Good Broody / Bad Broody

Pearl and Beryl are both broody.

Both are fluffed up and hot. Both think that they have to hunker down in a nesting box in order to incubate (non-existent) eggs. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Beryl is in an angry, bad mood.

Pearl sits placidly on the nest.

Beryl can’t bear to be moved. When I let the hens out to free-range, I disentangle the two broodies from their boxes and toss them outside, too. Beryl chrrrrs in frustration and runs back inside. Pearl goes for a stroll and takes a half-hour to scratch and eat.

Broody Pearl on an outing.

Then Pearl takes a dust bath.

Eventually Pearl returns to her nesting box and gently settles her fluff and heft back down. Meanwhile, Beryl, in her crazed state, has shoved Ruby out of a box and has smashed an egg before settling in.

And that is why, although Pearl is not laying, that I will leave her be. She is the perfect broody. If my coops weren’t full, I’d get her some chicks to raise. Beryl is the bad broody. She is now in the anti-broody coop.

She’s eating with gusto, rattling her feathers and chuck-chucking the entire time. It’s been two days and I’ve noticed a slight change. I’m hoping that she’ll be back on the roost with the others tonight. Or tomorrow.

If you want to know more about this condition, I’ve posted a new FAQ about broody hens. Who’s broody in your coop?


  1. My Buff Orpington, Bernice is… she went broody in April. We were able to slip a few chicks in and she adopted them. (I have to say I was amzed she did, and what good care she took in raising them). She just started laying about 2 weeks ago now that her babies are older to become broody again last week. I take her out of the nesting box every chance I get. These hens are something else!

  2. After all these years, I’ve figured out what to tell my husband when he says I’m crabby~~Nope…not crabby…I’ve gone broody!

  3. This is a good reminder that when it comes to ordering chicks to stay away from those Buff Orpington hens! First Topaz and then Beryl. Although they are very pretty all fluffed up. So is Pearl, very pretty.

  4. I had a bantam cochin that I just loved. She was so sweet in the fall and winter. Even as a broody she wasn’t as angry as your Beryl but she was broody ALL THE TIME spring and summer! I couldn’t break her at all. She would be in the broody coop for weeks with no change at all. I’d let her out to range with the others but she’d bee line for the nests after a very quick dust bath. No more cochins for me. I have a young blue bantam Orpington that I suppose will be as broody. It’s always something, isn’t it?

  5. Terry, this doesn’t relate on this post, but I was wondering, and this would make my day, if you shared how your koi pond was built, and (just maybe) a story behind it? Haha. Thanks!

  6. Recently you’ve had your share of broody hens. Last week it was Topaz (in her deranged state) and Pearl, who was trying not to get smooshed by Topaz. This week it’s Pearl again but now Beryl joins her. How is Topaz? Did she cool off and return to a normal pre-broody state? There needs to be a broody-free week at the farm to give you a break and them too. It must be exhausting for them to expend so much energy with no result (egg). I must say their feathers are quite beautiful when they’re puffed and fluffed out.

  7. I haven’t any chickens myself, but have to say I really enjoyed this post—the photos are wonderful, and so is hearing about the girls’ different personalities. :)

  8. My Speckeldy, Dotty, has the potential, she went broody last year, pecking and telling everyone off. She was on the nest all day and got very cross when I lifted her off to eat and poop. I fitted a beak bit on her as she was making Marge suffer, it shocked her so much that she gave up immediately! We will see what this year brings……

  9. I gave in to Zsa Zsa 21 days ago. I saw a half shell last night. :-) As soon as it’ light this AM, I’ll give it a closer look.

  10. My 20 month old Jersey Giant went broody this week and she was a MEAN broody. Bit at me like a viper and would not get up off the nest for anything. Trying to wrestle an angry 7lb bird out of a nest is no easy feat. I finally blocked her access to all the nests. She was MISERABLE for one day and then okay for the next two. This morning, she’s over it.

  11. Seems like all my bantam hens go broody all the time! none of the standard hens has ever acted broody in the 3 years i’ve had chickens!

  12. Emily is broody. She’s a Light Sussex. She’s not being nasty although it is incredible how much bigger she suddenly looks. Not so much Light Sussex as Light Sumo. The main problem she’s causing is the occupation of the nest box. I’ve got 6 girls and 2 nest boxes. Except now I’ve got 5 (useful) girls and 1 nest box. It doesn’t appear to be enough. There are bad-tempered queues, like you get in supermarkets when there aren’t enough check-outs open. Today an egg got laid right in the middle of the path and the girl was clearly cross. She reminded me of a customer in that supermarket abandoning their trolley in the middle of the aisle and striding off!! How many nest boxes ought I to have?

    • “Light Sumo” is the perfect description! The rule of thumb is one nest box for 5 hens – but I’ve learned that only works if you have 20 hens. If you have only 5 hens and one or two boxes, then you’ll have the situation you so perfectly describe. My broodies were so unpleasant that even with 5 boxes one of my girls laid an egg from the top rung of the roost – luckily it landed on the wooden beam. I’d add one more box. Three boxes for 5 hens should do it. But you know they’ll still all want to crowd in the favorite box.

  13. My Francine (buff orp) went broody when we introduced two pullets into the the run this June. I had them separated in a dog crate but within the run, and Francie would alternate between sitting in her nesting spot or fluffed up in front of the crate, staring, staring, staring. At first I thought it was a territory thing, but then she stopped laying, and clearly thinks she’s momma. I even catch her gently trying to sit on these now-much-too-big girls when they’re unawares and napping. They protest, she gets sad, and goes back to her nesting spot. Pathetic, and with just my one other grown girl laying now, a PROBLEM. I had to buy eggs for the first time since January last week!!!!

  14. Awwwww, give Pearl a couple of eggs . . . what’s two more?? She will feel satisfied and fulfilled . . . at least temporarily . . . . . hee hee hee . . .

  15. This post and thread appeared just in time, as my year-old Dominique, Maisie, went bonkers. I mean, broody. My first experience with a broody hen and I found the whole thing rather hilarious, though certainly Maisie wasn’t laughing. She sat on the nest and growled at me when I tried to get her off. Then she huffed and puffed around the yard, fluffed up to twice her normal size, wings held out at her sides and her tail straight up like a tom turkey. A sex-crazed bukbukbukbukbuk constantly going on under her breath, she might as well have been the heroine of a romance novel, running back and forth with a thought bubble coming out of her mouth, “someone — anyone — TAKE ME!”

    I did the separation in a pet carrier thing for two days and by the third day she was reduced to just the constant bukbukbukbukbuk and the held-out wings, though still snapping at anyone who came close. I was at the feed store that day, returning a rooster on warranty, and happened to be talking with the main chicken guy there. He said, ‘heck, I could get you some fertile eggs, anytime you want’ but by then it was too late. Next time I might give it a try.

    So thanks for your great advice. I am now waiting for her to resume laying!