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Complete Guide ~ Dealing With All Things Broody

  1. The Chickeneer
    Knowing when your hen is broody:

    The first thing to do is to make sure that you have identified your hen as a broody correctly. Hens that are broody, or beginning to express broody behavior, you will notice, will stay in the nest box longer, and will puff up their feathers or growl when you come near, trying to peck at you if you touch them. Keep in mind the breed of hens you have, as some breeds are better at being broody then others, and will sport better incubating and mothering techniques with their chicks. Also remember, you should let the hen set on a pretend clutch of eggs for a couple of days, to a week, testing her to see if she is determined to hatch before you put eggs under her or let her set on her own clutch. Because, if she all of a sudden gives up, or leaves, you are left with partially developed eggs that will die in 6 hours if incubation fails to proceed.

    [​IMG]
    Breaking Broodiness: ~ putting ice cubes under hen(takes a couple tries)
    ~ breaking eggs, leaving them in nest box for her to see
    ~ blocking her nest box(with a peace of wood etc.)
    ~ take her out of the nest all the time

    ~ put her on the roost with the other chickens at night

    If you have an especially broody breed such as a Silkie, Cochin, Game breed, or pretty much any type of Bantam, you probably shouldn't have to worry if they will quit brooding during incubation, because these breeds have a notorious reputation for their spectacular brooding abilities. A broody hen will sit in the nest box all day, only coming out once each day to eat, drink, and defecate.If you ever have a hen from a breed that rarely broods, and she becomes broody, be very careful, she could either leave the nest during incubation or leave the chicks when they are still young. This has happened to me and many other people, so always have a backup brooder and incubator on cases like these.

    The signs of a broody hen:



    ~puffing up feathers ~having large droppings
    ~pulling feathers out ~only coming out of nest box once a day
    ~growling ~makes distinct clucking sound when outside eating
    ~pecking/biting ~staying in the nest box [​IMG] [​IMG]






    Broody Aggression:
    All hens that become broody develop a type of aggression to protect their eggs and defend their chicks. How this happens, depends on the individual hen.Hens that were more skittish prior to being broody will now become more aggressive than hens that were friendly and became broody. The reason why, is because the ones that were more skittish, now see you more as a potential threat to their young and will peck you trying to defend themselves.This just makes them even better mothers, fiercely protecting their chicks against predators, but this will also make the chicks that much more afraid, and skittish of people. To help prevent this, it is helpful to spend time with the broody and her chicks each day, or whenever you can.Hens that are more friendly, and used to people, will be much friendlier broody hens, although they will all growl and raise their neck feathers when you come, they might not peck you as hard, and will not mind your presence when she is foraging with her chicks.

    They will walk around looking like this And sitting like this
    [​IMG] [​IMG]





    Incubation and hatching:
    The hen will take care of most of the incubation. So you really don't have to worry too much. They pluck out some of their breast feathers, exposing their skin to the eggs, helping to heat the eggs better, regulating temperature, and controlling the humidity. They might kick out an egg or two from the nest box sometimes, this is because their instincts tell them that the egg is probably rotten or for some important reason, does not belong in the nest. Do not worry if your broody does some unusual things, it is usually for the good of the chicks. If you have one of the broodies from a breed that rarely broods, watch her closely, it is best to have a backup incubator in case anything happens or she "abandons nest". It is also good to have a backup incubator even with the especially broody type, because a predator or dog might eat them during their passing hour of eating and drinking, although rare, this has happened, and with having a backup 'bator, you can save the hatch.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    During the incubation period, the hens feeder should be a chick feeder filled with baby chick mash, and she should have a baby chick waterer also. This is to get her used to the idea, that there is where she eats, and that is her food. So when the chicks hatch, she is able to show the chicks where, and how, to eat & drink.

    Many people ask if you should take the hen off the nest during lockdown. Usually, a hen will get up off her nest each day to eat, drink, and eliminate.But the last three days of incubation, she might be more inclined to stay on the nest full time.It is not necessary for her to get up and eat on the day of hatch. She should set on the hatching eggs and not get up at all. But the few days before hatch day, it is advised she get up to eat and drink. I, personally wouldn't let the hen out for long periods of time during the lockdown period, because it could chill the eggs and possibly kill them, but she will know better to get off anyways, so now you worry that she needs to be fed. I always set a little bowl of food and water right in front of the nest box, so all she really needs to do is stretch her neck a little bit to gain access to it,and not messing up her hatch. This method is especially helpful in colder climates, where the eggs could chill shortly after the hen gets off the nest.


