Broody Hen Behavior

Brooding Hen Along Side Clutch of Eggs

This Broody Hen is a Buff Cochin Sitting on Her Eggs, to the Right are the Four Eggs She's Hatching.

What is a Hen That's "Broody"?

The best definition of a broody (also known as a sitting) hen, is a laying chicken that is ready or is wanting to incubate and hatch her own clutch (group) of eggs.

This can be a good or bad trait depending on your perspective.

If you want your chicken to lay eggs consistently, then it's a problem since a broody hen will stop laying eggs until she comes out of her broodiness.

If you want to hatch eggs naturally and don't mind losing 3-4 weeks of egg laying while she's broody, then it's not a problem.

Broody hens will act much differently than normal. This isn't a big deal to the other flock members, they seem to know exactly what to expect and how to handle it.

Knowing what to expect will help keep it from being a big deal for you and your family too.

Broody Hen Behavior.

Once your hen goes broody or begins sitting, expect her to get much more temperamental. She may even become somewhat aggressive, pecking and screeching at anyone that gets too near.

If she's off the nest to eat or drink and senses something that she feels is threatening her nest, she may try to chase or lead it away.

When sitting her eggs, she will be completely dedicated to her eggs with a laser like focus. She will normally only leave her nest once a day for a few minutes to eat, drink, and relieve her bowels.

She may well lose weight due to eating less so keep food and water easily accessible and try to make sure she eats and drinks at least once per day.

Because she is only having one bowel movement per day, her feces is going to be extra bad smelling and gross.

Broody hens will usually lay anywhere from 3-12 eggs before beginning to sit (incubate) them. There is no exact amount. It's just when she's ready.

During her sitting period, she may pull the feathers from her breast area. They'll sometimes line the nest with them. They do this to get their exposed skin closer to the eggs which improves heat transfer and humidity.

She will normally stay broody for 3-4 weeks or until all of the eggs have hatched.

Once she hatches her eggs, she will care for her brood for around 4-5 weeks.

When Do Hens Go Broody?

If a hen goes broody, she can do it at any time throughout the year although most people agree that broodiness seems to occur most often in early spring through the early fall.

Why Do Hens Go Broody?

There isn't much agreement as to what exactly triggers a hen to go broody.

Some breeds will go broody more easily than others and some hens within a breed will go broody more easily than others.

Some hens may never go broody. It may have something to do with hormones or that particular hen's genetic make-up.

It could also have something to do with how many eggs she's laid. 

There really is no way to know for sure if and when your hen will go broody.

Can I Break My Hen of Broodiness?

There are a lot of folks that have tried with some success and there are a few methods that may or may not work for you.

  • Remove any eggs she lays immediately.
  • You can try keeping her away from the nest for a period of time and hope she forgets. 
  • You can dip her fanny in ice cold water.
  • Put her in a cage with a wire bottom to allow cool area to reach her bottom side.

If none of these work, your best bet may be to just let nature take it's course.

Broodiness and going broody is a normal part of hen behavior and nothing to worry about. Just be patient and it will pass.

Return from Broody Hen Behavior to Mature Laying Hens

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