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Broody Hens

I notice a lot of people post looking for help and advice with their broody girls, so I'm creating this page in hopes of helping people enjoy...
  1. Southernbelle
    Broody Hens
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    I love broody hens! At one point, I kept an entire flock of Silkies whose sole purpose was to brood for me. I kept 10 hens and one rooster. Each hen would lay for about a month, go broody, raise her chicks and start laying again after her chicks were about a month old then start the whole cycle again! I loved it! I never had to worry about temperatures and humidity levels, or what to do when the power goes out - then when the chicks were born, I didn't need a heat lamp or put up with the dust and stink in the house. Now my broody flock consists of a variety of bantam breeds including Silkies, Cochins, Old English Game bantams, Seramas and Silkie crosses. I want to make clear, my experience with broodies is limited to chickens. I've never kept ducks, geese or turkeys.


    I notice a lot of people post looking for help and advice with their broody girls, but get limited responses, so I'm creating this page in hopes of helping people enjoy their experiences with their broodies. If there's any questions you think I need to address, please PM me with suggestions.​

    Will my hen go broody?

    It depends on the hen, it's possible for any hen to go broody, but it's more probable with some breeds than others. Production breeds like Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns are some of the least broody types of chickens. They were created for egg production, so broodiness was a trait that was specifically bred out of them. That's not to say it can't happen, but it's unlikely. The broodiest breeds are usually bantams. Silkies and Cochins are about tied for the Broodiest Breed Award, but Old English Games and Japanese are also very broody. My Silkies would go broody over and over and over all year long.

    How can I make my hen go broody? What causes broodiness?

    Broodiness is hormonal and there's nothing you can do to influence it. The hen will lay her egg every day or so until she's laid enough eggs to make a good clutch then her hormones tell her it's time to hatch those eggs. Leaving eggs in the nest to entice broodiness is generally a waste of good eggs. If they're serious about being broody, they'll sit on golf balls, rocks, or nothing at all. I've heard tales of forcing broodiness, but the means are cruel and I don't think it would make a very committed broody. The only way to entice a broody is to provide nice nesting spaces and proper nutrition.

    How can I tell if my hen is broody?

    Basically, she'll stay on the nest all the time. One day she'll be acting fine and hanging out with the other chickens, the next day she won't leave the nest and she's staring off into space. It can be a little worrisome at first - is she eggbound? did she have a stroke? Nope, just broody. If you try to reach under her, she growls at you or may peck your hand for messing with her nest. Sometimes they'll "practice" for a while before going broody for real. They'll spend all day on the nest, but roost with their buddies or spend a few hours outside - they're not truely broody at this point, so don't give them eggs yet. The biggest sign for me was if the hen was sleeping on the nest. I'd go down at night and check if she was on the nest or roosting with her friends. So if all the signs added up: staying on the nest day and night, fluffed up, staring into space, grumpy if disturbed and pecking my hand....broody.

    Should I put her in a seperate pen or leave her where she is?

    I prefer to move the hens to their own space for safety - a dog crate, rabbit cage, old brooder box, etc. Moving a broody is always risky because it may break them of their broodiness, so you have to weigh the risks. Sometimes they abandon the nest you set up or try to return to the old nest. It's always best to move them at night when they're sleeping, they're less likely to abandon the nest and try to make her space as close to what she had chosen as you can. I use empty cat litter buckets for nest boxes, so if the hen goes broody, I can pick up the entire bucket including the hen, eggs, hay and nest and move the whole thing to the dog crate without disturbing the hen. I've had hens choose to nest in the shavings in the corner of the coop. In that case, I set the dog crate over her, nest and all without moving her. I usually lay an empty feed bag over the crate to keep the other chickens from jumping on the crate and pooping on her. If you choose to move your hen, it would be best to move her, then wait and see if she handles the move before giving her fertile eggs to sit on.
    I've had too many bad things happen to broody hens when left with the group. One little hen had chosen the favorite nest and kept getting dragged off her nest by the bigger hens and her comb was torn and bloody. Once I had a rooster keep trying to mate a hen who was brooding in the corner of the cage and his weight on her body crushed the eggs. Recently I noticed a broody was losing eggs, so I watched and when the broody would get up to eat/drink two big hens would go to her nest and peck her eggs until they broke them, then they ate the developing baby. Once I found my little Silkie hen dead. She had recently gone broody and when I found her she'd been badly attacked by the other hens. I've had hatched chicks disappear, too, when they've been left with the group.
    If you have a small group of laid-back hens or if you don't have a lot of space, you may be more sucessful leaving her where she is. Make sure to mark the eggs that your hens is brooding so if the other hens lay eggs in her nest you can remove them promptly. I've found the only thing that stays on the egg when it's under a broody is Sharpie marker - pencil, crayon and water-based markers rub off from the constant contact with the broody's body. Watch the hen carefully to make sure the other hens are not bothering her.

    I never see her eating or drinking, what should I do?

    Broody hens only get off the nest once a day to get something to eat, something to drink and to poop - they're probably doing it when you're not around. Most of the time, my broodies would usually do this when I come down to feed and water because I would always bring the kitchen scraps and the whole flock would get excited which would snap the broodies out of their trances. On the other hand, I've never seen my anti-social Serama hen get off her nest, but there was always fresh poop in the crate and the level on the food dish would decrease every day, so I knew she was getting up.
    I know a lot of people choose to pick up their broody hens to make them get up and eat, but I never do this. It disturbs her concentration. As a beginner, I tried it and the goofy hen would just head back to the nest. Brooding is hard on the hen's body, but I've never actually seen a hen starve themselves to death while brooding.