    Once the chicks start hatching, the hen knows by instinct to stay put and not leave the nest until most, or all the chicks, have hatched. If she decides to leave the nest with the already hatched chicks, and you see that there is still an egg or two that are hatching, or alive, take them into your house and set the eggs on a towel under a warm lamp.Once those eggs hatch, keep them inside and return them to the hen later on that night. If you think the hens stays too long on the nest once all the chicks have hatched, and there is only one egg left that you think is a dud, leave them alone. Do not fear for the hunger of the chicks.Newly hatched chicks still have yolk reserves from the egg, and don't have to eat for the first 24 to 48 hours. They evolved this way, because they have have to wait a day or two under the hen, before all the eggs hatch and the hen decides it's time to go outside.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]




    Raising the chicks:
    Once the hen believes that enough chicks have hatched, she will take the chicks and head out of the nest box. She will teach them how to eat and drink. She will sit on them at night and keep them warm. She will pretty much show them everything there is for a chicken to learn and will protect them along the way. The hen and her chicks should be separate from the main flock for at least a week.
    [​IMG]

    It is preferred to have them separate from the flock, then put them in once the chicks are 2 months old. But If you so desire to have them with the main flock, there are some requirements that should be attended to. Make sure that the hen and her chicks, have their own nest box, that is on the floor, in a private corner of the coop. The chick feeders and waterers must be near the nest box, as they will spend much of their time there, for their first weeks of life. Also make sure to have chick grit, because if their going to be out free ranging with the big girls, they need to be able to eat grass and such and be able to digest it properly. If you have them separate from the flock, with their mother, in a little coop and they only eat chick mash, chick grit is not necessary. Chicks tend to get lost very easily, and can get stuck in the weirdest places. You need to count the chicks every night when they are in the nest box, and look for ones that are missing. It is also advised to have marbles or rocks in the water, as they tend to like drowning themselves. This is because they were used to swimming as a little embryo inside the egg, and once they hatch, they have a desire to jump into water, thinking they are still that little embryo. The desire to drown themselves fades away with age and they won't be doing it once they are 1 week old. But precautions still need to be taken care of.

    Raising the chicks with the rest of the flock is fairly dangerous, especially if there are roosters around. That is why it is preferred to have the mother and chicks in their own little separate coop. This will make it easier to keep track of chicks, so they don't get lost. It will also eliminate the possibility of other chickens attacking them. Their feeders and waterers should still be fairly near to the nest box, and waterers should still have marbles or rocks inside of them. Spending time with the chicks whenever you can, will help them to get used to people, and be more friendly. The chicks and the mother hen, should be mixed in with the flock once they are 2 months old. The mother hen will help her chicks find their place in the pecking order and will soon loose her broodiness, and the chicks will now be old enough to fend for themselves.


    If you have any questions about any particular problem, just PM me and I'l be glad to help [​IMG]

