If your poultry farming enterprise is geared towards egg production, then a broody hen is the last thing that you probably want. They mean trouble and a drastic drop in your fresh egg supply.
Broodiness is also contagious. If one hen is broody, the behavior is likely to spread throughout your flock making matters even worse. That is why you need to make a quick intervention and break the broodiness as quickly as possible so that the hen can revert to normal behavior and continue laying eggs.
What Causes Broodiness in Hens?
A broody hen is one that wants to hatch its eggs. Instead of just laying the eggs and going about its business, it wants to sit on them and hatch them into chicks. A lot of farmers may not want this if there poultry production enterprise is geared towards egg production. Broody hens will cut off your supply of fresh eggs.
A hen getting broody may also mean that it is getting older and is maturing. It can also be due to seasonal changes such as longer days which stimulate the production prolactin, a hormone from the hen’s pituitary gland. The combination of this hormone and the sunlight will make the hen go broody and it will begin sitting on its eggs. A broody hen does not just sit on its own eggs, it can also steal other chicken’s eggs.
Signs that Your Hen is Broody
Broody hens will generally make a nest in a quiet and dark area inside or outside the chicken coop. They will subsequently spend all their time instead that nesting area and rarely come out to eat or even drink.
If there is no straw or sawdust, the chicken will begin carrying them and using them to line its nest. Sometimes, it can go as far as plucking the feathers beneath its breast in order to keep its eggs warm.
Broody hens also develop a very bad “attitude”. They begin grumbling and growling at anything that comes close to their nest. If you move close enough to their nests, they may even get a bit more aggressive and peck at the intruder.
Broody hens also fluff their feathers so that they appear bigger and look more threatening. Their tail feathers will fan out like the feathers of a turkey, another aggressive behavior meant to ward off disturbance.
They may occasionally leave the nest to go and eat, poop and drink some water but they won’t last. They may be back to the nest as soon as possible. During their broodiness, there is very little by way of nourishment, so they lose weight pretty fast. If they are your favorite egg producers, you will have to be really worried when they become broody.
The hen’s feathers will also lose their sheen and the droppings will become larger and foul smelling. The hen will be clucking insistently whenever they take a break from their brooding nest and go out to look for food or drink.
How to Stop a Hen from Being Broody
You can stop a broody hen in various ways ranging from removal of the hen from the nesting box to putting the chicken in a cage jail where they can stay until the broodiness stops. Below is a look at the various techniques you can use to stop your hen from becoming broody:-
This is the most commonly used technique and simply involves removing the hen from the nest and stopping it from re-entering the nest until the habit is broken. Simply pick the hen up and plonk her into the yard where the other chickens are foraging. You can give the hen some treats in order to keep it outside. Remember she still very aggressive at this point so you may need to wear gloves as she may peck your hands.
Some farmers recommend putting the hen under your arms and walking with it around the yard. To make it effective, you may have to repeat this routine several times in a day. Remember it is your will against the hen’s hormones and your will has to win.
If removal does not work, move on to the next step:-
Close the Nesting Area
If removal does not work, you can simply close off the nesting area. Block off or close off the area that the hen has chosen as their nesting area. She will struggle to reopen and access it and if she fails, she may decide to get out of her broodiness. Also watch out on her next move as she may decide to “steal” another hen’s eggs if she is unable to access her nesting area. If you have several hens that are laying at the same time, you may have to block off all the nesting places at the same time.
Use Cold Dips and Frozen Water Bottles
This has worked for some farmers. In this case, simply remove the eggs and put cold or frozen bottle of water under the hen while she is sitting. The extreme cold will stop their impulse to brood. In case you don’t have a frozen water battle, you can simply dip the hen in a cool bath. Use this technique only if it is warm outside. Don’t use it in cold weather.
Get Rid of the Nesting Material
In case you have small flock and the above techniques are not practical, you can simply get rid of the nesting material to stop them from brooding. Getting rid of the nesting material deprives the chicken conducive environment for expressing their broody behavior and she is likely to give up the behavior.
Use a Chicken Jail
This is simply a makeshift jail where you can confine the chicken for a few days until it stops its broody behavior. It is simply a small wire cage with sturdy design. Put the hen inside with some food. Don’t put any bedding in the cage.
The video below shows a typical broody jail.