How To Stop a Broody Hen From Brooding

Not all hens go broody. Hybrids, designed for laying, don’t care a whit for their eggs after they’ve left them in the nesting box. But some hens want to sit. And sit. Even if the eggs aren’t fertile and there’s no chance of chicks, they’ll sit. Even if they don’t lay eggs themselves, they’ll sit on eggs left by other hens. A broody hen will sit for far longer than the twenty-one days that it takes to hatch a viable egg. Twinkydink once sat in a nesting box for the entire summer.

A hen that’s broody will pull out her breast feathers, so that her skin (which, by the way, elevates in temperature when broody) has direct contact with the egg. They’ll flatten out. They’ll be in a VERY BAD MOOD. Once a day they’ll get off the nest, leave a humungous stinky pile of poo, eat, drink, and go back on the nest.

If you want the fun of hatching eggs and raising chicks, a broody hen will do the job. But most of us don’t want that. We want pleasant hens laying eggs, not feathered furies occupying the nesting boxes.

I have two bantam White Leghorn hens. They are the “actresses who play Tillie.” They have a job to do. They cheerfully meet children and let the little hands pet them. They’re very good at this being as how they are sweet, friendly and pretty. But, Coco went broody as soon as the sun started to shine in the spring. Betsy had to handle several preschool visits without a backup. Then Betsy went broody. I have a storytime coming up in two weeks. So, Coco, the slacker, was popped into the broody coop.

A broody coop has a wire floor, off the ground, so that cooler air circulates and brings down the hen’s body temperature. She has food and water but no nest. You can return her to the henhouse to roost at night, but during the day, she needs to be back in the broody coop. It will take three days. She’ll be really ticked off for the first two, and then by the third, she’ll look bored and ready to get out. It did the trick with Coco. She’s back with the flock, showing no interest in the nesting box.

Betsy is still broody. She’s next.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Coco won’t return to her bad habits. In fact, I’d bet a bag of feed that both of these girls will go broody again later in the summer. For now, though, at least Coco is back to work.


  1. I have two Buffs who are taking turns being broody. I wear leather gloves when pulling them out of the nest and throwing them outside!

  2. My silkie hen was in broody all winter. I guess it kept her warm to compensate for the cold winter temps. She lost so much of her body mass as well. She is going strong this spring and just went into broody again last week. Thanks for the info. I might put a broody coop together with some scraps.

  3. Good Lord…I have a GIANT Sussex surrounded by 3 barred cochins all screaming at me in the box together….if I wasn’t so annoyed, it would be funny…I keep thinking they will be over it soon, but alas….no…we are going on 2 months…I can’t take it anymore..they look ridiculous!

  4. I guess it’s a good thing for man kind that chickens aren’t smart enough to recognize their own eggs unlike ostrich’s even if they are mixed up in a communal nest. Otherwise we be stuck with a lot of dead babies. I am surprised you didn’t order any bantam White Leghorns, or will you start raising the next actresses for Tillie next year ?

    • HI Kit- I can’t find sexed Bantam White Leghorn chicks, besides, I know a breeder in RI – Don Nelson (wonderful poultry show judge, BTW) who raises them. Once in awhile, if I plead and persist, he’ll sell me a started pullet. Coco came from his flock and that’s why she’s such a stunning, perfect bird.

  5. Thanks Terry – you’ve spurred me on to break my Salmon Faverolle from her broodiness. Rita is such an adorable chicken who is driving herself crazy with this constant battle and I miss my eggs!

  6. Three days? Ha! Babbs, the Steve Mcqueen of the hen world, had me yelling at her to stop being an idiot after two weeks in the cooler. Gladys can brood on a perch – completely flat as if she was on her nest. There’s nothing else for it but to let them hatch eggs these days. Gladys’s are due on Friday…

  7. Hi All, I suspected I’d hear many tales of deranged broody birds and you haven’t disappointed! Let me know if you try a broody coop. Don’t listen to Wendy – her hens are the empresses (far above queens) of broodies. Quite impressive, but better in her yard than mine :) (Click on Wendy’s name and it will take you to her blog and you’ll see what her girls are up to.)

    • In Babbs’s defence, she’s an Orpington crossed with another Orpington and Gladys of course is a Light Sussex, a breed that walks about with a speech bubble over their heads that reads ‘babies babies babies babies’. Light Sussex x Silkies were traditionally used by gamekeepers to hatch out the game birds, as were Wyandottes bantams. You might as well have a stuffed one for all the walking about they do…

  8. Ok, so they’re bantams, but… NOW you have broody hens… now that your chicks are adolescents! Argh.

    • I say it was quite lucky that Terry’s hens did not go broody in April and May. It might have spread the disease that took Lulu to them, and she might have lost them all.
      God does work in mysterious ways.

  9. My Hannah is broody for the second time. She’s a cross between our Americauna rooster and a Barred Rock. I broke it the first time but haven’t tried yet this time. Funny thing is, she’s still laying an egg every day (she lays green eggs). I really don’t mind as she also spends her non-broody days walking around clucking at everyone with her feathers ruffled. She’s just my Hannah Banana and I love her just as she is. None of my Barred Rocks have ever gone broody…hmmmm….is that typical of them, I wonder?

