Spring time is an exciting time of the year on the homestead. The garden is growing, trees are leafing out, and egg production picks up again in the flock. But sometimes chickens go broody. This isn’t a problem if you want your chickens hatching eggs. But if you don’t have a rooster or need chicks, chickens nesting means they stop laying!
If you want to hatch your own replacement birds out you can always purchase fertilized eggs to put under a broody hen, or let her keep her own. Click here to learn more about setting up a brooder box for your hen if you want her to raise her own chicks.
If you have a chicken who has gone broody, but you aren’t going to let her hatch eggs, it’s a good idea to try to “break” it. Chickens nesting can be stressful on their bodies. They sit on the nest all day, and only leave to eat a little and relieve themselves. They can lose a lot of weight and might get parasites such as mites.
Here are some tools you can use to help when chickens go broody:
A roll-away nesting box:
Generally I’m a fan of comfy, easy to clean nesting boxes, (such as my favorite, plastic cat litter boxes). However, if you have a hen that just loves to go broody, keeping the eggs picked up right away is essential. If you can’t get out multiple times a day to remove the eggs, definitely give a roll away nesting box a try. With these designs the eggs gently roll to a collecting area after being laid. These are also great for preventing egg eating.
A pair of gloves:
Sometimes hens just sit in an empty nest. The best thing you can do is to continually remove her and put her back with her flock, preferably with some treats to distract her from running right back to her nest.
However, chickens who go broody also develop an attitude. She will likely peck you when you try to move her. Wear a pair of gloves so you can pick her up without getting pecked to pieces.
Removable nest box:
If the roll-away nesting box isn’t doing the trick, and she’s running right back to it when you move her, try taking all the nesting material out of the box. If that still doesn’t work, you’ll want to remove the nest box completely. You can wait until after the hens have laid for the day. Pop it back in after chicken bed time so your laying hens can use it in the morning.
Frozen soda bottle:
Cooling down the underside of your broody hen should help her stop brooding. Some chicken keepers dip their birds into a cool water bath. Others pop some frozen vegetables into the nest. (Snack time!). I think frozen two-liter bottles work great any time cold is required. I used to use them in my rabbit hutches during warm days.
A wire cage:
If none of these methods are doing the trick, you can either hope she snaps out of it after 21 days, give her some eggs to hatch, or go a little more extreme and remove her from the coop. You can place your broody hen in a wire cage for a day or two (with food and water of course).
The lack of nesting places and the cool air on her underside should help. Having a wire cage available to separate sick or injured birds is also helpful. Some keepers just lock the broody hen out of the coop, but I have a particularly stubborn little lady who decided that underneath the rain barrels was a perfectly adequate place to raise some chicks.
The first couple tips usually work well for us. And if they don’t, well, then Buckbeak just gets to raise a couple new birds for us every year. What’s your favorite way to discourage your chickens from hatching eggs? Share in the comments!
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