Broody Hens- The Ultimate Guide (61 Common Questions- Answered.)


Broody Hen Ultimate Guide - Edited

Hello and welcome to my blog post, “Broody Hens- The Ultimate Guide.”

Why have a given it such a grand title? Well, it contains the answers to sixty one of the most commonly asked questions regarding broody hens. Some of the answers are a few sentences long, some are a few paragraphs.

There are two types of chicken keepers that are interested in finding out more about broody hens.

The chicken keeper that wants to hatch chicks and the chicken keeper that wants to break their broody hen (much more on that later. )

I have titled this blog post “The Ultimate Guide” because it answers sixty one of the most commonly asked questions regarding broody hens.

I compiled all the information in this post by reading some of the most popular chicken keeping websites, reading some of the most insightful books about raising chickens and spent time on some of the biggest chicken keeping forums.

Put simply, this information is of a very high quality and it is incredibly detailed as this post contains about 6000 words.

I think that the question and answer format helps to make it easier to read. I have split the post into bite-size sections with lovely pictures to make it as easy as possible to read.

To make it easier, I have added some quick navigation buttons below. Click or press on a button and it will whisk you straight to that section.

Broody Hen Definition Button - Edited Broody Hen Beh- Biol Button - Edited Broody Hen How Long Button - Edited Broody Hen Eat Drink Button - Edited Broody Hen Breeds - Edited                            Broody Hen Together Apart Button - Edited Broody Hen Breaking Button - Edited Broody Hen Better Than Incubators Button - Edited BH Switch Broody & Incub Button - Edited The Rest of the Flock Button - Edited                            Inducing Broodiness Button - Edited Egg Management Button - Edited When Things Go Wrong Button - Edited

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Without further delay, let’s jump in!

Broody Hen Behaviour & Biology - Edited

1. What is a broody hen?

A broody hen is a hen that would rather hatch eggs than lay them. (Gail Damerow.) It is a hen that has decided to start a family.

2. How is a broody hen different from a non broody egg laying hen?

The normal cycle for any egg laying hen is that  for about an hour beforehand, she experiences a “hormonal surge” (Kimberly Willis and Robert Ludlow) that makes her find a nest. Once she has found the nest, they prepare it by turning round and round to shape it- dogs do a very similar thing on their beds.  After they have laid an egg, with the hormones receding, the hen will stay still for a few minutes before getting up.

3. How do I know if my hen is broody?

Typically the hen will spend more time in the nest box than she does normally. Ordinarily hens will spend only a few minutes in the nest box- just enough time to make the nest comfortable, lay an egg and then think about what she has done for a few minutes.

Broody hens spend more extended time on the nest (it will vary depending on the individual hen and the stage of broodiness that she is at.)

Broody hens will return to the nest if they are shooed away and they can also be aggressive if you approach them in the nest box.

The sounds that they make are also different when they are broody. These sounds are like “hisses” and “growls” (Gail Damerow.) Also, a broody hen will eat less than they would do normally-when they are at their most broody their food intake can be 20% of what it should be. Consequently, hens that have been broody for over a week might show a significant loss of weight.

Broody Hen- A Biological Cycle - Edited

4. What are the different stages of broodiness?

It seems that this hormonal surge does not recede for a hen that is going broody. Broodiness builds in a hen over a few days or a week. Although in the first few days of the broody cycle, a hen will be on and off her nest several times, as the cycle builds, the hen will spend more and more time on the eggs and in the nest until she will only leave the nest for very short periods to get food and water.

5. What are the physical or biological changes in the hen?

As a hen’s broodiness strengthens and she changes from an egg layer to an egg hatcher ( a change that is influenced by a hormone released by the pituitary gland called prolactin) the hen’s body temperature increases. Responding to this, a hen will very often pluck its feathers. This natural process results in the eggs becoming warmer (because they are touching her skin) and in less danger from drying out because of the transfer of moisture between hen and egg.

Broody Hen- How Long- - Edited

6. How long does a hen stay broody for?

Broodiness is a natural cycle that ordinarily lasts about 21 days for a hen. This is the time it takes an egg to hatch after being laid.

