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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. feebee

    Excellent advice…thanks. We have just put our broody chicken in the cage we had for the dog when she was a puppy. The chicken didn’t like it atall.Never knew the comb changed colour..went to look and it is different to the other 3. Will let you know how I get on. She is called Annabelle and my daughter was cross that I called her”the chicken”

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hello Feebee

      This is the kindest treatment for a broody hen. Left alone she would be broody all summer and very unhappy. Also egg laying would diminish with the rest of your flock.

      The dog cage is a brilliant idea.

  2. Ciara

    Okay thanks fn. Now i need to think of a new question….

  3. Does anyone have plans to build a small ark for a broody Peking…its a long story which I wont go into, but Im about to be Father…..reluctantly

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Robert

      Check out this link. It gives details of a book tthat has chicken house and ark plans http://www.growfruitandveg.co.uk/grapevine/rule-roost/plans-chicken-housing_2196.html

  4. Hi fn,

    thanks so much. I’m nervous coz we’re not getting chicks yet, until they start laying frequently. When they go broody, what do you do if they’re aggressive towards you when you try to make them eat?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Ciara

      Put a mini food and mini water fountain beside the broody nest. Despite this, I always lift a broody off the nest twice a day so she can relieve herself. She generally returns to the nest and then eats and drinks.

      Put her in a separate area away from the rest of the flock, then she won’t feel so territorial.

  5. My broody hen, Rosemary, is about to hatch her clutch of 5 in the next few days(hopefully). I have 4 girls and they are currently all living together quite happily in the same chicken house. This is the first clutch Ive let Rosemary try to hatch as she has been permanently broody since Ive had her (19 months). Should I seperate my Rosemary and her chicks from the other three girls once hatched? Will the other hens be aggressive towards the chicks? Thank you so much for your help & any advice you can give me.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi kathy

      Isolate your broody and eggs immediately. Ideally you should have done this when you set her on the eggs. A broody hen need maximum peace and quiet with feed and water within reach of the nest.

      The other hens in the flock are fairly likely to kill the chicks. The chicks need to be kept apart until they are one third of their adiult size (probably about three months).

      Buy a good book on chicken keeping now. If you had done tis before yur broody would have had a much happier life. when she was hatching the eggs They might ust be chickens but they are lives tat deserve the best care.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Anne

    Never leave a hen to get over her broodiness. She will be unhappy for months, dominate the nest box ans also put the other hens off lay.

    Blocking the nesting box probably isn’t the best idea. As this will rattle the entire flock. Try the anti broody coup route. It’s quick and effecient and guarantees that all will be well in the shortest possible time.

    OR you could go down the hatching eggs route and increase your flock!

  7. Hello – looking up re my broody hen (gold-laced wyandotte) & saw the post asking about introducing live chicks to a broody hen. I have not done this myself, but a friend has… evidently the important thing is to do it at night, when all are sleepy. Without using any lights, carefully slip very young chicks under the broody hen, removing any eggs. You may wish to monitor what happens at dawn in case there’s a problem, but the friend has had good luck with this method, and swears chicks raised by a hen have much more personality that those raised in the house.

    Thanks for the advice, also – I was inclined to let my broody hen just brood herself out (we don’t need that many eggs), but beginning to notice the other 2 off their laying (black australorp & buff rock), and now I know why! Hoping blocking access to the nest box during the day will do the trick, but will hold the dreaded broody coop in reserve.

    Good luck to all –

  8. Hi fn.

    Okay thanks, maybe we need to take those eggs out then…Thankyou! A third? How long does that take, I’m actually more concerned of the chicks MOTHER eating them. Silvia is in the middle of the pecking order, but she’ll show ya whos boss when you mess with her.

    Stink-fly and Gwen (my bros chickens) are virtually harmless…still. Thanks fn, for all of your help.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Ciara

      A third is about three months. Some mother hens are not great mothers. Mrs Boss was quite a tricky hen, scratchy and selfish but whn she hatched out eggs she was the best mum in the world so you can never tell.

  9. Hi, its me again.

    Umm, another egg problem. We only have 3 chickens, all female. If Silvia hatches chicks would the other two kill them? I need an answer!

  10. Hey Jacqui!

    That’s almost the same problem. I think my ex battery chicken is broody, and we have unfertilized eggs, what should I do? She’s in the coop a lot…Please help me.

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