A broody hen can be quite annoying. The hen does not lay eggs and is weakened considerably by brooding. Some chickens are so stubbornly broody that nothing seems to help. However, it is very important to keep a close eye on the broody hen. If this is not done, there is a possibility that the chicken will breed itself to death…
Why does a chicken go broody?
A hen naturally becomes broody to reproduce. An egg takes about three weeks to hatch. This is only possible at sufficiently high temperatures, so it is important that the chicken keeps the eggs warm by incubating on them. Some breeds will be broody more often and more persistently than others.
For example, the Rhode Island Red is almost never broody, but a Wyandotte is much more often broody. The broodiness in a chicken is caused by hormones. The pituitary gland produces the hormone prolactin. There are several factors that can influence the production of this hormone. An important factor is temperature.
At higher temperatures, the chickens become broody faster. In addition, seeing eggs has a positive influence on the production of this hormone. Also, chickens will ignite each other with their broodiness. If one chicken is broody, the other chickens will often become so too. The presence of a rooster has no influence on the production of the hormone. Chickens, therefore, become broody just as easily if no rooster has been around.
Features of broodiness
A broody hen has different behavior and can look different. A broody hen can be recognized by the following characteristics:
- She lets the wings hang.
- She often keeps a distance from the other chickens.
- If someone comes near, she will put her feathers up, scream or start pecking. She does this to protect her eggs.
- She makes clucking noises.
- She often has a bald spot on the chest to properly heat the eggs.
- She will push eggs in front of her nose with her beak under her belly.
- She won’t get off the nest much.
- The comb of a broody hen is paler to make itself unattractive to a rooster.
- She doesn’t lay eggs.
Incubating on eggs takes a lot of energy for a chicken. Because the chicken hardly leaves the nest, the chicken will eat and drink little. This will allow a chicken to lose weight significantly. There are even chickens that breed themselves to death.
Wanted or unwanted broody
A distinction can be made between desired and undesired broody chickens. If the hen is brooding on fertilized eggs and it is intended that the hen will hatch chicks, broodiness is desired. In that case, one should especially leave the chicken alone and ensure that there is sufficient clean drinking water and feed.
If chicks are not wanted, or the hen is brooding on unfertilized eggs, broodiness is often undesirable. It will exhaust the chicken unnecessarily. The hen will not lay eggs during brooding. Broodiness is a chicken can be quite persistent.
It is often the case that if the hen has been broody for a longer period of time, the broodiness is also more persistent. This will often not stop after three weeks, the normal incubation period. Some hens continue to incubate until the eggs hatch, which will never happen with unfertilized eggs.
In stubborn broody hens, removing the eggs is often not enough to stop the hen from brooding. The hens will continue to incubate without eggs. A chicken has only one goal during this period: to breed, to breed, and to breed more.
What to do with an unwanted broody hen
There are two things you can do with an unwanted broody hen: let the hen run its course and wait for the brooding to stop on its own, or try to finish the hen off broody. In the first case, it is important to remove the chicken from the nest every day so that the chicken can eat, drink and forage.
There is no telling how long it will take for the hen to finish brooding. As mentioned before, this can take a very long time. To prevent dead brooding, it is therefore very important that the caretaker keeps a close eye on the chicken.
In the second case, the caretaker can use a number of methods to help the hen get rid of the broodiness. In some cases, this will go quickly, but with persistent broodiness, it will take a lot of energy to get the hen off the nest.
Methods to finish a hen broody
Methods of breeding a hen in the broody range from mild and simple methods to more heavy-handed and less friendly methods. Which method is best for the chicken depends on the broodiness of the chicken. Chickens that have only recently become broody can often be helped out with simple and gentler methods.
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Chickens that have been broody for some time or certain breeds that are stubbornly broody often require a bit more heavy-handed methods. If a friendly method does not work, one can always switch to a more heavy-handed method. In general, it does not hurt the welfare of the chicken to finish the chicken when it is broody. A number of methods are mentioned below.
Remove the chicken from the nest regularly
By removing the chicken compartment from the nest, you disturb the chicken when incubating. The temperature of the chicken will also drop, which reduces the production of the breeding hormone. This method is quite simple and animal friendly, but will not work on stubborn broody chickens.
Closing the laying nest
As a result, the chicken can no longer breed in its nest, but any other chicken can no longer lay an egg. With this method, make sure that the other chickens that are not broody have access to the laying nest. With this method, there is a chance that the broody hen can look for another place to breed. So keep a close eye on the broody hen, especially if they roam freely.
Dip the chicken’s bottom in a bucket of cold water
This method is mainly intended to lower the temperature of the chicken. This has a negative influence on the production of the breeding hormone so that the chicken can stop breeding. Most chickens find this method less pleasant and it does not always have the desired effect.
Closing the chicken in a bare coop
In the case of really stubborn broody hens, this is the most effective method. Make sure that the chicken has no opportunity to breed and give the chicken fresh food and drink. If there is no loft available, an empty box will suffice.
Locking up the chicken with a rooster
A rooster will chase the hen all the time, making breeding impossible.