7. Does every hen stay broody for 21 days?

No, although I think that it is fair to say that most hens will stay broody. First time brooders might not stay broody for very long because they aren’t mature enough. But some will.

Broody Hen- Eating and Drinking - Edited

8. Where should I keep the food and water?

If your broody hen is sitting on eggs, then the food and water should be kept outside of the nest box or away from the area that your broody hen and eggs are. Broody hens need to get up off the eggs to eat, drink and poo. This area needs to be away from the nest box in order to keep the nest as clean as possible- thereby reducing the chances of disease. After all, any spilt water, left over food or faeces is bound to attract germs.

Also if you are looking to break or stop your hen from being broody place the food and water a little way away from where she is sitting. It is important for the broody hen to keep her nest clean (although not as important as it is for a hen sitting on eggs) and you want to encourage her to get up and walk a few steps in order to drink and eat.

9. What should a broody hen eat?

A broody hen should be on layer’s pellets whilst she is sitting on eggs. As soon as the chicks have hatched, then she should eat the mash that the new chicks will be eating- which has a much higher percentage of protein than layer’s pellets.

10. Should I close the nest box off?

Don’t close the nest box off as a means of making sure that your broody continues to sit on the eggs. Also, if you close the nest box off it means more work for you as you will need to open it up a couple of times a day in order to let your hen out to feed, drink and poo.

11. Should I force my broody off to feed?

No,  because she should do this automatically.

12. Do hens stop laying eggs when they are broody?

Yes. Broodiness can be described as the transition from egg layer to egg hatcher. As a broody cycle begins a hen will still lay the odd egg or two but as broodiness builds all egg laying will stop. As has been explained in answers to other questions, egg laying is an energy intense activity and a broody hen’s energy will be focused on raising her body temperature in order to keep existing eggs nice and warm as opposed to laying more!

13. How does broodiness affect egg production?

Broodiness does  temporarily lead to a hen laying fewer eggs. The longer the duration of a hen’s broodiness, the longer it will be before they return to laying eggs. Gail Damerow believes if a hen is broody for only one day before stopping being broody (either from being “broken” or from natural causes) then they will return to laying eggs seven days later.

If their broody cycle lasts four days before stopping, then they won’t lay for another eighteen days. But once again, this can only be used as “a rule of thumb” because individual hens will all behave differently.

Broody Hen- Best & Worst Breeds - Edited

14. Does every hen go broody?

No. There are breeds of chickens that are well known for being good or bad brooders.

15. What are the best breeds for broodiness?

The good news is that there are plenty of different breeds of chickens that make great brooders. The breeds of chickens that are most historic (that have been around the longest) are likely to brood the best. Gail Damerow believes breeds that have feathered legs are normally successful.

On their website, McMurray Hatchery list Buff Orfingtons, Cochins, Light Brahmas and Dark Cornish as breeds with the best track record of brooding.

Other breeds more likely to brood are; Old English Games, Kraienkoppes, Malays, Shamos, Asils, Madagascar Games, Silkies, and some strains of Dorking (Harvey and Ellen Ussery.)

Lisa Steele suggests Australorps, Partridge Rocks, Buff Rocks, Speckled Sussex, Columbian Wyandottes and Silkies as breeds that have a tendency towards broodiness.

Interestingly reading discussions in the forums, Silkies are often mentioned as a breed that does not stay broody for the full 21 day cycle- although this could may only represent a tiny minority of the overall Silkie population.

16. What are the worst breeds?

Most modern chicken breeds that have been created in the last century have deliberately tried to eradicate broodiness. This is because modern breeds have been focused on being the best egg layers possible- a quality that is incompatible with broodiness!

Gail Damerow lists Ancona, Andalusian, Catalana, Hamburg, Polish and Rhode Island Whites as breeds known to be poor brooders.

Kimberly Willis and Robert Ludlow note that amongst other breeds, any colour of Leghorn, Hamburg or White Rock are known to be poor brooders.

On various chicken keeping forums,  other breeds that are mentioned include; Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red, Rhode Island White, Maran, Wellsummer, Ameraucana.


