Broody hens

Any hen can go broody at any time, broodiness is a natural tendency that all hens have to want to sit on and hatch a clutch of eggs.

A broody hen will take up position in her favourite nest box and will be agitated if you try to disturb her. Feathers ruffle and she will squawk at you in protest if you attempt to dislodge her – you may even receive a peck on the wrist for your efforts!

Even hens that have lived in a colony cage system and have never had access to their own eggs before can go broody.

The understandable reaction from many worried owners is to seek out fertilized eggs to put under their broody girl. This is one answer but you have to be prepared – a good half of the eggs are likely to be boys when they hatch.

If you have no cockerel and have no intention of rearing your own chicks it can be infuriating to see your hen sitting in the nest day after day losing condition. Some hens will lose feathers and develop a bald patch on their belly (this bald spot provides extra warmth for the eggs).

It is important that you lift your hen off the nest every day to feed, drink and to defecate. Even if your hen’s nesting desire is so strong that she runs straight back to the nest it will at least provide her with some exercise.  Remove any eggs from the nest and be firm with your hen. You may need to shut her outside the coop entirely.

How long will this behaviour last? If she were hatching eggs she would be sitting on the nest for 3 weeks, but may well be broody up to 6 weeks. Continued cooling of her underside (lifting her out of the nest) will help to break the cycle.

Visit our Hen Health page for more advice, view our Hen Examination Guidelines or click here to Find Your Nearest Hen Friendly Vet.

If you would like to ask Gaynor a hen health question please email or call Hen Central on 01884 860084.

To support our Advice Line we ask for a nominal donation to help fund this service, so that we can continue to help your hens.

If you’d like advice on your hen’s health, why not visit our Hen Health page, where we discuss important things to look for in your hen’s health, whether its personality or physical symptoms. Or, head to our Hen Examination Guidelines where we can show you where to find things like the crop or the wattle.

If you need to seek medical advice, click here to find your nearest Hen Friendly Vet.
You can also call Hen Central on 01884 860084 to speak to one of our rehoming assistants.

Giving a gift today helps fund our Hen Helpline. It helps support hen keepers, giving them the best advice on how to care for their hens. If you have found our advice helpful, please consider giving a gift towards the hen helpline here.

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