Broody Hens

Broodiness is a hen’s instinct to sit on eggs until they hatch.  While it can be a joy to watch your broody sitting on their eggs, it can lead to difficulties if you hoping for eggs.  If you have no desire for broody birds, start by carefully picking your breeds when you first get hens.  Certain breeds are more likely to go broody than others.  Leghorns and many hybrids, for example, are super layers and rarely go broody, this trait having been selectively breed out as their main aim is to lay lots of eggs.  While this is not a guarantee, it does help.  Other breeds, such as Silkie's, Cochin's and Bantam's are known to go broody at the drop of the hat.

A broody will sit in her nest box and not move.  Her breast will become hot and she will pluck out her breast feathers to make a nest.  If you approach her, she may fluff up her feather to appear bigger and almost growl at you in warning.   Once you determine you have a broody, you have to decide what you want to do.  If you have fertile eggs, you can leave her be to hatch the eggs.  If the eggs are infertile, you have to decide if you want to break her of the habit or not.  If you choose to let things run their course, be aware that you may be short on eggs for three weeks or longer.  Broodies have been known to refuse to get off of their nest for any reason, so whatever you decide, make sure that she has access to ample food and water.   

There are ways to break a broody hen of her behaviour, but this can be stressful on both the hen and owner.  You can start by removing the hen from the nest twice a day.  Pick her up and put her near the food and water.  She will generally take in some food and water before trotting back to the nest.  Other suggestions can include putting ice bottles in her nest or putting her in a "broody box".  A broody box generally has a wire floor so that air con circulate.  On a warm day,you can also try placing her bottom in a bowl of cool water.