Broody Hen- Should I separate it- - Edited

17. Should I separate my broody?

I think that it is fair to say that most people (who want to use their broody hen to incubate eggs) separate their broody hen from the main flock, although some chicken keepers who use their broodies to incubate eggs don’t separate them from the rest of the flock.

If you are looking to stop or break your broody hen, then it is normally done by separating her from the rest of the flock

18. What are the advantages of separation?

The advantages of separation are to protect the broody hen and her eggs (or chicks) from the rest of the flock. A broody hen that stayed with the flock will very likely be disturbed more, at greater risk of broken eggs or an infestation and may be bullied because she has withdrawn from the flock.

Also, if a hen is separated then the chicks will not be attacked by other chickens, they will be less likely to catch a disease. Also, you will not have to “mark” eggs and remove any eggs that are added to the original collection.

New-born and  very young chicks are on a different food to adult hens and so if they are in a separate area, it is easier to make sure that they have enough food to eat- instead of making sure that the chick mash is not eaten by the adult hens.

19. What are the disadvantages?

The disadvantages are that a broody hen and her chicks that are separated from the flock needs to be re introduced and that will cause some fights and stress.

20. How should I re-integrate the adult hen?

A hen will be ready to go back to the flock when her chicks are weaned. This time can vary between 4 weeks and 10 weeks. Part of this variation can be put down to the climate- chicks tend to wean faster in warmer weather. Other factors involved in deciding when a hen is ready to return to the flock are her breed and her temperament (individual personality.)

21. When should I integrate chicks?

Chicks that need to be re- integrated should be re integrated at about 16 weeks. This gives them a chance to be physically large enough to withstand the worst of the bullying that will happen (because they are new to the flock) and old enough so that their immune systems are strong enough to cope with all the potential germs from joining a new flock.

22. If I don’t separate, what should I do about added eggs?

If you don’t separate your broody hen from the rest of the flock then you need to get organised. Because your broody hen will not be the only hen to use the nest box, your broody could end up sitting on all of the other eggs laid by the other hens. This will be problematic because at some point there will just be too many eggs to sit on and the eggs that your hen is sitting on will hatch at completely different times. And so the solution is to mark (with a pen) all of the original fertilised eggs that you placed  under your broody and then once a day remove any eggs that are laid by other hens (and are unmarked.)

23. Can two hens brood together?

Yes, two hens can brood together but it is not ideal. If you have the physical space and an extra box or hutch or two that can be used to house the broody hens, do this. It will be easier for the duration.

Broody hens that brood together will in all likelihood sit on each other’s eggs from time to time. This then becomes a problem if the hens (and their eggs) are at different points in the 21 broody cycle because it might mean that a hen might stop brooding (because her 21 days are up) and leave the nest eggs unhatched.

Broody Hen- Breaking A Broody - Edited

24. Should I try and break a broody hen?

Kimberly Willis and Robert Ludlow believe that broody hens should not be broken. Broodiness is the result of a hormonal surge and since there is no effective way to stop the hormones, your best bet is to let her sit it out. Just make sure that you regularly take out any eggs that she might be sitting on in the nest box.

However, on forums and other websites people are commonly asking how to break a broody hen for various reasons. These include people who cannot afford for a broody hen to stop laying or because a broody hen is showing signs of being seriously unwell.

25. What factors should I consider before I try to break a broody hen?

A broody hen can only be broken once their broody cycle has started. If you successfully break your broody, you will only stop her current broody cycle. She will become broody again in future and you will need to decide whether to try and break her broodiness again or let it run its natural course- which might last 21 days.

Before you do anything I would ask you to bear in mind that when we think of breaking a broody hen we are trying to stop a powerful, instinctive and natural process. Any intervention should be done very sensitively.

If you want to stop a hen’s broodiness you will need to act decisively and intervene at the start of their broody cycle because as a natural process it will become stronger and therefore harder to break as each day passes. Another important thing to remember is that breaking a broody hen will take time and consistent effort on your part- don’t expect get a result after intervening for just one day- although of course for some hens that might be enough!

26. Does breaking a broody hen harm it?

As long as it is done carefully and sensitively, there is no evidence to suggest that breaking a broody hen harms them. Just remember that the hen, at some point in the future, will go broody again.