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Comments

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  1. birdbrain1948
    Thanks for all the ideas evryone. Happy Easter!
  2. Jack Speese
    Oddly enough the best broody hen I ever had was a Black Star/black sex-link, which is a commercial egg laying hybrid and supposedly not broody in the first place. Go figure! I did have a few cochins once, beautiful birds and also great setters. I hatched a clutch of mallard duck eggs under one and a bunch of mixed breed chicks under two of the others. Unfortunately a few years later I lost them both, while they were brooding, to a raccoon that broke into the pen (and paid the ultimate price for it...in my opinion, anything that breaks into a pen is vermin and will be treated as such...it's one thing if the birds are out loose free-ranging; I don't like it but I expect an occasional loss, but breaking into pens and coops I won't tolerate).
  3. mosander
    Great article! This is my 3rd time with a broody chicken. My first was an Orpington. She had two eggs, but the first hatched chicken left the nest and so did the hen and she left the second egg and it died. Sweetie, the new chick, is now laying eggs as a pullet. The second was a Silkie who hatched 5 Australorp eggs, that are now bigger than she is. It is a scream watching the 5 huge black Australorps (3.6 months old) running after their Silkie mom. My largest Australorp hen is now sitting on a clutch of 13 Rhode Island Red eggs and should hatch 3/9. I put them in a rabbit cage with a plastic nest box. After the chicks hatch, I will put chickie food and water in the box. This is soooo much better than raising them myself. However, the mother chicken will begin to lay eggs again about 2 months after hatching, which has been my signal to reintroduce them to the flock. They stay in the rabbit cage for a few days until everyone is acclimated. Then the mom is let out to reestablish her dominance. After another week or so the chickies join the flock too. They return each morning to their special food and water separate from the flock.
  4. Jack Speese
    I've never had problems with a rooster bothering chicks either. As long as everyone has plenty of space, they've always gotten along fine. But I do have problems with other hens trying to share the broody's nest or the broody herself getting back on the wrong nest unless I isolate her from the rest of the flock in some way. With ducks I've never had this problem, but with chicken hens I have.
  5. tstoikes
    My hens hatch in the coop. I have a couple of tops off cat boxes to give the littles a place to hide. The roosters stay away until the chicks are about a week old. Then they begin feeding and protecting the chicks. I have one older rooster that the weaned chicks go to if they are cold at night. He is cochin/silkie and very feathered. The chicks snuggle under him. Never had to do the water with marbles except with poults. I try to limit my first time broody hens eggs till I see if they are good Moms. But I rarely have problems with the hens. Mine also rarely pluck feathers.
  6. MCCAIGALLEN
    Forgot to add.........I've never had a problem with roosters deliberately hurting chicks. As a matter of fact, I had a hen hatch a winter brood about 6 weeks ago, so I put her in one of our "safety cages" (again - dog crate covered with 1/2" hardware cloth) and put her in the green house with a rooster whose feet were deformed. Now she and "Tippy toes" share the responsibilities and snuggle side by side at night with baby heads poking out everywhere.
  7. MCCAIGALLEN
    Great article; great photos!
    I do farm bird rescue and do not isolate any breeds. They get to free range, intermingle, and interbreed. I have 3 chicken houses and two horse stalls devoted to my little community. One of the horse stalls is completely covered inside with 1/2" hardware cloth (in case of rats), has a chicken sized door to the outside where there is 20' X 30' pen of 1" chicken wire, completely covered. My hens can and do set in whichever house they live in, but as soon as the babies hatch, mother and kids are transferred to the Maternity Ward. They stay there until they are off baby food (5-6 mo.) If mother looks antsy and starts running along the edges of the maternity pen and the kids are big enough to maintain body heat, I let her out.
    There are hens and then there are Darwin hens. These are hens that if there were a Darwin award for mother hens; they'd get it! We had a hen who set right out on bare ground in front of the barn. We put a cage over her. When the kids hatched, she took off for the high grass with the kids in desperate pursuit, then she turned around and trampled them before I could get to her. Her next year's two chicks saw how things were and ran away and joined another brood.
  8. Jack Speese
    One thing I would add to this neat article (love the pictures too!), and that is to move the broody to a separate pen or coop, again with dummy eggs to make sure she is settled. I generally do this at night, and put a (well-ventilated) basket over her to keep her on the nest. The next morning I uncover her. If this doesn't work I'll let her back in the flock and try again a day or so later. Once she is settled, I'll give her the eggs I want to hatch. The reason that I do this is because when they leave the nest to eat and drink, hens seem to be notoriously dumb about getting back on the same nest. If they have the choice, they are just as likely to make the wrong choice and get on another nest and leave their eggs to chill. Also, other hens will lay in the nest of the broody, resulting eggs of different ages in the same nest and more likely in the eggs being chilled, pushed out of the nest, and broken. I've had an occasional broody not take to being moved, but I've NEVER had one successfully hatch that I didn't move. With waterfowl hens this doesn't seem to be a problem, but with chicken hens I think it is necessary to move the broody or else confine/isolate her in some way from the rest of the flock so she can't get back on the wrong nest and so that other hens don't try to use her nest too.
  9. Bigwig
    Great Article!
  10. chiengora
    I have never had a hen hatch eggs for me but I have twice purchased day old chicks and had a hen raise the chicks.
    After the broody hen had been setting on dummy eggs for a couple of weeks, I put the day old chicks under her after full dark when the hen and chicks were asleep. I had no problems with her accepting the chicks this way.
    I was amazed at how much faster the chicks grew. I didn't have any with respiratory issues and a much lower incidence of pasting up than when I raised chicks in a bin in the house.
    I locked the hen and chicks in the coop for a little over a week and then let them out with the other hens. (I have no roosters.) I never saw the other hens bother the chicks but the foster mother was very good at keeping the other hens away until the chicks were partially grown. All of my chickens are Americunas.

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