The term “broody” refers to a hen that is fixated on hatching an egg. In general, you want to avoid having your layers go broody on you because their egg production drops down to 0. Basically, when a hen goes broody her body is going into egg incubator mode as opposed to egg producer mode.
Common signals that a hen is broody include:
- Not leaving the nest other than to eat, drink and poop
- Squawking and even snapping at you if you try to take an egg out of their nest
- Appearing to be in a trance as she sits and waits for her eggs to hatch
The propensity to go broody varies by breed. Commercial layers are bred to have as little natural instinct to incubate eggs as possible, so they are the least likely to go broody. For non-commercial breeds that are more likely to go broody, there are things you can do to discourage this behavior and keep them focused on laying eggs.
To encourage hens not to go broody:
- Collect eggs as soon after they are laid as possible
- Remove a hen (multiple times) from her nest if she insists on setting there
- Remove the hen’s nest so there is no place for her to set
- Move the hen into a different coop, pen, run or yard so she must reorient herself
Of course, if you have a rooster and you are excited about seeing a little clutch of chicks waddling around in your yard… perhaps you shouldn’t discourage broodiness after all.