27. How to break a broody

However, other people believe that broodiness can be broken and there is plenty of advice on how to do this being offered on websites and in forums.

There are various ways to break a broody- none are guaranteed to succeed and some methods are more gentle than others. As a hen becomes broody, the hormonal surge mentioned above raises her body temperature (as her body turns into an incubator) and so in order to stop her broodiness, her body temperature needs to be lowered. Lisa Steele believes that it is important to lower the temperature under the hen’s vent and abdomen area.

My preferred approach to doing this is to house the broody hen in a wire cage which is sitting on a few bricks (so that air can circulate all around the cage.) In the cage there should be some food and water but no bedding.

Another much harsher method of trying to stop broodiness by lowering the hen’s body temperature is to dunk the hen in cold water but I personally believe that this method will cause a great deal of stress for the bird and could be self defeating.

Other chicken keepers use a freezer pack that they place under the broody hen which serves as something uncomfortable to sit on and if it is sat on will guarantee to lower their body temperature.

Other even harsher methods for breaking a broody hen that have nothing to do with trying to lower body temperature and everything to do with just scaring the hen include shooing her off the nest and shining a light in her eyes.

Broody Hen- Using Incubators - Edited

28. What are the advantages of a using a broody hen as opposed to an incubator?

A broody hen will provide you with an easier way to hatch chicks from eggs than an incubator because most of the work is done for you by the hen.

You don’t have to worry about maintaining a constant temperature and moisture levels as you would do if you were using an incubator and you don’t have to worry about turning the eggs. Also you need not fear power cuts! (Tim Daniels.)

Another factor is that by using a broody hen you keep any mess and smell out of your home a point that is made frequently on the forums.

29. What are the disadvantages of using a broody hen as opposed to an incubator?

Tim Daniels notes that an incubator can be turned on at any time of the year but broody hens aren’t as flexible and tend to only operate in the Spring and Summer!

You are limited to hatching a smaller number of eggs with a broody hen than you are with some incubators.

Your broody hen will most likely need a separate area with a nest box away from the rest of the flock and not everyone has the space or resources to do this.

Cochins 1088 highlighted the fact that broody hens often break eggs and will rarely notice rotten eggs.

Kimberly Willis and Robert Ludlow add that using an incubator makes a hatch easier to observe than using a broody hen.

Broody Hen- Transfer Incubator and Broody - Edited

30. Can you transfer eggs from incubator to broody hen?

Yes you can transfer eggs from an incubator to a broody hen. It seems to me though that opinion is divided about whether the best time to do this is during the day or at night. Most people seem to opt for night time because the hen will be more docile (and less likely to reject the eggs) than she would be during the day but a few people have made the important point that if you transfer the eggs at night and the hen rejects them, there is a greater chance of the eggs dying because in all likelihood you will be in bed asleep.

If you transfer the eggs during the day and the hen rejects them, you can save the eggs by monitoring the eggs on an hourly basis and if necessary place them back in the incubator.

31. Can I transfer chicks from an incubator to a broody hen?

Yes, you can do this although I would think carefully before you consider doing this? Is it really necessary.

Chicks can be transferred successfully from an incubator to a broody but according to the conversations on the forum you should wait until the chicks are at least a day or so and that they are dry.

As long as the chicks are dry, transfer them as early as possible. Otherwise the chicks might have become so used to a heat lamp that a real life hen will scare the living daylights out of them!

You might want to try transferring one chick and seeing how it goes…

In terms of transferring them during the day or night, then there are pros and cons to each option. Most people seem to transfer eggs or chicks from an incubator to a broody at night because the broody will more docile and less likely to reject the eggs or chicks.

However, the big disadvantage to this is that if the eggs or chicks are rejected then they will die because you will be in bed asleep. Whereas, if you complete a transfer during the day then you can carefully monitor the situation every hour or so and if the broody hen rejects the eggs or chicks you can just bring them back to the incubator.

Broody Hen- The Rest of Your Flock - Edited

32. What are the disadvantages of a having a broody hen on the rest of the flock?

Lisa Steele believes that they include; broody hens stop laying eggs, they do not eat or drink properly (increasing their chance of malnutrition), they stop other hens from laying eggs (if they brood in a shared nest box) or be attacked by them for blocking the nest box and a broody hen might be targeted by other chickens once they stop brooding because they have been absent for so long.

