Ask the experts: How to break a broody hen
PUBLISHED: 12:14 14 June 2016 | UPDATED: 12:14 14 June 2016
Got a question for the experts? This time we find out how to break a broody hen
Q. I think I have the world’s most stubborn hen. I’ve tried everything to break my one year old Brahma — isolating her in a wire bottomed crate during the day for four days until she got really stressed, giving her cold baths and giving her baby chicks which she just ignored. This has been going on for a month and she’s losing weight. This is my first experience with a broody hen. How can I stop her broodiness?
A. Julie Moore says: The longer a hen is broody, the longer it will take to break her. Broodiness is controlled by hormones. If a hen sits on an empty nest or infertile eggs, the peeps from chicks will never come and she will sit waiting indefinitely. In her desire to be a mother, she will neglect her own health, eating less and losing weight.
To break a broody, you’ll need to disrupt her comfy nest and cool her heightened body temperature, particularly around her belly.
I refrain from giving cold baths due to thermal shock — I feel this is inhumane and stressful for everyone.
I’ve found the best way to deal with an unwanted broody is to use a Broody Buster — a home-made timber-framed cage with plastic mesh floor (this is kinder on the feet than fine chicken wire) equipped with food and water. The cage is not a conducive environment for getting comfortable whilst the elevated mesh floor allows cool air to circulate around her body, cooling her belly.
Your hen should be kept in the cage 24/7, not just during the day.
When you think she is cured, return her to the flock and watch her behaviour — if she makes a beeline for her chosen nesting site, you know she is still broody and needs longer in the Broody Buster.