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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. cherie

    HI Danny , just to let you know the anti brooding cage has worked a treat, Silkie spent 2 nights and 2 days in it (we all felt sorry for her being in quarantine)but when she came out she immediately had a dust bath, a good old scratch around and is no worse for wear.happy again with her friends. Thanks for the advice

  2. Hello, My Silky has been broody for a fortnight now and I have just learned from yourself that I need to make an anti brooding cage, my question is , do i let her back into the coop at night?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Cherie

      Definitely not if you put her back in the coop at night she will go broody again! Put her in the cage with her own feeder and water fountain after a few days let her out – if she’s still broody she will go right back to her old nest. If she does this put her back in the cage again.

  3. Hi,

    We have 4 rescue hens in a home made pallet house suspended off the ground on a vertical railway sleeper and they have all learned to get in and out just fine – much to our amazement! In the few month since we had them they have gone from the scruffy bald underweight things we originally received and are now quite lovely except for ‘Pokey’, who has put on some weight but has still got bald patches on her wings which I suspect are from the other hens pecking her. She is our best layer but looks very poor compared to the other hens, what would you recommend to improve her little life? or is this just how it is at the bottom of the pecking order…
    BTW We just got a juvenile Maran Cockerel in the hope that he might provide some discipline but it is too soon to see any efect yet.
    Thanks for your help!

  4. Hi Judzt,

    I think the hens are picking on her because she is broody – rather than their bullying making her broody. This is definitely my experience, as soon as you can break the broody cycle with a broody cage, they settle back down again.

    I would definitely see if you can get some materials cheaply or free of charge – try your local freecycle.org branch as very often people are giving away waste wood, etc. Broody hens pluck their own tummy feathers so their bodies can get closer to the eggs and transmit more heat so don’t blame the others – they are probably innocent of that particular crime!

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Judzt

    There will always be one hen at the bottom of the peckibg order but you are right if the attacks are getting out of hand she needs to be isolated.

    My home made broody coop cost less than a fiver to make and has proved to be a great investment. See the article here http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/how-to-make-a-broody-coop-for-your-chickens-and-bantams-in-under-an-hour-289. My friend Bunty pit a pice of wood on the roof to keep the rain off her hens.

    The feathers will grow back eventually.

  6. hi again… henny penny has become broody again… i think its becoz shes being picked on.. the other 2 hens peck her alot.. i think i need to keep her and her rooster in separate run or somthing.. its geting a bit rediculous..she cant feed..she gets attacked.. oh and i discovered she has no belly feathers now.. shes bare.. wtf? i was so upset this morning wen i felt/saw this.. its so wrong.. so.. i locked the others outside..left her inside.. i know thats not helping with the broody but atm, shes not being attacked.. im not sure wat to do.. i dont have a brooding cage..nor to i have the money to make one etc.. but… i have been isolating her.. the chooks out side pen.. i cut in half.. kinda.. so shes still wtih them but cant be attacked..and the rooster goes in with. otherwise she frets.. but this isnt suitable wen it rains..shes got no shelter.. sigh.. i dont know .. wat else to do.. for her.. i dont want to get rid of them they chooks individualy rock.. great personalities.. but for some reason they pick on little henny penny (shes bantom)..
    any other suggestions..and will the feather grow back? i gather they will..

    cheers judz

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Judz

    I don’t know what the feather displaying is all about. Our hens do this when they are angry.

    You need to stop your hen being broody. She will not lay eggs if she is broody and gradually she will put the other hens off laying too.

  8. hello,
    i stumbled across ur site few days ago.. the article was very helpful..thanks.
    I do however have some more questions..that i cant seem to find answers for.. and possably not asking the right questions. so here goes…

    ok i have 2 bantams (1 boy, 1 gurl), 2 leghorns (gurls) they are around 7 -8 months old..they have been laying for bout month and half. (and can i just say omg and wow to the fresh eggs)..

    ok so.. id like to talk bout feather displying.. my rooster does this wierd one legged hop dance thing..i actualy though he was using his wing to wipe the shit off his feet.. ingenieous.. (however its spelt), just wondered is that wat that is about.. and.. my female , also known as henny penny, shes gone all broody.. which is how i found ur website. anyway, shes been doing some wierd feather displaying her self.. i think its a back the f*** off kinda deal..but again not sure.
    I dont have brooding box, or the money to make one.. so.. im going to seperate her some how.. and make her surroundings not comphy.. she does get picked on alot.. i was hopin the male would have done his thing by now..but shes made it hard the last 2 weeks.. coz shes broody stuck her self box.. anyway i thought i might put the male and broody henny penny in the separate section.. but.. i dont like it wen he tries to mate with her, shes so small.. he basicaly flattens her and rapes her.. (obviously i have issues).. he never gets it inthe right place, funny to watch, him all clumsy….but she squeels like a pig.. she hates it.. i have to walk away..
    so, geting bak on subject.. the feather dispalying.. wats that all bout.. shes real bitchy now too.. attacks me, she keep harboring all the eggs.. keepin them warm.. she broke one yesterday.. i was lifting her to see if there was any eggs.. and yup.. there was an olly egg.., i dont know if she stood on it.. or wat but it broke.. sigh.. another mess to clean up… i could keep waffling on.. as im a newbie to all this chook stuff.. but using the net to learn as i go. and the dude at the fodder store was very helpful too.. 🙂
    cheers for the chook info.. helps me alot..

    judz
    have a nice day 🙂

  9. Tina West

    We have had our hens for 11 months from point of lay, our Speckled hen became broody beginning May, not knowing what to do about it, we decided to get some fertilized eggs, she has sucessfully hatch out 4 out of 5 eggs then our Magpie hen became broody so we have done the same with her, she has hatched all five of hers, they are absoulutely doting mums seven weeks on the speckled hen has just laid her first egg post hatching her chicks. just one question how to we sx them do we have to wait until they start to lay or crow?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Tina

      What I do is look up pictures of young hens and cockerels of the relevant breed on the internet. Although it was obvious that our young cockerel was male at about a month. A very definite mini coxcomb appeared. Young cockerels are generally more outgoing than pullets.

  10. Angela

    Hi, followed your advice – here are the results. My ex-battery has been broody for two months!

    Day 1: left Ms Broody in the wire cage all day and night.
    Day 2: same as day 1
    Day 3: Allowed Ms B out during day after other hens had laid eggs and shut access to hen house off so she could run around and play with her buddies but not take over the nesting box.
    Day 4: Allowed Ms B to spend evening with her buddies in hen house.

    I opened up the hen house last night when I threw in a cabbage for them to have a nibble on, she immediately went into the hen house! I left it a minute, then opened the nesting box door, she froze mid-step into the nesting box. I then said to her: “you have a choice here young lady, you know what the consequences are!” She then promptly turned round and left the hen house and joined her buddies outside!!!

    I went out this morning and she was out playing with them (her crop is also getting redder which is a good sign). Am keeping a close eye, but fingers crossed it has worked!

    So, she seems to be OK. If she has been tempted to sit on the eggs, I will shut off access again and she will be back in the wire cage overnight.

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