Broody Hens – Chickens and Potatoes

Broody Hens – Chickens and Potatoes

When I got chickens I had no prior experience with them. So imagine my surprise when I went out to collect eggs one afternoon, and Martha the Easter Egger was hissing at me like a Dilophosaurus(the one that spits tar at you). I had an quick freak out, then after a quick research quest I found out we had a broody hen on our hands.

Broodiness is like the chicken stork coming to visit.

What is a Broody Hen?

A broody hen is a chicken that wants to hatch some babies out of those eggs! It takes approx. 21 days to hatch eggs, so that is about the time frame you are looking at for your broody hen to stay broody if you don’t you’ll need to “break” it.

What causes broodiness in hens?

What causes anyone to want babies? Hormones, and the environment. When the days start growing longer the instinct to brood is triggered. The pituitary gland releases the hormone prolactin, which tells the chicken’s body to stop laying eggs among her clutch of eggs to be hatched. (The Chicken Health Hanbook, Damerow).

Signs that your hen is broody.

  • The first sign I noticed was increased aggression. I have had three broody hens so far, and the days prior to them deciding that they need to sit on the nest, they get aggressive. Tracy Chickman was one of the coolest cucumbers of the flock at the time, and I noticed the week prior to her going broody she was pecking everyone, and had no focus in her clicker training sessions. She even went after Clarabelle, who is known to be off-limits to the flock, she is everyone’s “baby sister”. I was wondering why she was tampering with the pecking order so late in life, then I found her sitting on the nest the next day. When you go to collect eggs, or move them off the nest expect aggression.
  • Another sign is sitting, staying, and sleeping in the nesting box. When you approach said nesting box you will be greeted my some wack chicken sounds that will haunt you. Brave the danger and pick that chicken up. I always have a little foot bath for the chickens, and I place my hen in there so she cools down.
  • Missing breast feathers, or feathers scattered in the nest are also an indicator that you have a broody hen on your hands. They remove the feathers on their chest and sometimes belly to put the eggs(and eventually chickies) they are incubating in direct contact with their body warmth.

What to do when you got a broody girl on your hands.

My first concern upon finding out my hen was broody was that it was hot. Broody hens only get off the nest two-three times a day, and when it is blazing outside you don’t want your hen having a heat stroke! So how do you break a broody hen? There are many anecdotal stories out there of everyone’s favorite “tried and true” method. Be sure that you make decisions with your flock, and their health in mind. If you are unsure of something you should consult your veterinarian.

  • I decided that collecting the eggs anytime I walked outside, and removing her off the nest and placing her somewhere else in the run was going to be my best course of action. Turns out I was on the right track! Within three days she was laying and acting more normal again. Which was great for me because having a chicken flying at you with their claws out like a hawk is terrifying. Anytime I walked outside, or heard an egg song I would go out and move the hen that was broody at the time while collecting eggs. I have used this method three times so far and have a 100% success rate.
  • Some people do the caging method. I personally am not about caging my chickens if they are not in need of immediate isolation. Here is a video on caging them and how it works!
  • There are several anecdotal stories about floating the chicken in water. Personally, since chickens regulate their temperature by keeping their feathers close/away from them, I avoided this method. It is a pain to dry off the chickens I had that went broody. Especially Martha.
  • Putting ice packs in the nest. This will cause her to get up off of the nest and hopefully after a couple days break her broodiness.
  • Let her hatch some chicks! I mean let the broody hen brood! If you are known to succumb to chicken math, this might be the best option for you! You technically didn’t buy anymore like your husband/wife asked you not to. Leave the fertilized eggs underneath her(if you have a roo), or purchase some fertilized eggs. Some people say to put day old chicks underneath her at night. I have never done this, and while some people have had success I have also seen horror stories! Introducing outside birds ALWAYS comes with the risk of new diseases and this risk should not be taken lightly. Even purchasing hatching eggs can come with a risk. Always check where you are buying from and their bio-security methods.

Closing Comments

Broody hens can be a pain or a blessing! Overall, even if you choose to hatch out some peepers, don’t use the same hen over and over again. They do not eat or drink nearly as much, and this can cause all kind of deficiencies that can lead to disease, or starvation. If you don’t want to worry so much about a broody hen, research breeds that won’t go broody. The breeds that are meant for production egg laying, such as the leghorn or the DP Rhode Island Red, are not as likely to go broody. If you want a mamma hen, go for a Silkie, Cochin, or Brahma.


As always, I highly recommend obtaining a copy of the Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow.

Online sources for what to do with a broody hen:

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