In this guide, we will explore some tips to stop a chicken from brooding and also how to treat your isolating hen. We call a chicken brooding’ or broody’ when the chicken wants to hatch its own eggs. A broody chicken has decided to sit on a clutch of eggs day and night, regardless of whether the eggs are unfertilized or fertilized.
Typically, the brooding chicken will only leave the eggs once daily to eat, drink, and poop. The problem is, if you try to remove the brooding hen from the eggs, she may peck and attack you.
So, broodiness can be a big issue for your egg supply, and this condition can spread throughout your flock. So, you’d need to break chicken brooding as soon as possible.
Signs of Brooding Chicken
It’s quite easy to check whether you have a brooding chicken. Their behavior changes dramatically, and you might have a very grumpy hen in your care.
Here are some common signs of a broody chicken:
- They will refuse to move from the nesting box and might hiss and peck at you when you try to remove them.
- Usually, they will get up only once or at most twice a day.
- The hen can fluff their feathers to make themselves look big and try to “protect” their eggs
- Even after you’ve managed to remove the brooding chicken, they might run back to the next box right away
- Plucking their own chest feathers. This is so they can provide more warmth to their clutch of eggs.
- A brooding chicken won’t lay any eggs. She will put all her effort into producing maximum body temperature. So they won’t have any extra energy to create more eggs.
Causes of Brooding Chicken
Chickens, like most if not all animals, rely on instincts and not intellectual. So, your isolating hen might just be getting older and maturing, causing them to brood.
An increased length of day can encourage the chicken to release prolactin hormone. Then, the combination of prolactin and sunlight cause brooding.
When the chicken feels that instinct to hatch eggs due to these factors, they will go into a dark and quiet place. In most cases, this is your nesting box. It would make no difference whether there is a clutch of eggs or not, or whether the eggs are not fertile.
Even when there are no eggs around, they will start brooding due to their instinct.
Why Brooding Can Be an Issue
If you want to hatch more chicks, then obviously brooder chickens are good news. However, there are also some issues of having brooding chickens:
- A decrease in egg production since brooding hens won’t lay eggs.
- Broodiness can be contagious. When one isolating hen is brooding, others may also start sitting.
- Brooding hens can steal other hen’s eggs to sit on. They may even scare the other hens out of the nest box and will disrupt their egg production.
- In some cases, brooding chickens will sit on eggs forever, even if they aren’t fertile.
- Brooding can compromise the chicken’s health.
There are also cases where hens sit on rocks or even golf balls. The chicken simply won’t care whether the egg is not fertile.
During this extended sitting period, they won’t eat or drink properly. In most cases, they will also avoid dust bathing and won’t take care of themselves in general.
Tips To Stop Brooding Chicken
There are several methods we can try to stop broody hen, and below we will discuss some of the most effective ones.
However, here are some general tips to follow:
1. Leaving her alone
You can choose to just let the broody hen run its course. An ordinary brooding chicken will last for roughly three weeks (a typical timeline to hatch eggs.) This will, in most times, require the help of fertilized eggs, which we will discuss below.
If you choose this approach, make sure to remove them from the next box for a few hours every day. This is to ensure they have enough drinks and food.
This is not recommended if the brooding hen is particularly aggressive. The hen might peck at the other hens in the nest box, so you might need a separate box. You might want to remove the brooder chickens out of the coop when other hens have laid their eggs.
Always remember to wear gloves when removing a brooding hen to avoid injury.
2. Buy some fertilized eggs
This is a natural way to break the chicken brooding. Also, the hen can take care of the whole process from incubation to rearing to teaching the chicks.
3. Preventive Actions
You can do the following to prevent broodiness as early as possible:
- Collect the eggs regularly for multiple times a day. The idea is to prevent too many eggs lying in the nesting boxes for too long
- Hang drapes, curtains, or other material over the nesting box if necessary when the hens are outside. The idea is to cover the eggs away from the hen’s sight.
Next, we will discuss more specific methods to break chicken brooding.
The “Boomerang” Technique
This is a technique that is highly effective if you caught your chicken in the early stages of brooding.
- Remove the broody hen from the nest multiple times a day. Again, make sure to wear protective gloves.
- Use treats or “bribes” like dried mealworms to keep the hen out of the nest box.
- Another trick is to take the hen out of the nesting box and onto the roosts at night. In most cases, once moved, they are too timid to make their way back in the dark.
The Lock-Out Technique
As the name of the technique suggests, this will involve locking the brooding chicken out of the nest box. You can:
- In the morning, lock the hens out of the nest box after they have laid the eggs. Make sure they are well protected from the heat and predators. Also, give them adequate food and water.
- Block the nest box for the day. However, aggressive and determined hens might build their own temporary nests.
You can use a wire cage or dog crate in a well-lit location. It might seem harsh at first, but you should place the brooding hen in this cage with food and water.
The wire cage is naturally uncomfortable for the brooding chicken. Thus, it can naturally cool down her chest and vent area, which can break the broodiness.
The length of time required to stop brooding can vary a lot with different hens. However, in most cases, it will take only around three days.
You can easily know when the hen is no longer broody, as she will no longer fluff her feather out. Also, when let out from this wire cage, she won’t hurry to the nest.
Again, although this might seem like a cruel method, it is one of the most proven techniques. In the long run, this is better than allowing your hen to sit for a prolonged time which can endanger her health.
Cool her down
A brooding chicken has her temperature increased. So, by lowering her temperature, we can naturally break chicken brooding.
Dip the bottom of your brooding chicken in a bucket of cold water. You should only use this in the warm summer months. Another method is to place frozen peas or ice cubes underneath her.
The kindest but also one of the most reliable methods to stop brooding.
The idea here is still the same: placing the hen somewhere they can nest. We can use hospital pens or a birdcage here. We should raise the containment box a bit with a wire floor underneath. This is so air can pass underneath and cool the hen.
The wire floor must be thick enough so that it doesn’t damage the hen, and make sure there’s no nesting material. Also, make sure there are no dark spots in this pen.
As always, make sure to provide enough food and water, and you can add a roost if you like.
Let the hen out after two or three days, and check whether the brooding signs have disappeared. If it’s a persistent hen or the broodiness has been prolonged, they may go back to the nest. In this case, leave them in the box a bit longer.
Brooding hens can be the worst thing to happen in your backyard chicken flock, especially if you are focusing on egg production. Brooding hens will stop laying eggs, and worse, broodiness can be contagious and affect the whole nest.
Above, we have shared some simple but effective methods to break the hens from brooding. These simple methods can help your hens to stop brooding, promote their health, and allow them to lay eggs again in a reasonably short time.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Chicken Board!!