33. Is broodiness contagious?

What I mean by this is that if one of your hens becomes broody will it cause other hens in the flock to become broody? There is lots of anecdotal evidence (people’s comments on forums) that suggest that broodiness is contagious. Steele believes that this happens in her own flock.

Broody Hen- Encouragement & Inducement - Edited

34. Can broodiness be induced?

As already discussed some breeds of chickens will never go broody and so nothing will induce broodiness in them. However, for breeds and individual hens that will possibly brood, there are a few tricks that you can try out in order to get the Broody juices running!

Kimberly Willis and Robert Ludlow believe that two of the biggest influences on broodiness are natural- long and warm days in the Spring and Summer. Light can be manipulated to create the effect of longer days and a coop can be warmed up in an effort to induce broodiness. However, to try and recreate a summer’s day in the depth of winter is not advisable!

Other strategies are discussed below.

35. Will using fake eggs or golf balls encourage broodiness?

There is lots of anecdotal evidence to suggest this. Several people on different chicken keeping forums use fake eggs or golf balls to encourage broodiness. Gail Damerow mentions that to a hen in the right moment a few eggs in the nest could be enough to trigger the maternal instincts and that this is a good way of identifying new brooders.

36. Will the presence of a rooster encourage broodiness?

Again, the combined opinion of people across several different chicken keeping forums suggest that roosters do not encourage broodiness. And once a hen becomes broody a rooster is just as likely to attack it as protect it.

Broody Hen- Egg Management - Edited

37. How many eggs can my hen sit on?

Gail Damerow believes that a hen can sit on about a dozen eggs (sometimes more) of a similar size that she normally lays

38. My broody is stealing more eggs, why?

Some broody hens will steal more eggs because you haven’t put enough under them! On average, hens like to have about 10 eggs to sit on, which is called a “clutch”.  Some hens who are very broody will try and get other eggs to sit on

39. Can they sit on eggs of different breeds of chickens?

Yes, they can. A hen can sit on eggs of a breed that is larger than herself or of a breed that is smaller than herself. Just make sure that the “clutch” (or number of eggs) is large enough for the hen to sit contentedly on them.

40. Can a hen sit on eggs of different sizes?

It is not ideal for a hen to sit on eggs of different sizes- all the eggs should be of a similar size. I am not sure that sitting on eggs of different sizes would make a hen more likely to abandon a “clutch” of eggs but it does physically make it harder for all the eggs to maintain a consistent temperature. Different sizes mean that only some of the eggs will be in constant contact with her body which is where an egg gains its source of heat from

41. Can a hen sit on eggs of different ages?

This is not recommended. A hen’s broody cycle lasts about 21 days after which the chances of her abandoning the eggs increases significantly. If there is too much variation in the age of the eggs that a hen is sitting on, then when most of the eggs have hatched and the hen is ready to stop brooding and start weaning the chicks, there will be some eggs that remain un-hatched and therefore die because of a lack of warmth resulting from a hen that is up and moving around a lot more.

42. Can chicken brood other species eggs?

Yes, they can. There are people on Internet forums who have used broody hens to hatch geese eggs. Just bear in mind that a broody hen’s cycle normally lasts for 21 days and so eggs from other species need to have a similar incubation period!

43. What is the biggest difference in the age of the eggs?

Gail Damerow believes that hens in the wild will collect a “clutch” or “full setting” of eggs over a number of days (up to 6 days with no noticeable difference.) Kimberly Willis and Robert Ludlow say a similar thing. So, it seems that as long as eggs were laid within a week of each other there shouldn’t be too many problems being sat on by a broody hen.

44. What is the best way to store eggs?

Eggs needn’t be stored if you are using a broody hen because they will do it for you. Some people do still like to do it themselves though.

Gail Damerow tells us not to store eggs in the fridge or in an incubator. Instead store them out of direct sunlight in a cool place. The ideal temperature is about 55 °F or 13°C. Humidity is also a very important factor- it mustn’t be so humid that condensation forms on the egg but not so dry that moisture within the egg starts to evaporate. Kimberly Willis and Robert Ludlow remind us that an egg is a living thing and so should be treated very carefully.

