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Mrs Boss is broody. How to stop a hen being broody

Mrs Boss goes broody frequentlyMrs Boss is one of the original bantams that we bought three years ago. A bantam is a breed of small chicken. As you can see from the photo she is white with pretty black and white feathers around her neck. She reminds me of the portraits of English cavaliers sitting so proud in their lace collars. She also has feathered feet.

When she arrived she was boss, ticking the other hens off if they stepped out of line. But gradually the others fought back and now her demotion is final. She is right at bottom of the pecking order and has a tough time.

Mrs Boss is broody at the moment. This means, as Danny says, “She’s in the mood to raise a brood”. Bantams have a natural tendency for broodiness but this has become a life mission for Mrs Boss. In a way it’s understandable. She can sit in the dark gloom of the nesting box away from the pecking and bullying. The only problem is that if a hen is broody, she does not lay eggs, and Mrs Boss’s small white eggs are the sweetest of them all.

How to stop a hen being broody is fairly simple. If you can prevent her from settling comfortably, she will stop being broody within a week or so. Some hens are fine again after thee days in the broody coop; Mrs Boss is a long termer. The trick is to construct a cage with a floor made of large wire mesh (at least 1″ squares). Put the cage on bricks so that the floor is suspended, keeping the bricks to the outside edges so that she can’t sit on them. Find instructions here on how to make a broody coop. Provide a small drinking fountain and feeder within the cage and pop her in. She will not be able to settle comfortably on the wire mesh floor and within a few days will get over her broodiness.

Mrs Boss hates the broody coop. When we give the other hens treats, such as corn or kitchen scraps, she leaps up and down in her cage in a fury of frustration and rage until she’s given her share. When she has served her time and is released, the first thing that she does is have a long luxurious dust bath.

Tips and tricks:

  • When a hen is broody, the comb on the top of her head changes colour from red to pink. Check the colour of her comb every day when she is in the broody coop. When the comb is red she can be let out of prison and will not immediately return to the nesting box, except to lay an egg. It took me ages to work this out.
  • If you have a broody hen and don’t want to go down the broody coop path, she will probably remain broody for the entire summer. Every morning and evening, it’s vital to lift her out of the nesting box, or wherever she has settled, so that she can eat and drink. Broody hens can starve to death if ignored.

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121 Comments

  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Clare M

    Wyandottes do have a tendency for broodiness. Our little hen hasn’t gone broody yet.

    Hi Tish C

    Yes the hot weather severely affected egg laying in our flock.

  2. tish c.

    Tish C. on 15th July 2009

    It all makes perfect sense now. I have 4 broodies at the moment. I will be trying the broody box tomorrow.

    I also have a khaki campbell duck that has stopped laying – she is not broody – just no eggs Do you think the hot weather had anything to do with it?

    I would really appreciate any help and suggestions

  3. Clare M

    WE had 2 silver laced wyandottes and they both went broody at the drop of a hat! They do make great mums too, ours have raised several lots of chicks each.

  4. Alison Woof

    Any ideas please? I have found all the info on broodiness very helpful. We acquired two silverlaced Wyandotte bantams in March, in April Treacle became broody, after 3 weeks I came across this site and immediately made a broody coop as per your instructions. After 3 days Treacle was cured (stopped plucking out feathers, comb returned to very luminous red and she returned to being her busy self, about 4 days later she began to lay again.)
    In June we had a week away, our neighbour kindly fed and watered Treacle and Beaky and let them out of their run for an hour or two each day. On our return Treacle had become broody again. Usually they have the run of the garden in the day so I assumed being more confined had triggered the process again. Back in the broody coop, this time it took the best part of 2 weeks to get her back to normal. I had to put canes across her cage to perch on as she seemed to be able to settle quite comfortably on the mesh. However it did finally work and she began laying again.
    Last weekend we were away overnight, I bought some electric netting and we set up a (hopefully) fox secure run on the lawn with their run and hen house (on wheels ) in the centre. Our neighbours checked their food and water, they therefore had a run with a 25m diameter and were not shut into their ‘house’ at all, but on return 24hr after leaving Beaky has now gone broody! After 4 days in the broody box I think shes nearly ready to come out.
    My thoughts are, is their any way I can help reduce their tendancy to broodiness? Did the hot weather last w/e make a difference? Will this get better as they get older?
    They are really just pets for myself and husband and our two boys so we dont mind no eggs, but I feel sad when they are cooped up in their cage and find them more labour intensive to keep watching and checking etc.
    Are all wyandotte bantams this broody?
    Any thought gratefully appreciated

