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Imaginary Eggs

Just when I thought we had settled into a comfortable backyard chicken life, my dear sweet wonderful most troublesome hen ever, Frances, has decided to go broody. And when I say broody, I mean it in every sense of the word. She’s not only aggressively protective of her imaginary brood of eggs (she’s been sitting on nothing for the past 2 days), her voice has become low and growly, her feathers are constantly ruffled, and she threatens to peck anyone who gets close to her nesting box.

So, what to do about it? I’ve managed to get her to leave her nest a few times for treats, and then I locked her out for a bit, but I didn’t want to keep the coop locked up all day, in case Alberta wanted to lay an egg. But Alberta has stopped laying as well, assumingly because the only nesting box she prefers is obviously, and grumpily being guarded.

I had read about people who have had success breaking broodiness with a cold water dunk a couple of times a day, to lower the hen’s hormonally increased body temperature, so I thought I would try to fool her last night by putting a plastic container of ice in her nesting box. I thought it would either convince her that her imaginary eggs had gone cold, or lower her body temperature to help her snap out of it, but she simply cozied up to it. It was a warm evening, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to leave it, but when I went out to check on her before bed, there was still ice in it and she had no intention of leaving it, so I felt sorry for her and removed it.

If anything, that trick has made her more stubborn. I coaxed her out this morning for a bit, and locked her out, but then Alberta wanted to go in, so I opened it back up. Of course Frances dashed in behind her and settled back in (no egg from Alberta) and when I tried to coax her out again a bit later, she wouldn’t even get off for corn, her favorite treat. What’s to be done? I don’t think we’re prepared to actually let her try to hatch some fertilized eggs. And I’d rather not have her malnourish herself for the next few weeks, not to mention miss out on all those weeks of fresh eggs!


I am an imaginary Mama, and I will not be moved!

13 thoughts on “Imaginary Eggs

  1. my deepest sympathies :d
    we had two broody hens (two out of 3) only recently and I ended up sacrificing some eggs and just leaving them to sit. Miranda, our 3rd hen continued laying throughout, so I just had to grab her egg each day before the others nabbed it to add to their clutches. They kept sitting for well over the 21 days, and I just made sure they came out regularly for food & water (armed with gardening gloves because they looked ver ferocious lol). I also tried the locking them out of the nesting box, and cooling bath in tub of water – neither worked so I just let nature take its course. I am pleased to say all girls are now back to normal and laying without wanting to sit on their eggs.

    • Thank you! It’s good to know that yours made it through the OK. And also that your similar methods to dissuade them didn’t work either. Over 21 days! It must just be a call of nature too strong for them to ignore!

  2. Henny went broody this summer. It is sooooo annoying. Our solution was more brutal that you’ve been. We grabbed her and threw her out of the nest box every morning. We locked the coop and no one could get in to lay all day. We put an alternative nest box in the run and the other hens had to settle for laying there – in my experience they’ll even lay on the ground when they have to. If they’ve got to lay, they’ve got to lay!

    Everyone was upset but in 3 or 4 days Henny gave up and we could go back to normal. She started to go broody a couple weeks later and that only took throwing her out of her box once for her to learn her lesson.

    I call it tough love.

    • Thanks! That may need to be my solution as well. We’re getting a little much needed rain this weekend, and I wanted her to enjoy it, so I just now donned work gloves and picked her up and tossed her out, discovering afterwards that she had laid another egg, so no wonder she was extra protective today. I briefly daydreamed about getting her some hatching eggs… She seems so determined! But it’s going to get back up to almost 100 degrees this week, and I don’t want her dying of heat stroke or dehydration in there, so I’ll probably just start locking them both out in the morning, like you did. Once she’s out she seems happy enough to peck around like usual, only occasionally checking to see if the door is still shut.

  3. Locking her out sounds like a good option. If you want the other to have access to the nest boxes you can close little miss broody in a dog crate with food and water for awhile till she breaks. It usually takes a few days, but each hen is different. We had one continue to try for 45 days.

  4. 49 days is the longest I’ve had a broody sitting on infertile eggs. I hope it doesn’t take that long for Frances. Could you try putting her in an open bottomed wire cage for a few days, raised on blocks. There is a lot about that technique on the Internet and it seems to work. Good luck.

  5. I have the same problem with my hens Betty and Bo…both broody and being guarded by the very protective Percy Cockerell…. Or at least I thought…. Yesterday I turfed them out….Percy went easily, the ladies not so, but once they were out they seemed relieved to be clucking and scratching about. I have had to repeat the process this morning, so we will see what happens tomorrow xx

    • Wow! 2 hens at once and a protective cockerell to boot! You have it worse than I do… must be the season. Frances was eager to get out of the run this morning for the first time in 4 days (yay!), and pecked around the yard happily until right before I left for work (of course) so I didn’t know whether she truly needed to lay or not… but I had to give her the benefit of the doubt, as I didn’t have time to wait and kick her out. Hopefully she won’t still be in there when I get home. šŸ˜¦

  6. I have two broodies right now. Only one is on fertile eggs, so she’s good. But the other is setting on nothing and it’s 117 here. To break a broody hen I have a separate coop with a wire bottom, then I put a fan under it. This is not suitable conditions to a hen, and it often works. Good Luck.

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