45. Why are my eggs dirty and bedding wet?

Eggs are most commonly dirty because the hen is defecating (pooping) on them. And the reason that this normally happens is because food and water are  placed in the nest area and that the hen is somehow confined to the nest area for long periods of time.

However, you should also check for leaks in the nesting area- are there any gaps where rain can get in? Or is there a hole in your water bowl?!

46. How to handle broodiness in very hot weather?

I think the emphasis here is on making sure that there is enough water available (in hot weather some chicken keepers add ice cubes to their chicken’s water) and that there is enough ventilation in the nest box. I am assuming that the nest box is covered which will provide shade but if it isn’t then put it in the shade. Also, this is a great time to make sure that your nest boxes are hot weather friendly in terms of their size- that they are cosy enough without being hot box, death traps. Some people put electric fans close to the nest boxes to circulate air.

If you are trying to break a broody hen and have her in a wire cage of some sort or another, make sure that she has lots of shade, access to lots of cold water.

47. When should you stop touching the eggs?

If for any reason you are handling the eggs under your broody then you should stop touching them from about day 17.

48. Should I clean out the nest while the hen is brooding?

It is very important that the nest is kept clean and tidy. This is because any mess (spilled food and water or poo) will mean that there is an increased risk of bacteria which could harm the developing eggs. The good news is that, in most situations, the hen will keep the nest clean and tidy.

However, she can only do this if her food and water is kept in a separate area away from the nest. Hens don’t generally eat or drink without making a bit of a mess and it is best if this mess is kept away from the nest- particularly as the mess will include poo!

Keeping a daily check on the nest is important because in some situations you might need to intervene and help clean out the nest. Obviously, if your broody is a new Mum or not a very good mother she might not be a very good nest cleaner, in which case, step in! Also, sometimes eggs break (and need to be removed) and some eggs are bad and may start to smell or ooze foul smelling liquid in which case they need to be quickly removed as well.

49. Is a broody hen unwell?

No, a broody hen is not unwell. In fact broodiness is a sign of healthiness because only birds that are healthy and fit tend to brood.

50. When to give up looking for eggs to hatch?

Since the chicks should be hatching around day 21, if there are no signs of life from about day 23 then I think that the egg will not hatch.

51. Can you provide any tips for a first time broody hen?

First time brooders of whichever breed are more likely to not “go the distance” than more mature hens. You need to bear in mind the breed of the hen as well as her individual temperament. With this in mind you might want to use fake eggs with her to see if she will sit on the eggs for about 21 days.

Otherwise, if you want to try her with live and fertilised eggs try and make sure that there is another broody hen on standby or an incubator just in case your broody hen abandons the nest early.  If there is not another broody hen or incubator,  just accept the possibility that the hen might leave the nest before any chicks are hatched.

52. Should the floor of the broody hen house be covered with newspaper or wood shavings?

I think that this comes down mostly to what the hen has been used to in the main hen house. If she is used to newspaper then in her broody house, use newspaper. If she is used to sawdust then use that. I think that familiarity and consistency are important at this stage. I personally find sawdust easier to store and easier and faster to clean up. I think it absorbs more mess and leaves the house cleaner.

53. How many eggs should I place under a Bantam?

Please also look at question 28. A bantam will be able to sit on about 10-12 bantam eggs. Any chicken breed can sit on the eggs of another breed of chicken. A good rule of thumb to bear in mind is to make sure that when the broody hen is sitting on the eggs, none of the eggs are exposed- which will lead to them getting cold and dying.

Broody Hen- Things Go Wrong - Edited

54. Why has my broody abandoned the nest?

There are any number of reasons that a broody hen might abandon a nest. The most common reason would be that the hen has just stopped being broody. If your hen is a youngster, experiencing her first broody cycle, then this might be the most likely reason.

Another quite common reason for a broody to abandon her nest is because she has a mite infestation. Broody hens are much more vulnerable to mites than non broody hens. This is because they spend so much of their time sitting on eggs in the nest in the same place as the mites! Your broody hen might have become so infested that she finds it unbearable to sit any longer.