  10. Years ago my parents had bantams in the backyard, and I wondered why, now and then, a hen would go nuts and sit on a nest all the time even thought there wasn’t a rooster around…and she’d make that crabby sound…and have a bald chest…
    It’s so weird that this happens whether or not the hen has mated. Do mated hens lay fertile eggs and abandon them, because they don’t happen to be going broody at the time?

    • A hen’s broodiness is independent of whether the eggs are fertile or not. They also don’t lay more because a rooster is around.

  11. Our hybrids have been as likely to go broody as any of our hens, the ‘broody-coop’ approach advocated here and by Fiona, the Cottage Smallholder, proving successful each time (tho has always taken more than 3 days). Good to meet your blog – I shall call again – Thank You.

    • You have very different hybrids in the UK. Our leghorn/Rhode Island Red crosses don’t go broody (though there’s always an exception to the rule.)

  12. I had 3 broodies this april, one of which insisted on sharing a nest with the others! i let all 3 set on the two nest of eggs and as the babies hatched I gave them all to one of the broody hens, Pearl, a banty cochin, has raised all 9 babies for 6 wks so far, with no interest in leaving them yet, although she did lay an egg yesterday. BTW it was too cute when the two sharing hens had babies hatch they were sharing the baby for the day before I took it away and gave it to Pearl! But i was worried the sharing would start a fight, which is why I decided to do one mama and make the others go back to the flock!

  13. I have 6 broody hens right now but don’t have the energy to fight the good fight in breaking them up right now.
    If you don’t have a niffty coop like Terry a wire cage suspended in the coop works it is what I use.
    It’s been unbelievable hot here (way too early!!!!!) and I’ve noticed by broody’s actually standing in the nest boxes. Can’t say I’ve noticed this before. I suspect they might “know” it’s too hot under them and are letting the eggs cool down. Although I’m not letting them brood eggs.

  14. I just love reading all the stories everyone brings to a topic. Thank you everyone for all your input.

    I shared this blog and hencam with a friend who raises chickens. She is no longer able to check the girls out daily because of new restrictions at work. I am more then happy to check in, gives me another reason to do so, and then I report to her the updates. paste blog topics and pictures. Just a few minutes here just makes the rest of our office days very agreeable. Thanks, Terry for having this wonderful site.

    • I know of one workplace where HenCam was banned because it was taking up too much space on the company’s computer server! I’m happy to provide a window outside to all of those working in beige cubicles!

  15. Hi, I have 5 Girls. One has been a bit poorly, but is now mending (no eggs) one is on strike (no eggs) and 2 are on maternity leave (no eggs)… I tried to “break” my broodies but could not. They out-psyched me. I felt like Cruella de Ville and they just brooded bare wire. I bought 6 fertilised eggs, shared them out, and now have some dear little chicks clucking about, But no eggs. Obviously.

  16. I have a sweet Buff Orpington that has lost so much weight being broody that it scares me. I’m about ready to get a broody “jail”. Hope it works. I check into your site often and have a my own website called “Backyard Hencam”. I’m not nearly as dedicated as you about blogging. It does take time. You’ve done a wonderful job building your site. Thanks! Lee

  17. My broody hen was so dedicated that a raccoon couldn’t even get her off a few nights ago!! It definatly wanted the eggs and not the chickens! Not one chicken was taken or eaten. But this bad tempered hen held her ground and now has all of her back feathers gone to show as her determination! Poor thing. (and on a VERY sour note the raccoon did get away…that’s a whole other story!!!)

    • Years ago a raccoon got into the coop and shredded several chickens. You’re lucky to have gotten away with just a scraggly hen! I’d be locking the henhouse from now on.

  18. Nugget, my predominately Old English game hen, goes broody regularly. I tried taking her off the nest all day long..doesn’t work, and I tried dunking her bottom in a cool pail of water…just made her really angry. So now I let her do her broody thing, which has turned out to be a good thing for me since when they are out free ranging Nugget leads the rest on wild dangerous adventures beyond our three acres. Without Nugget in the lead the others hang out close to the house! Less worry for me.

  19. Kit,
    I ordered my sexed Bantam Leghorn last spring from MPC (supplied by Meyer hatchery in Ohio).
    Not an endorsement….just a source.
    I love mine! Not show perfect but lovely and sweet.

    • I believe that MPC has since changed hatcheries. They’re very excited about a rare breed hatchery they’re now working with in Penn. I’ll be interested in reports on their chickens next year.

  20. Terry,
    I’m surprised Leghorns go broody.
    Aren’t they part of the high egg yield hybrid category?
    BTW, it was your Betsey & Coco that inspired me to get a Banty Leghorn too.
    Yours are so pretty! Mine is pretty darn cute :-)

    • The standard-sized leghorns don’t go broody, but bantams do. Good to hear of more pet Bantam Leghorns. Sweet, aren’t they?