    Do broodys lay eggs when they're broody?

    No. If your hen is still laying eggs, she's not truly broody. My hens would stop laying eggs once they went broody and wouldn't generally start up again until their chicks were about a month old.
    How long will she sit?
    This depends on the hen. I've had some sit for months - they were determined to hatch some chicks! I've had others that go for about 3 weeks and that's it. You never know what kind of broody you'll have until you give her some eggs and let her try. In general, hens can't count and most will sit until their eggs hatch, so even if you delay getting fertile eggs for her, if she's a good broody, she'll sit until they hatch.

    See here for more on broody hens: Old Fashioned Broody Hen Hatch A Long and Informational Thread. Enjoy your broody!

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Comments

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  1. nchls school
    Leaving eggs in the nest or replacing them with dummy eggs as they are laid will influence broodiness.
  2. chickenjoe12
    i think my hen is practising broody so what should i do to get her broody
  3. nchls school
  4. LBurt6
    I'm new to the chicken world. Got my first chicks on Valentines day of this year (2014). Six days ago one of my hens (a white leghorn no less) went broody on me. At first I tried to pull her from the nest and she'd walk around a bit but before long was back in the box again. I finally decided to let you hatch some eggs but we don't have a rooster so I bought Hatching eggs. I brought them home today and put them under her. I've been reading that chickens can't tell if eggs have been fertilized or not but when I added those six hatching eggs the flock change. Firstly she puffed up and seemed more content. Then when I went to check a while later I pulled her from the box to let her eat, and low and behold the rest of the flock came to check out the new eggs. Another white leghorn immediately sat on the eggs and the RIR started running up and down the latter wait for her turn. Is this normal behavior for them? Any concerns I should have? I'm super excited about these new eggs as they are Cream Legbars and I can't wait to add a few hens to my flock and more color to my basket.
  5. ChickaBangBang
    My daily free-Ranging Americana, Elizabeak went broody behind our shed and some fence panels leaning up against it so we blocked off both sides the best we could so nothing would get in with her and hurt her or the eggs. I didn't want to disturb her just in case she abandoned the nest. She's successfully hatched 4-5 chicks this weekend and is teaching them to eat and drink right now. We have a very small and tame flock with 6 girls (including Elizabeak) and our Rooster Big Red who at one time acted like he wanted to be a broody rooster and sat on eggs himself. Anyway, This is my first time with one of my girls sitting and hatching eggs so I'd like to know, is it ok to let her with the rest of the group so the babies can interact with the rest of the girls or should I take the chicks from her and brood them myself. We use to have a much bigger flock of 25 and when I moved I could only take the 7 with me and they were they ones I was most attached to. I hand raised them myself so I know what I am doing in that, but not sure about letting babies stay with momma. I'd hate for something to happen to my GrandChicks. Please help. Thank you :) I have rabbit hutches I was converting into coops for my small flock anyway, is it best to move chicks and momma in those and let her out during the day and see if she sits on them and mothers them?
  6. Feeb1
    My broody hen won't get off the nest at all and poops in it, she eats her feathers so I found lifting her each day and shutting her out the nest for 15mins stopped this and we had 8 chicks hatch out of 10. My question is she's gone broody at the end of Autumn is it alright to let her hatch or better to move her? Please help
  7. Chicken Boy1234
    My two black silkie frizzles have gone broody at the same time, they are sitting on a clutch of eggs each, I did have some in the incubator but not any more!
  8. ludwigamy31
    I have a broody hen but I also have 2 other hens they all lay their eggs in a rabbit hutch inside their barn she is a broody, after reading about them in your blog. she goes out to eat then right back in. and my rooster goes nutts looking for her, you would think at this point he would know shes in the barn since she does it daily, can i leave her alone, and let her hatch some eggs? Again they lay their eggs together. but she's the only one that seems to lay on them. they are all very gentle, and my family their all about a year as of April 11, 2013 the hutch is filled with shreding's then a layer of hay it's quite big, and again in their barn. I'm so excited...And thank you sooo much for sharing all you information about your broody.
  9. badnek
    i have eight hens and none of them will go broody they lay eggs but they'll never sit on them..
  10. PressOn
    Brooding Hen; Cuckoo Marans
    Fertile Eggs; Cinnamon Queen
    Solitary coop big enough for the eggs to incubate as well as the chicks to grow in to almost full size (3.5’X 6’ coop, 10’X4’ run). Rat ramp only during the first month of chicks life.
    Once the chicks are fully feathered I will let the brooding hen loose in the yard every day until she returns to the chicken run over the brooding coop.
    Conditions; Dark coop with plenty of food and water. Late winter in Utah (March 10th). Thick layer of wood chips in the brooding coop.
    Preparations; Set brooding hen in the brooding coop by herself March 1st on some store eggs until she is broody, add fertile eggs as soon after she goes broody as possible. Marbles in the water dish shortly before chicks hatch.
    First time using a brooding hen, project starts 4 month from today, wish me luck.
    Rob

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