How to Move a Broody Hen Successfully

by Manda H

Published March 12, 2024

This past week I went into my chicken coop to realize that after a very short weekend away from home that I did not have just one broody hen, but I had five!
What is a broody hen, you ask? A broody hen is a hen that starts to sit on a nest of eggs in the hopes of hatching out baby chicks in 21 days.

Broody Hen with Chicks

As for me, I had one hen already off on her own, located in our hay bales but the other 4 were reluctantly sharing 3 different nests. I have also discovered that they keep rotating which nest they are sitting in. The problem? All of this in and out of the nests, swapping around eggs there is likely some level of disagreement among the hens as I have been finding crushed eggs. It became evident it was time to break these 4 girls up so that they could protect their clutch, as well as, give the rest of my flock access to these nesting boxes again.

So how exactly does one convince a broody hen to change locations? If you simply move her to another spot, she will abandon her eggs and return to the original location even if it is without her clutch. It is important that you work with the hen to make this a success. Word of warning, sometimes even the best laid out plans will result in a hen who makes a decision to give up motherhood and wishes to return to the flock. That is a risk you take upon your attempts to relocate your broody hen

Assessing the Situation – How broody is your hen?

The first thing to consider is how broody your hen is currently. There are varying levels of just how committed they are to hatching out a clutch of eggs. You will want to be patient. I have a lot of hens who will sit for a day or two and then lose interest. I know each has raised her level of commitment when the feathers start to be pulled out, leaving her abdomen and keel bone area a bit naked for warm skin to make contact with the eggs. Not every hen will pull her feathers, but I find the ones who do are very committed, and in my own experience, it has also resulted in better hatch rates.

Next, I like to pet the chicken. How many feathers are lifting? Is she doing a bit of a chicken growl, snarl going on? Has she been pretty intense about her job sitting on eggs at least for a few days? If so, it’s time to attempt to move her. I have had the greatest success moving a hen into a dark area so that she feels safe.  I do it at night and move the bedding material with her if I am able. By keeping the area dark, she cannot see as much so she is not as likely to try to take off running. I will put her into the area first and have her settle before adding her eggs.  This protects the eggs from becoming broken if she flips out a little from being relocated.

Broody Hen in straw with chicks Meyer Hatchery

How to Relocate

I like to use a dog cage with an old rabbit nesting box put into a dark corner. I usually wait until she is at least 10 days in of sitting before moving her. You can also opt to move her as late as the day the chicks hatch. You can move the chicks with her into a protected area. This would keep her chicks closer to her, without worries about the chicks dropping out of the nesting box. It also protects the chicks from being pecked by the other hens. It is important to line the bottom of the cage to make sure the chicks cannot get out away from their mama’s protection.

Assisting the Broody Hen

Once this is done, I will add a small feeder and waterer for both the broody hen and her chicks to use.  Having food and water close by will allow the broody to quickly leave the nest to get what she needs.  She may not eat or drink much while she is sitting on the nest, but having clean, fresh food and water available and within easy reach is good for the broody hen and her chicks once they hatch.

Also, if you’ve never had a broody hen before, let me warn you about the big, stinky poop that follows after the chicks hatch.  You’ll know it when it happens.  Be ready to clean that up quickly!  I’d read about it and thought, “How bad can it be?”  I was surprised the first time I actually saw and smelled it.

Hen sitting on hatching chicks Meyer Hatchery

If I have relocated the broody hen and her chicks, I will leave them in the secured area until I see how the mama is doing.  If she seems like the protective type, I may open the door to let them out with her. This still gives them a safe place to come back to when they need it, but it also allows them to start mingling with the flock under Mama’s protection and watchful eyes. When the chicks seem like they have integrated into the flock well and are no longer hanging out only with the mama, I will remove the crate.  This may be when the chicks are about 10 weeks old.  

…and that’s how I relocate a broody hen.  Let us know if you have done this.  What method have you used and how did it turn out?  

Looking for a few breeds that have a good chance of going broody?  Check out our Brown Egg Layers that are filtered to show the tendency to go broody. Bantams also have some amazing options when it comes to breeds that love to become mother hens.

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