Broody Girls

Three of my hens are broody – Blackie, Snowball and Marge. A broody hen sits in a nesting box, and if there are eggs there, she’ll roll them under her to keep them warm. I don’t know how Snowball stays balanced. At times she is perched on four large eggs that weigh almost as much as her.

A broody hen stops laying for weeks, and sometimes months, and so a backyard hen keeper has to decide if he or she wants to go to the bother of breaking the broody cycle. It is possible, but not easy.

Being broody is an innate, genetically driven response to a hen’s maturity, the time of year and the environment. A broody hen settles down, ruffles her feathers and elevates her body temperature. In some cases, if you can lower that temperature, she forgets about sitting. I’ve read about putting ice cubes under the hen — which seems rather messy and somehow like a sly practical joke. You can replace the bottom of the nesting box with a screen, so that the heat dissipates. You can lock the hen out of the hen house so that she has nowhere to be broody.

Or, you can leave the hen be and have fewer eggs. That’s been my choice because only two of my good layers are broody, so I still get seven eggs a day which is more than plenty. But if I had only three or four hens, I would try to break the broodiness.

If you’ve had any success getting your broody hens off of the nest and laying again, email me! Also, what’s the longest your hens have been broody? Tweedledum was broody for a month this spring, and now she has no interest in sitting. But I think that Snowball is going to stay put all summer.

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