You can treat your hen with a lice powder or DE (diatomaceous earth)

55. What should I do if my broody hen dies whilst sitting on some eggs?

This is a very rare event and an incredibly tragic circumstance to have to go through. In truth your options are very limited unless you have planned ahead. Your two choices are either to get an incubator up and running as quickly as possible or to find another broody hen.

It is important when your broody hen starts sitting on eggs to try to have a plan B in case something like this happens. You might want to try finding other chicken keepers local to you to ask them if they have an incubator or broody hens in their flocks.

56. What should I do if a find a bad smelling egg among the ones that my hen is sitting on?

A bad smelling egg is one that is dead. If it had a growing embryo in it at any time, that embryo has unfortunately died. It needs to be removed from the nest as soon as possible because it will attract germs and bacteria that will endanger the other eggs.

57. One of the eggs that my hen is sitting on is oozing a sticky liquid- what should I do?

The answer here is similar to the answer given in question 51. Any egg that is oozing a sticky liquid must be removed because the embryo within it has probably died and it could attract bacteria that could harm the other eggs. Most likely the egg has Mycoplasma infection which is when it leaks a honey coloured liquid.

58. Why are the eggs pecked at?

Eggs that are being sat on by a broody hen can sometimes be pecked at or broken for different reasons. Eggs might be “pecked at” because the broody hen is a first time Mum or not a very good one and so instead of looking after the eggs, she attacks them. Eggs can also be pecked at because they are infertile and the hen knows this and is starting to eat the egg in order to keep the nest in good order. If there are other hens that have access to the eggs, they might be attacking them and finally, there might be a predator that might have started to eat the eggs before being disturbed.

59. Should I wash dirty eggs?

Hopefully, if the food and water is away from the nest, this should not be a common problem. But if you do find a dirty egg or two then you need to wipe them clean, not wash them clean. Eggs are covered in an  invisible protective layer, which will be destroyed if washed. Wipe any dirty egg with a damp cloth or tissue- using as little water as is needed!

60. Is it OK to dust a broody hen?

Yes, it is fine to dust a broody hen. Using an anti mite powder or DE (Diatomaceous Earth) will not harm your broody hen in any way.

In fact by dusting a broody hen you are being a highly responsible owner because broody hens are more vulnerable to mites than other hens because they spend so much time in the nest box or hen house!

61. In what ways should I protect my Broody Hen?

One way that we have just mentioned is by dusting her to protect her from mites.

Basic protection that you should provide includes easy access to food and water. Your hen needs to be in an enclosure that is predator proof and weatherproof- so that she is dry, protected from the sun and is nice and cool.

The enclosure needs to be accessible to you so that you can easily check to see how your broody hen is without disturbing her too much.

And that is it. Well done, you have reached the end of my ultimate guide to broody hens.

I would really like to hear from you. Let me know if broody hens are a blessing or a curse to you!

ArrowAlso, if you got something from this guide, then please share it with your friends using the buttons on the left hand of the page.


6 replies on “Broody Hens- The Ultimate Guide (61 Common Questions- Answered.)”

Thank you for all the information. I think you covered every thing. I love watching my broody hens.

Thanks for your kind words. The article did take a lot of work but I would not say that I have covered everything, just most things…

Thank you for this info! I have an Orpington that has been broody all summer. I’ve tried breaking her a few times but to no avail. Now I just take her out of the nesting box a couple of times a day so she can eat, drink & dust ( & poop) . Am I doing the right thing? The eggs are infertile. It’s been 3 months now, how long can this go on?

Yes, I think you are doing the right thing. The most important thing is that your hen eats and drinks. I have an Australorp who was stubbornly broody for a few months this summer and I could not break her. In the end I just left the door of the coop open and I lifted her off the nest a couple of times a day so that she would eat and drink. In a couple of weeks she snapped out of it. There is a school of thought that believes that hens should not be broken. As long as you are not dependent on the eggs, then the broody cycle will almost certainly stop! Let me know how you get on…

Also would it be helpful if I made it into a podcast- so that you could listen to it when you are in the garden or out walking the dogs? How about a downloadable PDF? Please let me know.

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