Persistent Broodies

It’s been well over a month since three of my hens went broody. Some hens are persistent broodies. They stay in the nesting box well beyond the three weeks that it would take to hatch eggs – that is if they actually were to hatch fertile eggs, which mine are not. Most of the time, they sit in their boxes without any eggs under them at all.

Betsy is a bantam White Leghorn. She is seven (yes, seven!) years old, hasn’t laid an egg in a couple of years, but, true to her bantie nature she still goes broody. Her preferred spot is in the rabbit hutch that has been claimed by the Ladies as their favorite nesting box.

in hutch


Sometimes the big girls kick her out while they lay. Betsy lets them know how displeased she is, and then goes right back in to claim the egg after it is laid.

Betsy in hutch



The hutch is not a safe place to spend the night because a predator could get in, so Betsy is put inside of the secure coop with the others after dark. She’s always in a bad mood, and she stays apart from the flock. Which isn’t much different than when she’s not broody!

Betsy on roost



There have been two persistent broodies in the Big Barn, Onyx (a Barnevelder) and Pearl (the splash Cochin.) They’ve been in the nesting boxes since mid-July.

broody hen


Cochins are notorious for going broody, Pearl is very sensible about it. Daily, she leisurely gets up to take a dust bath. She hops out of the nesting box if I’ve tossed something particularly delicious into the compost pile. Although while inside of  the nesting box she’s huge pile of soft feathers, she doesn’t make a fuss when I reach under her to look for eggs.

Lately, she’s been out with the flock more and more. She might be over her summer brood. Maybe.

Pearl in the middle


People worry about their broody hens. They think that they’ll starve. Never fear, the hens do get up and eat and drink, but it’s often when you’re not watching. You can tell by Betsy’s full crop that she’s eating just fine.

bantam white leghorn


You can stop broodiness by putting the offender in an anti-broody coop. But, none of my three broodies were productive layers, anyway. They’re perfectly healthy. I just leave them be.

I expect that they’ll start molting any day now.




  1. Yep..I am seeing the feathers! It HATE the molt! Did I express how much I HATE the molt!????!!! The FEATHERS!!! ARRRGGGGGGHHHH!!!!!! And if one more person says…”Your birds are so naked”…”What is wrong with your birds?” I am going to scream!!!

    • Go out to the coop, pick up the prettiest feathers, put them in a vase, and enjoy them:) Then, get out the shopvac and suck up all of the other ones. Then have a glass of wine. There, do you feel better already? :)

      • I sure do after advice like that!! LOL My hens began molting a couple of weeks ago. I would rather get it over with now than in November as it has been in past years.

  2. Well, I have a four year old that started molting 3 weeks ago already! In sunny California. Although, maybe the stress of loosing her sister brought it on.

  3. I have just experienced my first broody after two and a half years of chicken keeping. Topaz a bantam gold wyndotte has been broody for two weeks and came out of it suddenly yesterday. She would sit all day, fluffed up and steal eggs when she could. I would get her out a couple of times a day to eat, drink, scratch and sometimes dust bath. She was angry and shouted and pecked. Yesterday she returned to being with the flock and back to her good natured self. I didn’t think such a little girl could be so angry but I know it is just because she is trying to protect her non existent future babies. Good to have her back to normal though.

    I have also had an explosion of feathers as the two bantam game birds have just gone through their moult.

    Always the next stage to go through but you got to love them!

  4. Ebay my 10 year old OEG bantam (she may even be older) has not gone broody this year. Usually she starts mid spring and continues through most of the summer.

    My ducks started molting about a month ago seem way too early. My dad said that usually means and early winter.

  5. What a lovely picture of Betsy! We had a terrible time with broody hens this year. There were five broody at the same time, and it lasted for over three weeks. Beryl and Topaz were right there in the midst of it all, of course. Thankfully, it’s over and everyone is back to normal, for the time being anyway. It’s nice to be collecting eggs again!

