being broody?  

I was recently asked this question from a reader regarding her broody chicken:   

“Will a hen stop sitting on eggs if they are not going to hatch? I have a hen that hatched out two chicks a week ago but she continues to sit on four other eggs. I'm just curious how long she will stay on them.”

This was my reply:

I'm not sure there is an absolute answer to your question. Some hens will sit as long as instinct (and a little bit of hope) tells them to. Others will not.

If you have any doubts about the viability of the eggs, you can remove one at a time and candle it.  If a chick is inside then replace the egg, if not then discard the egg.

Not all eggs are fertile and even if fertilized, not all will hatch. If it's been a week since the other ones in the clutch have hatched, I'd remove the eggs from under her (use leather gloves if you need to, she may be fierce) and let her get on with things.

Once she realizes that the eggs are gone (hatched) then she'll get to the job of taking care of her chicks.

Anyone else have experience with broody hens not willing to leave the nest as long as eggs are there?  

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I write about lessons learned living with children and chickens in New Hampshire. You can follow our family's stories at my blog: Lessons Learned From the Flock.  

sweetness
8/21/2013 4:49:21 PM

If you have a hen going broody & you don't want her to, the best way is the old timey method of dunking her. Ever heard of "mad as a wet hen"? Dunk her bottom half in very cool water, make sure the water saturates the feathers on her belly, then take away the eggs she was sitting on. You may have to repeat this a time or two. If this doesn't work, confine her to a cage (a large dog kennel works) with NO bedding or nest. I use my wire bottom rabbit hutch. You want a wire bottom so her belly is exposed to the air when she sits. Make sure she has food and water. After a few days, let her out with the rest & she should be cured! This works by cooling down her body temp. Broodiness is tied to a higher body temp. I broke up one of my cross breeds this summer after 3 sets of fertile eggs exploded under her. The temps (105+ and 98* humidity) were just too much to hatch eggs well and I had no room to bring her inside. Hopefully she'll pick a better time to go broody next year!


bailey
6/18/2013 3:04:14 AM

Oh Boy, Been there ~ done that! We have a Black Orp that thought she was going to turn the coop into her own maternity ward. She wasn't eating or drinking so we made her go out in the run until we seen her drink and then started feeding her scrambled eggs, oatmeal, extra mealworms off the nest and out of the run with the rest of the girls free ranging and then the rabbit cage came, we put her in the cage with crumble and water only and of course she had a cackle fit. Every day we lengthened her time until she tolerated at least 2 hours and put a board on the nest boxes after they all laid their eggs and a week later she was done. Best of luck with your girl!!


mary carton
6/16/2013 2:50:54 AM

We had an old hen no longer laying who kept adopting babies. One year we had some chicks in a brooder and she kept hanging around pecking on the g round and calling them. The next year we had baby turkeys and she adopted those. The next year baby ducks. She about had a heart attack whenever they went into water.


dk
6/16/2013 1:42:25 AM

I raise Buff Orps and have raised Silkies. Both breeds are notorious for being broody. Get a wire cage and elevate it (on bricks or wood blocks) so air circulates under it. Put your girl in the cage in a cool place with food and water. If she seems thin, tempt her with hard boiled egg or scrambled egg. Leave her in the cage for a week, then return her to the flock. This has worked for me


grace hallett
6/15/2013 2:51:05 AM

I recently had an odd experience with a broody hen. Of my 12 hens, the one who went broody was my White Leghorn! I understand that they are the last one you expect to go broody, but she did. She carried 7 eggs into my front yard, in the middle of my flower bed. I spent a week trying to get her to stay in the back yard... I would move the eggs to a separate area for her, and next morning would find her back in the front yard. After a week of this, she was so upset and frustrated, I felt bad, so I built a small enclosure around her chosen area and let her have the front. She became quite a neighborhood conversation piece! Folks would stop by every day to see how she was doing, and bring a bit of banana or apple or some other treat for her. I set up a brooder for the chicks, as I knew that Leghorns are not good mothers... aha, wrong again! She was the best mama of the entire flock! It was a fun and interesting experience, and just goes to show that anything can happen with your wonderful, surprising flock!


smoky mountain rain
6/14/2013 7:57:19 PM

What about a broody hen that sits on an eggless nest day after day? This has been going on since November. We're at a loss as what to do. NO ! the stew pot is not in the cards. These are our pets.


vickie schafer
6/14/2013 5:14:31 PM

Last year i had my first broody hen - a Welsummer. I tried all kinds of things to 'break" her. All I did was make her crazy and I almost lost her to severe weight loss. I finally put 3 eggs under her and she hatched out two. The other one must have been no good because she pushed it out of the nest after the two chicks were hatched. I now have an Easter Egger hen sitting on 9 eggs. I have her in a dog cage covered by a heavy towel. The front door is open and I have that inside McMurray's "Peck N Play" pen. She can go in and out of her "nest" and not worry about others. That Peck N Play pen is the BEST thing I have ever bought! I used it this winter to separate some pullets I purchased. I am going to buy some more, they are so useful, lightweight and wear very well. My chicks are due at the end of next week. I can't wait to see what is hatched!