by Texas Homesteader
Have you ever had to deel with a broody hen? That’s when she collects a whole clutch of eggs and sits on them trying to get them to hatch.
During that time she doesn’t eat much, and she doesn’t lay any more eggs. Her main focus is on hatching those eggs into baby chicks. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not.
We started keeping chickens every year and they are an absolute blast to keep. But we always sell them all in late fall. Free ranging hens in the winter months would just make them easy prey for predators since food gets more scarce in the wintertime.
But we sure enjoyed those fresh free-range eggs. There’s absolutely nothing like the taste of a free-range egg, you chicken raisers know what I mean!
So we are pretty excited to obtain chickens each spring to start the process over. We contacted a local breeder and purchased 4 hens from her and BOOM! We were back in the chicken business for the year.
Hen Goes Broody
But one of the hens quit laying eggs & became broody several weeks after we purchased her – we’d never dealt with broody hens before. And with no rooster in our flock her broodiness wasn’t helping anyone, neither her nor us.
Since I’d never experienced broodiness in hens I allowed her to sit for a few days thinking it would soon pass. She’d quit laying fresh eggs but was always sitting on the nest each time I went to check on her – even though there were no eggs for her to sit on!
OK, so waiting for it to pass didn’t work, what else can I try?
Trying Different Ways To Break Broody Hen
I put out a plea on our Facebook page for advice and there were many great ideas.
One FB follower said they move their broody hen further away from the nest and she usually gets distracted enough not to go back to lay. So I tried that. But our girl always went back to the nest.
So I started closing the chicken coop door when I let them out each morning so she couldn’t get back to the nest. But that also kept the others away from the nesting boxes. Hummm… that won’t work.
But what else can I try? By now she’s been broody almost three weeks with nary an egg during all that time!
Separating A Broody Hen
Another Facebook follower recommended a page with great information on breaking broody hens from a writer whom I consider to be the authority of raising chickens, Kathy over at The Chicken Chick. (slaps forehead) Why didn’t I think of her in the first place???
Her article had great advice and I learned a lot. First of all broody hens like it dark & quiet with a soft feathered nest. Our task is to give her the opposite circumstances so she’ll find being broody uncomfortable. It will help break her broodiness faster.
I had heard that advice before from a veteran chicken raiser. (thanks dad!) But Kathy laid it all out with pictures and examples.
Finding A Brood Buster Cage
So RancherMan & I followed her advice to the best of our circumstances. We didn’t want to buy any special equipment so we just used what we had – a large dog crate.
Now I’d have preferred our broody-buster to be a little smaller. The whole point is to make her a little more uncomfortable with being broody. But hey, use whatcha got is what I say!
We decided to set it up on our back porch for many reasons:
- It’s a good location to keep an eye on her and keep her safe from predators.
- I know her Broody-Buster pen needed to be kept somewhere bright as those conditions are less comfortable to her being broody. The porch gets shade during the hot part of the day, but it’s plenty bright.
- She will be staying on our hard cement patio (with paper laid down first of course) which will make it slightly more uncomfortable for her. I would have loved to follow Kathy’s advice and elevate the cage so air could circulate to keep her belly & chest cool. But the grid on the bottom of this dog crate was very open and we didn’t have any extra welded wire fencing to reinforce it. This setup will just have to do.
- Our Mini Schnauzer Bailey can see the hen from the living room windows and also walk past the hen when we take her outside. We’re hoping that desensitizes Bailey to chickens and makes them more safe around her in the future. When Bailey was adopted she was always way too energized around the chickens when we take her to the coop on a leash. So this continues her training. (UPDATE: Bailey’s great around the chickens now!)
Our Brood Buster Setup
Here’s how it worked for us: We put a couple of feed sacks beneath the crate to catch droppings. We still had a small chick waterer from when we raised day-old chicks last year.
So we brought it out and filled it with fresh water. We added a Homemade Chicken Feeder that we had thrown together last year out of parts we had laying around the house.
When her new diggs were ready I went to the barn’s coop (where I KNEW she’d still be) I scooped her up gently and carried her to the house.
I’m fortunate that she doesn’t get aggressive even though she’s broody. From what I understand aggression is pretty standard for broody hens. That would have made this part more uncomfortable for both of us!
How Did Our Broody Hen React?
Once she was in the Broody-Buster she was pretty irritated, clucking away and pacing the cage. She became more & more uncomfortable the longer she stayed locked in that cage, looking around for a way to get out and pacing constantly.
Sorry girl, this is going to be your new home for a few days. But it’s for your own good.
What about Bailey’s interactions? She was keenly interested in the hen at first. The interest had her going around the cage with some excitement and sniffing at the crate, even yipping at the hen from time to time.
But just as we had hoped, as time went by she didn’t show the hen more than a casual glance.
And we purposely brought Bailey close to the crate on several occasions. We wanted her to learn that this critter was allowed here and was not to be harassed.
The hen stayed in the Broody Buster for 3 days before we carried her back to the barn to see how she reacted.
Nervously we set her down next to the other hens as they scratched around in the dirt at the barn.
HOORAY! She was back to her old self hanging out with the other hens, chasing bugs and taking dust baths.
We’ll be sure to keep this broody buster in mind when one of them starts to go broody again. Next time we’ll nip that habit in the bud more quickly!
What are your favorite ways of dealing with a broody hen?
- How To Teach Free-Range Chickens To Come HOME
- Breaking The Broody Hen
- What Color Eggs Will My Chickens Lay?
- MYO Low-Waste PVC Chicken Feeder
- Repurposed Coffee Can Chicken Feeder
- Keeping Wild Birds Away From Your Chicken Feeder
- Nutritional Difference Of Free-Range Eggs
- How To Protect Seedlings From Free-Range Hens
- Keeping Our Chickens Mite Free
- How To Get Free Chicken Food
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