    Alison

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Alison

      We have a wyandotte bantam and she hasn’t yet gone broody. Some hens are just more prone to broodiness than others (even within the breeds that are more prone to be broody – like wyandottes). People who keep hens to raise chicks would be delighted with her. Mrs Boss’s broodiness drove us nuts until we decided to let her sit on eggs. She became happy and contented and raised ducks, guinea fowl and bantams.

  5. Clare M

    Thanks…I have been taking my wyandotte and one of my speckled sussex off the nests for weeks now..had tried dipping their bums in cold water, nothing seemed to deter them..a second speckled sussex has gone broody today…they are now all grumpily in a large dog crate..will report back!

  6. SteveH

    Re: sourcing eggs, try buying fresh, free-range eggs from a farm or bird sanctuary etc. Any eggs that have come from birds that have run with cocks will have a fair chance of being fertile. This is great if you are not fussy about what breed you get and MUCH cheaper than ebay!

    You can also pick up duck or other fowl eggs at the same time…duck eggs make fantastic cakes…we currently have a cute quackling as a result of our broody hen…now considering whether it would be too cruel to set another load of eggs under “number four” this year!

    What a great forum – really great to know that so many people are interested in the welfare of their little flocks…just one question; what about all the (potential) male chicks? If I end up keeping cocks, then my neighbours are going to get shotgun licences and my garden will be full of craters…Is it a case of boo-hoo / yum-yum?

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Steve

    I do hope that the broody coup worked with your Wyandotte.

    Hi Anne

    Thanks for your advice. Much appreciated. Glad that the anti broody coop worked for your hen.

    Hi Jackie

    Although the combs look red and they are laying each day I would give the broody coop a go if I was you. If they are broody it could go on for months and they will eventually stop laying and have a dreadful summer.

    The only other thing is that they could have had a fright. Have they been attached by a fox or a polecat or even one of your dogs. This would put them into super protective mode immediately and the nesting box could seem to be the safest place.

    Try shutting your dogs in and visiting with treats of corn or wild bird seed. If they come to feed you have your answer vis a vis possible attacks. If they stay put they are probably going broody.

  8. Jackie Jagger

    Help please! I have two very spoilt hens bijoux residence, run and free access to agarden filled with everything to make a chicken happy except they have turned from being pets (coming in the house to watch Neighbours) into killer chickens who shout at me and their mates the dogs when we come into sight. This is coupled with a massive reluctance to come out of their cosy nestbox in the mornings or throughout the day if I were to let them. Reading your description they seem to be complying with the broody hen syndrome but they are still laying an egg each a day and their combs are a bright red with glossy feathers. Could there be something else amiss with Lily Savage and Vera Duckworth?

  9. Hi Steve – funny, it was my gold-laced Wyandotte going seriously broody and putting my other hens off their laying that led me to this site.

    I don’t know if Wyandottes are particularly prone to broodiness (my other two are a black australorp and a buff rock – neither has gone broody) – but I can tell you the anti-broody coop worked a treat. 2 nights in that, and Henrietta was totally cured.

    I used a wire cage I had acquired when the hens were chicks – sold as a bunny cage. I altered it so the whole top lifts up (instead of a little door in the side). It folds away to fit back in its original flat box when not in use.

    And by the way, Henrietta’s comb was never noticeably different in color – I just waited a couple of days, then let her out again to see if she headed for the nest box, and she didn’t. This was over a month ago. I’m an anti-broody-coop believer!

    Good luck!

    Anne

  10. steve

    Help, one of our gold laced Wyandottes has gone broody and has been like that for 4 weeks. Nothing we do will make her give up and one of her sisters has now joined her in the nest box, blocking it from use for the other birds who are laying their eggs everywhere. We take her out at least twice a day but she runs straight back to the box. We haven’t tried the anti-broody coop prison method yet. Are Wyandottes particularly prone to broodiness?

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