How to Break Up a Broody Hen
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Some chicken keepers are delighted when one of their hens goes broody, meaning she’s determined to set on a nest of eggs until they hatch. A broody hen can be a real boon if your aim is to increase the size of your flock, because she’ll do all the work of incubating the eggs and raising the chicks for you. But not everyone is happy to see a hen go broody.
Reasons To Discourage Broodiness
• You use the hen’s eggs for culinary purposes. A broody hen stops laying.
• You raise exhibition chickens or a rare breed and want to use your incubator hatch every egg they lay.
• Your local law doesn’t allow you to keep more chickens than you already have.
• Your local law doesn’t allow a rooster. About half the eggs a hen hatches will be cockerels (male chicks).
• You don’t have access to fertile eggs. Some hens will brood until the cows come home, whether or not her eggs are fertile.
• Your hen broods for too long, or too often, and you’re worried about her health.
Regarding the latter point, the best setting hens may hatch several broods a year, especially if you remove and raise the chicks yourself. However, a persistently broody hen must have time off between clutches. Here’s why: A setting hen eats about one-fifth of the amount she normally eats, and on some days she won’t eat at all. While she’s setting she’ll lose as much as 20 percent of her normal weight.
At that rate, a persistently broody hen that hatches clutch after clutch, without a break, could eventually starve to death. For this reason, some chicken keepers discourage their hens from brooding more often than once a year. Even a hen that persists in setting on a nest full of infertile eggs, or no eggs at all, may lose so much weight her health is endangered.
How To Break Up A Broody Hen
Depending on how determined the hen is to set, one or more of the following measures may discourage her, a process known as breaking up the broody.
• Collect eggs often. The sight of a clutch of eggs accumulating in a nest is often enough to trigger brooding. Conversely, an empty nest can discourage brooding.
• Repeatedly remove the hen from the nest. To be honest, this technique works only if the hen isn’t yet fully geared up to brood.
• Move or cover the nest so she can’t get to it. This one may be difficult if the nest is used by more than one hen.
• Move the hen. Just housing her in a different environment is often enough to discourage broodiness. On the other hand, some hens will plop down and brood wherever they find themselves.
• Confine the hen to a broody coop, also known as a broody pen. Contrary to what its name suggests, its purpose is to discourage brooding. Primary features are that it is light and airy, giving the hen no place to hide and no warm place to snuggle into. One of the most successful broody coops is a hanging cage, with a wire or slat floor, that swings when the hen moves around. In such a coop, most broody hens will break up in 1 to 3 days.
When Will A Broody Start Laying Again?
How soon the hen will start laying again will depend on how long she’s been broody. The longer the broodiness has lasted, the longer she’ll take to start laying again. A hen that’s broken up after the first sign of brooding should begin laying in about a week. A hen that isn’t broken up until the fourth day may not lay again for more than two weeks.