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How To Deal With A Broody Hen
How To Recognise A Broody Hen
Hens usually lay an egg each day or so, but every so often a hen will decide to prepare herself to sit on a clutch of eggs to hatch. She will lay over a few days before finally settling down and this can happen with or without a cockerel present in the coop - obviously there will be no chicks if there is no cockerel. Of course, this broodiness is a particular nuisance if you do not want to hatch chicks or you don't want the hen to stop laying for several weeks.
It is fairly easy to spot a hen that is planning to "go broody":
- She will have fluffed up feathers and may pluck some from her chest.
- She may start nest building and will stay on her nest unless forced to move.
- When approached she will be grumpy, cluck and mutter angrily and may even peck.
- She will sit on any eggs that other hens lay in the nest box.
- Often In breeds and hybrids with red combs the colour starts to fade.
- Her temperature will rise by a couple of degrees - they can feel quite hot underneath.
"Breaking" The Broody Habit
If you do not want your hen to sit on eggs you will need to discourage her very quickly, certainly within the first couple of days if possible. There are various options to try, the methods below have been tried and tested over the years and are probably the most likely to give results, although you don't need to use them all!
- Remove the hen from the nest and cover it so she cannot return.
- It may be necessary to put her in a "broody house" - a wire bottomed cage or box raised above the ground to cool her down. Be certain to put the cage somewhere safe, protected from vermin and weather.
- Hold the hen at your waist level and let her flutter to the ground. This can help lower her temperature and put broodiness out of her mind. You will need to do this several times, possibly over a couple of days.
- Let her sit on a clutch of ice cubes! She may need to sit on a few ice cube clutches but this will help cool her down.
- Sit her in a bucket of cold water for a little while so that the level covers her belly. Again this may well need to be repeated a few times a day until she stops broody behaviour.
Broody hens often do not go out to drink or eat so it is important that she has food and water nearby until the she returns to her usual self (or hatched her chicks!).