  6. I keep hoping that one of my three will go broody so that I can sneak some chicks under her after three weeks of sitting on non-fertile or wooden eggs. That would give the 2 BRs some points since they stopped laying 3 months ago. Of course, if it was my lovely and steadily laying 4 blue eggs a week EE Henny, I would be sad about being completely without eggs but she would make a cute mom. She and Owly must be sisters. :-)

  7. Betsy is so pretty. My 2 belgian were broody then my welsummer. They finished then laid for 2 weeks and are now already molting. But I don’t mind that they take the break. My NHR and 3 wyandottes are all going strong.

  8. Off topic… Have you ever had a hen grow spurs? My welsummer Ginger, came from a hatchery. We ordered a male. But Instead of. Rooster at 4 months found out she was a hen. She is a very sweet girl and lays a beautiful speckled paint splashed dark brown egg. Very consistent layer -when not broody.. And she is very vocal. she had small spurs but it looks like they have grown. I just noticed this yesterday. She is 2 yr 2 months old.

  9. Funny about Onyx. My 3 y-o Barnevelders have never shown any signs of going broody. I bought them especially because all the stuff I read said they aren’t inclined to broodiness. Hope they stay that way!

  10. We have 5 Buffs. Fortunately only 2 go broody, but boy do they. One started in early March and lasted until June. Immediately after that the 2nd one went broody and just now snapped out of it. That’s some serious dedication!

  11. Is it true that pullets don’t molt until they’ve matured into egg-layers? I have 12 new kids, hatched in late spring, and have recently seen a few feathers tossed by the oldest ones. I’m looking forward to eggs in the fall, not a bunch of nekkid teenagers!

    • The first true molt is after their first year of lay, when they’re about 16 months old. However, chicks lose down, and then the young pullets lose feathers again as they grow in their first mature feathers which last a year. You shouldn’t have naked birds :)

  12. Gloria (Gold sex-link) has been broody for 4 weeks today – no eggs under her. She will not be deterred (before reading your broody posts, I tried taking her out of nest at night and putting her on perch outside in the (predator proof) run – she ran back to nest in the pitch black of night (across the run and up the ramp!) less than 5 min. after I moved her, removing her from nest 3-4 times/day, etc.) I just couldn’t put her on wire or anything like that. She has lost weight – comb is flopped over and grayish. She wants to have eggs so badly – even pretends to move her phantom eggs around and is such a good mom to the no eggs. Since reading your very sensible and calming blog posts last month and this month, I’ve pretty much left her alone other than trying to entice her with treats, but I’m still have lingering doubts that she will ever be back to her non-broody self without intervention. All the books/BYC/blogs (other than yours) warn of wasting and death which still is frightening to me. Your posts resonate with me and I appreciate your long-term chicken experience, so I’ll let her be and try to stop obsessing about this :)
    PS – Cracks me up that it’s the hybrid that went broody and my heritage breeds are happily laying eggs and going about their merry way…

    • Those other blogs you’re talking about… sigh… I don’t think any of them have actually lost a broody hen to starvation, and most of the writers have had chickens for fewer than five years. In any event, those persistent broodies can test everyone’s patience! I do toss mine out a few times a week to make sure that they dust bathe and graze a bit. I’ll put them in the middle of the lawn, and they always get distracted enough eat a bit or scratch around. Then it’s right back to it. Sometimes the broodies are so annoying that they get chased back into the nest by the other hens. If that’s the case with yours, do make sure that the other chickens are allowing her to eat. It’s likely that she’s sneaking over to the feeder when everyone else is outside, but I don’t know your set-up, so do think that through. Anyway, not to worry – she’ll snap out of it. She won’t be broody and molt at the same time! :)

      • Yes – amazing they (big bloggers) are “experts” after only a few years of chicken care.

        She is not too annoying and the others (except one) don’t bother her much, but I’ve never seen her eat from the feeder and I have kept a very close eye – I’ve only seen her take a quick sip (one quick dip of beak) of water a few times. When I take her out to the free range area, she fake pecks at nothing and scratches almost like it’s just a reflex – very distracted with ongoing gentle clucking (to the no-eggs) and the rush of hormones or whatever makes her shake and puff her feathers out – then quickly runs, full throttle with head down, back to the nest.
        She will eat raw corn/blueberries/oatmeal/meal worms/salmon/raisins if I sneak them to her. (maybe she’s faking the broodiness just to get the good food – haha).
        She is 16 months old, so I’m hoping that molt will happen soon!