Thursday, February 29Food Security Matters

Broody Hen: Everything You Need to Know

The broody hen is the name given to a mother bird that has begun to sit to incubate its eggs day and night and comes out only once a day to eat, drink, and defecate. If you try to separate her from her eggs, a motherly instinct will prompt her to react and protect her eggs.

Around this time of year, when spring is in full swing, you will notice that your hens’ egg production has increased, their appetites are good, and you may notice some of your hens go broody.

Broody Hen: What Does it Mean? 

When a hen is a broody, it means that her maternal instincts are activated. Her rising hormones stimulate her to sit up and hatch her eggs. It is quite easy to recognize a broody hen. You will not be in your usually active and curious mood. She will remain sitting in a nest, whether she has eggs or not. When you or other birds approach it, it will inflate its feathers, become very defensive, emit a unique growl, and even peck at intruders. She is serious and insistent when it comes to sitting on those eggs!


This stage usually ends with the hatching of the chicks. Her body temperature will rise and she will consume less food and water than usual. It is a natural phase for many chickens and does not indicate that your chicken has a problem. It’s only a problem if you don’t want her to work on hatching eggs.

What are the causes of chickens getting broody?

As the best season of the year approaches: spring, the duration of the days lengthens increasing the time of exposure to sunlight of our hens, this increase in light stimulates the hen’s body to release a hormone called prolactin, created from the pituitary gland of the hen.

The sun’s rays and prolactin stimulate chickens to become broody. As a result, you will want to sit on the eggs that I recently accumulated, whether they are fertilized or not.

Signs that you have a broody hen

  • Reluctance to rise from the nest
  • Remains sitting in the nest even when there are no eggs
  • It pecks at your hand or growls at you when you check for eggs under it.
  • Absence of chest and belly feathers.
  • The comb and beards are pale
  • The hen only leaves the nest once or twice a day and returns quickly after a quick bite and a drink.
  • Broody hen feces. It is unusually large and very smelly!
  • The hen is very squashed in the nest. I’m impressed with how flat a hen can get while covering the eggs. When picked up, you can refuse to put your feet on the ground.
  • The brooder hen consumes very little food and water.
  • The broody hen cackles softly to her chicks as hatching day approaches.

The broodier breeds of chickens are:

All breeds of chickens can become broody, but in some breeds, their great willingness to become mothers is more noticeable. If you want to increase your flock for both eggs and meat it is important to know which chicken breeds are ideal to keep to grow your flock without using an incubator. If you want your chickens to keep laying eggs and not focus on hatching, stay away from more breeding breeds. The broody breeds of chickens are:

  • Australorps
  • Brahmas
  • Cochinchina
  • Orpington
  • Plymouth rock
  • Wyandottes
  • Silkies
  • Sussex

During the rearing period, your hen will not eat as much as usual. This makes it very important to acquire quality chicken feed. Complementing with tasty treats to encourage her to eat something is also a good idea. 

How to Stop Hen from Incubating Its Eggs

As soon as you identify the behavior of a broody hen, get to work to stop it. The longer your hen stays in this state, the longer it takes to get out of it. There are many techniques to stop broody chickens, but many of them are ineffective or even inhumane. The best and easiest course of action (for both of you!) Is to put her in a solitary pen for a few days.

The solitary pen has to be a wire bottom cage. It could be a hutch, a dog cage, or something of your construction. It will need to be lifted off the ground to allow air to circulate underneath. Your broody hen will live in the wire pen with food and water, but no bedding. The wire pen design allows air to circulate and cool the hen’s breast, as well as making her overall uncomfortable.

Broody hens prefer small, dark, and private areas where they can snuggle up in the nest and hatch eggs. Placing it in a place without these amenities sends a signal to the hen’s brain that it is not time to hatch eggs.


Raising chicks to increase your flock of chickens is an interesting and exciting adventure. Hearing the first peeps of the chicks under their mother and watching her teach her newborn babies to find food and drink, and then snuggle under her wings to warm themselves, is a very sweet reward for taking good care of a broody hen for an average of 21 days. Many would say that this is the best part of raising chickens!

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