What does Broody mean?
A hen goes broody because she wants to sit on a nest and hatch chicks. During that time the hen can be very protective, growl, peck, and your sweetest hen could turn into a meany. The hen will get a clutch of eggs and sit on them if they are their own eggs or not. I have had hens steal other eggs to put in her clutch rolling the egg with her beak. I have also removed eggs from under a broody and she continue to sit on nothing.
Certain breeds are prone to going broody while other breeds never go broody as they bred the gene out. Some breeds that tend to go broody are Silkies, Buff Orpingtons, and Cochins. I have all 3. I also have a Polish hen that has never gone broody and is not known to do so. A hen will go broody whenever the timing is right. You do not need a rooster or fertile eggs, it's just in their nature.You can try to encourage broodiness by leaving eggs in the nest but ultimately it's up to them.
Broodiness can be contagious! Once my silkie hen became full broody a few days later my Cochin became broody, and a few more days after that so did my Orpington.
Broody hens pluck out their breast feathers to allow their skin to touch the eggs when they are sitting. So you may find a bunch of feathers in the nest.
Broody hens hold it while they are sitting on the nest and will only go to the bathroom once or twice a day so when they do go, it's large.
-Sitting on the nest longer, and longer
In my experience my hens worked up to being broody. They started sitting on the nest longer and longer during the day until they stopped coming off it completely.
-Stops eating, drinking, even treats
The hen stops eating, and drinking besides one short daily break. This is because she has to keep the eggs warm and can't leave long or the eggs will get cold and not hatch.
-Feathers Puffed Up
A hen will puff up her feathers and make her body look larger. She will continue to do this even pulled off the nest. This helps keep the eggs covered and warm. When you get near you may her hear make "buk" noises or even growl. She is in protection mode.
-Stops Laying Eggs
You have a Broody Hen... Now What?
There are a few options:
- If you have fertile eggs, room for more chicks/chickens, and the needs to care for the chicks if the mother cant take care of them than let her hatch the eggs. It takes about 21 days for them to hatch.
-You can also put fertile eggs under her to hatch
-Slide very young chicks under her at night.
If you do not have fertile eggs or do not want/can't have chicks for whatever reason you should Break Her:
- She should be removed from her nest and placed in a cage with water, food, oyster shells or egg shells (for extra calcium). The cage must have a wired bottom. The wire bottom is important because her belly is plucked bare and it will be uncomfortable for her to sit. I use a rabbit hutch and in my experience it usually takes about 3 days in the broody breaker. You could also a dog cage but as long as it has a wire bottom anything should work.
It can be unhealthy for a hen to sit when no eggs will ever hatch because they stop eating, drinking, going to the bathroom like normal, stop laying, and give everything to their clutch of eggs. That means after 21 days and the eggs don't hatch not only will you have a upset Momma but she may continue to sit. After awhile the Hen can become dehydrated. I have heard of other ways to break a broody but have not tried them. I found the broody breaker cage method to work best and will continue to use it if needed.