Broody hens are generally difficult to handle. They get all puffed up and give out the annoying clucking sound. The hens behave as if they have been seized by a kind of madness. All that matters to them is laying that egg and doing it quick!
When chickens go broody, it is almost as if they have been seized by some craziness. All that matters is laying on their eggs, whether the eggs are fertile or not. Leaving the eggs in the nest will make the chickens, in turn, to want to stay longer in the nest. Sometimes, they will continue staying in their laying nests even after you have removed the eggs. A chicken that is noticeably broody will lay on any eggs it finds even if they do not belong to her.
In a commercial poultry production operation, you wouldn’t want your hens to go broody as this will seriously have an impact on egg production. However, in a small backyard poultry farming enterprise, broodiness can actually be advantageous allowing you get new cute chicks without investing in an incubator.
If the eggs are fertile, they will take about three weeks to hatch after the hen has started sitting on them. But the hen will be in a broody condition for a very long time even after the eggs have hatched so you may need to take some action in order to break the broody behavior.
The hen is unlikely to come out of the broodiness unless there is the stimulus of the chicks coming out and prolonged broodiness has a severe impact on the health and productivity of the bird. Incubating hens do not generally eat much so they will get thin very fast and this in turn affects egg production.
In case you want chicks, broodiness can actually be advantageous for you. You can simply buy fertile eggs and pop the eggs under the hen in their nesting box. Within three weeks, you will probably have a fairly good hatch rate.
Broody chickens generally need a quiet nesting box as well as a safe place where they can raise their chicks free from predators and interference by adult hens. You will also need to provide them with some water and starter food.
However, in case you don’t want the chicks, broodiness can actually be a big nuisance and this will necessitate urgent intervention on your part in order to stop the behavior. There are even certain hens that may be prone to broodiness so they will be doing this all the time even when they shouldn’t.
Breaking the Broodiness in Your Hens
The most effective way of breaking broodiness is by keeping the hen away from their nest. Do this repeatedly and they will simply snap out of their broodiness. Other hens can be more persistent, however. You can prevent them from accessing the nesting box by simply blocking it off once the other hens have laid their eggs then as the darkness falls, you can unblock the nesting box once more.
The hens will generally come out of their broodiness within about three days although for some hens, it may take quite a struggle.
Hens that are persistent brooders will simply find an alternative place where they can brood. This can be an enclosed area, a form of shelter or even in the shrubs.
Use a Broody Cage
Where you are grappling with a persistent brooder, you can use a broody cage which will effectively stop their broody behavior. A broody cage can be a simple enclosure with a roof, four walls and shields which can be made from wire mesh. Provide them plenty of water and food inside the brooding cage.
A good example is shown below.
Keep the hen in the broody cage for as long as possible until you are sure that you have been able to break the broody behavior. Once the broody behavior stops, the hen will begin laying eggs once more. Don’t be too mean and leave the hen in the cage for too long; you should be able to break their “broody will” in about three to four days.
You can tell they have broken their broodiness by observing their behavior: they will be sitting instead of standing, their feathers will be sitting flat and they will stop making the clucking sounds and begin making normal sounds.
However, if she still runs to the nesting box after you have returned it to the coop, then you may need to put them in the broody cage for a little bit longer.