Breaking a broody hen humanely can be done, and it is not a difficult process. To reduce the need, choose breeds in which the birds are not prone to becoming a broody hen. However, the decision to hatch eggs requires the need to know which chicken varieties make the best broody breeds.
Broody hens serve a purpose in the chicken world. Not only do they incubate their own, or even another hen’s, eggs, they also replace the need for a heat lamp. The best part? They also raise the chicks! Seeing hens and chicks together is an amazing experience. And a good broody hen is priceless to many. However, if hatching eggs is not something you’re planning, there is no need to allow a broody hen to remain broody.
The act of breaking the broodiness out of a hen is not inhumane, and in truth you are doing her a service by breaking her. As for chicken keepers, it is as important to be as persistent as the broody hen. Once the decision has been made to break a hen, follow through with it. In the long run, it is much better for the hen.
How to Identify a Broody Hen
A true broody has telltale signs indicating that she is determined to hatch eggs. The first indication that a hen is broody? She will remain in the same, or any, nesting box for a 24 hour period. Other signs to watch out for are:
- How she positions herself in a nesting box. Broody hens will often lay flat in a nesting box, almost as if she is hiding from you.
- Puffed out feathers, defensive screech, attacking your hand as you approach the nesting box.
- When removed from a nesting box she will assume the same position as she was while in the box.
- Once removed from a nest she will immediately return to an open nest.
- Plucking breast feathers to line a nesting box.
- Often many discover a broody hen a little too late. However, there is a distinctive smell in her waste which is a telltale sign. A broody’s poop smells rancid. Broody hens will hold their waste up to 24 hours, and will leave the nest only once a day to defecate.
Why Break Broody Hens
There are many reasons as to why a broody hen should be broken. But only you can determine if these reasons are worth the effort.
- Many will break hens which go broody during the warmest part of summer. Extremely high temperatures can cause a broody hen to overheat, become dehydrated, and may even cause death.
- Unfertilized eggs. A hen does not recognize that her eggs are not fertilized. There is no need to allow her to sit for 21 days with no outcome.
- It is said that broodiness is contagious, and in my opinion it truly is. Often other hens will follow suit and before you know it you have a coop full of broody hens.
- Also, an extremely broody hen may not leave a nesting box to care for herself. Extreme broody hens will refuse to leave the nest to eat, defecate, or even take a dirt bath. Some will even defecate in the nesting box.
Broody Breeds to Avoid
Some chicken breeds are known to be excellent broody hens. If you are unable to hatch eggs, or simply choose not to, avoid the following breeds. If not, you may end up fighting broody hens the entire time you keep chickens. However, if you’re looking for the best broody breeds, here they are! Keep in mind, any hen can become broody, but these chicken breeds tend to be more broody than others.
- Speckled Sussex
*Interested in know which breeds are better with children? Look no further!
How to Break a Broody Hen Humanely
Breaking a broody hen is easy to do, and in no way inhumane. The key? It is important to break a broody hen the moment you discover she is broody. The longer a hen is allowed to be broody the more difficult it is to break her. Breaking a broody requires snapping her out of her hormonal “trance”. This means making her as uncomfortable as possible. Forcing her underside and breast area to cool allows for her hormones to settle down.
There are many techniques to breaking a broody. However, I am going to give you a tried and true trick. Simply place her into a broody breaker.
A broody breaker is simply a wired dog kennel elevated off the ground, generally with pavers or 2x4s. Add only a roosting bar, feed bowl, and water to the broody breaker. Do not add a nesting box. The point is to make her feel as uncomfortable in the broody position as possible.
Lifting the wired kennel off the ground prevents the hen from being able to lay flat, forcing air circulation to her underside to keep the area cool. While in the broody breaker the hen will become agitated, and that is okay. She is in no harm, simply mad.
Jail Time in the Broody Breaker:
After 24 hours of being in the broody breaker remove the hen. If she returns to the nesting boxes, put her back into the broody breaker for another 24 hours. Repeat this process until the hen is broken.
How long will it take to break a broody hen? First, it will depend on how long she was allowed to be broody. Second, how determined the hen is in wanting to hatch eggs. Third, how strong and emotional you are. And finally, the breed. Some chicken breeds tend to be a lot more hard core when it comes to being broody. Silky hens, for example, are one of the best broody breeds used to hatch eggs.
Once the decision has been made to break a broody hen, stick to it. Many individuals often feel sorry for the hen and will forgo the process of breaking a broody.
Other methods which have been used to break a broody hen:
- Remove her from the nesting box. You will often have to do this a few times a day for many days.
- Take all bedding and eggs from the chosen nesting box. Making sure to keep all nesting boxes clear of eggs.
- Block the nesting box in which she has chosen. Other nesting boxes may also have to be blocked.
- Place an ice water bottle into the nesting box.
- Take the hen out of the nesting box each night and place her onto the roost. This process allows her underside to cool while she is on the roost.
- Also, many will use this last technique, soaking the hen in extremely cold water bath a few times a day to cool the underside.
As you can see, many of the techniques mentioned above require quite a bit of work. With some being a bit extreme. With the use of a broody breaker there is no extra work required to break a broody hen. As a matter of fact, you can leave the property knowing that the effort put into breaking a hen will work in your absence.
Still not convinced that breaking a broody hen is the way to go? Then I would suggest utilizing a broody hen to expand the flock, here’s some information from Backyard Poultry Magazine.