Wondering how to tell if a hen is broody? Read on and discover behaviors, signs, and what to do. 

What Does Broody Mean?

Merriam-Webster defines broody as "being in a state of readiness to brood eggs that is characterized by cessation of laying and marked by changes in behavior and physiology."

To put it more simply, when a hen starts to go broody, it means she is showing behavior of wanting to hatch eggs and raise chicks. It is also important to note that if you don't have a rooster in your flock, the eggs will not be fertilized. However, this will not stop a hen from becoming broody. Sometimes, hens will steal eggs to look after while she is broody. 

When Do Hens Usually Go Broody?

Usually, hens go broody in the summer months, however it can also happen during other times in the year. 

Additionally, some breeds are more likely to go broody than others. Some of these breeds include:

  • Buff Orpingtons
  • Buff Rocks
  • Cochins
  • Silkies

Signs of a Broody Hen

  • Broody hens may become agitated, or make noises when you try to retrieve eggs from underneath her. She may also try to peck your hand.
  • She will spend lots of time in the nesting box, and refuse to leave. She will leave occasionally to eat and drink. Broody hens usually consume very little food and water.
  • She may pick at her chest/belly feathers.
  • Immediately running back to the nesting box after she has been removed. 
  • Pale comb and wattles.
  • She lays very flattened out on the nest.

What to Do With a Broody Hen

Create a separate brooding nest for your hen. This will allow her to lay comfortably without worry of another hen settling in her nest. In addition, the nest should be close to a separate source of food and water than the rest of your flock. 

Broody hens don't leave their nests very often, so it is very important to provide her with a high protein chicken feed.

How to Break a Broody Hen

Reasons for breaking a broody hen include:

  • You don't want any more chickens in your flock.
  • When a hen goes broody, it interrupts production and collection of eggs.
  • You don't have a rooster in your flock.

There are a few ways that you can break a broody hen.

Remove Her From the Nest

When trying this method, give her enough reason to stay outside for a long period. This can be done through giving treats. 

The important thing to remember with this method is to do this more than just once. That way she won't think that it is just feeding time. Also, remember to wear gloves! She may try to peck at your hands. 

Remove the Nest

This method will stop your hen from having a place to nest. Remove all nesting materials from the coop and surrounding areas too so she won't have the ability to create a new nest. 

Isolate the Hen

If your broody hen is a bit stubborn and it seems like nothing is working, try to isolate her. Get a dog kennel or cage big enough for her, place her in it with food and water. 

To test if this method is working, remove her daily and watch her behavior. If it appears that she is still showing broody behavior, place her back in the cage. 

If you have eggs almost ready to hatch, check out OverEZ's Guide to Raising Chicks to get prepared!