What Is A Broody Hen And How Do I Fix It?

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 01 December 2018

Broody hens can be quite protective of their clutch of eggs

Are your hens showing a few odd behaviours? A little more irritable than usual? Refusing to leave the coop? Well, you might have a broody hen on your hands!

What is a broody hen?

Essentially, a chicken that is ‘broody’ is one that has gone into motherhood mode. Some signs that your hens have gone broody include:

  • Aggressive behaviour and puffed up feathers when you go near them, or try and collect the eggs

  • Staying in the coop all day, only leaving for meals and to go to the bathroom

  • Scattered breast feathers in the nesting box, as they are trying to warm the environment for their incoming chicks.

Don’t think that because you don’t have any fertilised eggs or a rooster about that your hen won’t go broody. Some hens will sit on and attempt to hatch unfertilised eggs - we know its a futile act, but they are determined, and won’t take kindly to you trying to take the eggs away!

How to break broody behaviour!

Discouraging broody behaviour in your hens is really important (unless she’s actually hatching fertilized eggs). This is because, during this time, a hen will disregard their own needs -  they eat dramatically less than usual and excrete less frequently. So if they are allowed to go broody, they may become quite sick and malnourished.

Some preventative measures and remedies to break broody behaviour include:

  • Collect the eggs multiple times a day so there aren’t any lying in the nesting boxes for long

  • Hang curtains or drape other material over the nesting box to conceal the eggs away from the hens sight

  • A wire cage in a well lit location – it sounds harsh, but placing your broody hen in this cage until they calm down (depending on how long they were broody depends on how long they need in the cage) is one of the most proven methods.  They may need to be in there a few days, maybe even a week depending on the length of time they were broody.

  • The ‘boomerang’ method of removing a hen from the coop has had varying degrees of success, but might be worth a try in the early stages of broodiness.  It involves repeatedly taking the hen out of the nest every time they sit stubbornly on their eggs.

For more information on looking after broody hens, check out our ‘How To Deal With A Broody Hen’ and ‘How To Look After A Broody Hen Who’s Incubating’ articles.

Sources and further reading

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