A hen that is setting eggs or raising chicks is said to be broody. There is nothing inherently bad about broodiness, it is just a chicken doing what a chicken naturally does. However, there are lots of circumstances in which you may want to prevent broodiness. For example, if you don’t have a rooster, the eggs cannot be fertilized and therefore will not hatch. A broody hen, though, will set on the eggs for no reason. Setting on eggs is physically demanding for the broody hen.
If you do not want your hens to hatch their eggs, you will want to take steps to keep them from getting broody. The first step is to make a careful decision regarding what breed of chicken you plan to raise. Broody hens do not lay eggs, so if egg production is your goal, a broody hen is not such a good thing. Some breeds that have been developed as egg layers rarely go broody, while others display the tendency much more readily. Leghorns are far less likely to become broody than Cochins.
A few tips for keeping your hens off their nests:
- First, try simply moving her several times a day.
- Make sure you are removing all of the eggs from the nesting area.
- If that doesn’t work, you may want to try isolating her in a wire cage or something similar, with food and water but no comfortable nesting material for a few days.
You may not want to stop your hen from hatching her eggs, though. If you want chicks, a broody hen is a wonderful thing. If you see that one of your hens is going broody and you want to take advantage of the natural tendency, you will want to take some special precautions while your hen incubates and hatches her eggs:
- Provide a sheltered space, separate from the other chickens. Simply dividing the coop using chicken wire or old plywood will work if you just need a temporary area.
- Provide comfortable nesting material, such as straw.
- Make sure there is space for her nest, food, water and room for her to get up to relieve herself.
- Wire floors make for the easiest clean up.
Whether you choose to allow your hens to go broody or not will depend entirely on your situation. Understanding that they could and what you should do if they are broody is just good flock care. Making sure that your hens do not suffer through the demands of incubating eggs that won’t hatch will keep you with a steady supply of eggs. Also, it will prevent your birds from needlessly incubating eggs.