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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. Hi!

    I have chickens here! We have two eggs, chickens wont go broody on un-fertilized eggs, will they??? Otherwise Silvia is gonna be a big problem…she’s in there a lot. But her comb isnt pink, what do I do?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Ciara

      Yes a hen can go broody on unfertilised eggs. The article above gives you advie on stopping a hen being broody. Also there are instructions for making an anti broody coup here http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/?p=289

      If your hen raises a brood of chicks they need to live seperately from the rest of the flock until they are at least a third of their adult size.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Cristie

    It’s much better to let a broody hen hatch out the eggs as she will care for them when they hatch and protect them.

    If you use an incubator you will have to care for the chicks yourself.

    If I have a broody hen, I moved her to a small nursery ark, without any eggs. I put a small water fountain and some food within reach of the nest. When the fertilised eggs arrive I let them rest for 24 hours and then carefully place the eggs under the hen, one by one.

    Don’t move her with unfertilised eggs as these will go bad.

    Hi Jaqui

    There’s no point in keeping the eggs as they will go bad. We bought some hatching eggs from Ebay for a broody last summer.

    Hello Amanda

    That’s good advice. Thank you.

  3. You must take the eggs away. If unhatchable eggs are left being kept warm under a broody hen they will eventually go rotten and could even explode, leaving nastiness around the place. Either put her in a broody cage as suggested further up in order to get her out of it, or let her hatch some eggs which you will have to buy in from elsewhere as you have no cock bird. If you decide to let her hatch some eggs, you must watch her to check that she is leaving the nest for a short time each day to eat and poo. Also make sure that wheverever she is ‘sitting’ the resulting chicks will be safe and protected. Best read up on it first! You can source hatching eggs very easily – try ebay maybe?

  4. help, my ex bat hen has found an enclosed space in our garden without us knowing and laid 17 eggs which she has know decided to sit on . We have no cock so none to hatch. I have taken her off them much too her distress so she can go and eat. Should i get rid off eggs or will she get more distressed.

  5. Cristie

    Hi there!

    I’ve been reading through the posts on broodiness and now have a question of my own. We have 4 hens, a blackrock, an amber, and 2 rhode island reds. I believe one of my reds is broody as she’s staying on the nest on top of any eggs the others lay, clucks when you go near her, and only leaves to eat. This is actually something that pleases us as we were going to hire an incubator to hatch fertilized eggs. I know that we can buy fertilized eggs for her to hatch and that she and the chicks will need to be moved to their own space, but do we need to move her and the eggs to their own space wile she sits on them as well? I don’t have a large garden (it’s also quite muddy at the moment due to the chickens wandering around during the day) and would love to be able to keep them all together, but of course will do what is best for both my hen and her brood. If I do need to provide a separate space, what is needed (how big, access to grass, etc)?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Carryh

    I’d love to help you re your broody hen and the possibility of introducing chicks to her but I just have the experience to advise you. I know that you can successfully swap eggs for chicks but I have never tried this myself.

    I do have experience of putting fertile eggs under a hen and this has worked out well as our ‘constantly broody’ hen is a great little mother (Mrs Boss). But some hens are not good mothers and even reject the chicks that have developed in eggs that you have set under them. I reckon that you have to know your hen very well before you take the step of introducing live chicks. They might not be welcome.

    If you do go down the path of introducing live chicks the broody hen and chicks need to be separate from the rest of the flock until the chicks have attained at least half of their adult size. They are very vulnerable and other members of the flock may kill them.

  7. Hello there,

    What a wonderful resource! Thank you for all this useful information. 🙂

    My wee 8 month Silkie, Henny Penny, has gone broody. She’s only been with us a month, and we’ve two others who came home at the same time, both 4.5 months; all females as pets and for eggs. We’re considering adding 2 chicks to the group (raising them ourselves until big enough) but I am wondering, since the Silkie has gone broody, could we introduce the young chicks to her and do you think she would raise them, or does this only happen if she sets on the eggs and hatches them herself?

    Thank you in advance for any thoughts you might have. Much appreciated!

  8. Thank you for your prompt reply. Starting today, little Miss Broody Chookie will spend a few days in a separate area, away from the other girls and more importantly, away from her nesting cottage (we have two replica cottages – they sleep in one and lay their eggs in the other).
    As for the cannibalism, unfortunately, living in Queensland, Australia, it is impossible to avoid high temperatures and lots of light at this time of year. They do have plenty of space – their area is approx 1/4 acre, fully fenced – they have shade from the gum trees and lots of fresh water and plenty of food, but as for high temps and lots of light, there’s not much we can do to control this.
    As my husband and I are vegans (and no, we don’t eat their eggs – we give them away to friends), there is no way we could consider clipping their beaks or putting them in cages.
    A bit of “trial and error” is called for in the management of this and if successful, I’ll be sure to advise you all on humane methods of curbing both broodiness and cannibalism.
    Again, thank you, I really appreciate your advice on these two problems.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Cate

    I have no experience of cannibalism in our flock but I’ve found an interesting article here http://everything2.com/e2node/Cannibalism%20in%20chickens

    There is a quick way of stopping a hen going broody. See our aticle here
    http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/?p=289

    If you just leave the chicken alone she may be broody for weeks and this could put the rest of the flock off laying.

  10. We need advice please – we have six pet hens, aged approx 12 months. We did have 8 until a few weeks ago when to our horror we discovered two were being “eaten alive” by the other hens. Why on earth would this happen? They have a lovely free range home and are only enclosed into bed at night time, they are fed a large variety of different foods so they certainly can’t be bored with the food. They have the “perfect” life so why would they hurt each other like this? It’s just so shocking to us and so very sad! In addition, one of the remaining six has become broody over the past few days and refuses to leave the nesting cottage so we lift her out but she gets straight back in – we have no rooster – so her attempts at motherhood are futile. Any advice especially re cannibalism?

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