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Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by chicky1016, Mar 29, 2016.
I was wondering how old does a hen have to be before she decides to sit on eggs?
A hen can go broody at any age once she has begun laying eggs. The hen's breed is much more important in terms of broodiness.
How so? I'm new to this. Thanks!
Since most eggs are incubated by machines these days and most people want hens to produce as many eggs as possible, many breeds have been selectively bred to reduce the instinct to rear chicks. That way they lay more eggs without a break...ie maximum egg production. That's not to say that any individual hen will or won't go broody (ie incubating a clutch of eggs) but the chances of a silkie or cochin going broody is much higher than a production breed like a Rhode Island Red or Leghorn, because silkies and cochins haven't been selectively bred for egg production to the detriment of brooding instinct.
Once a hen is mature enough to lay eggs, she could in theory lay a clutch of eggs and then start to incubate them. In reality it will depend on a number of other factors but breeding is probably the most significant one and I would guess that the majority of hens these days will never go broody in their whole lifetime. It seems really sad when you think about it! Maybe that is why those of us who have broody hens, have a special bond with them.... because they are special and we value that. Another factor which will affect whether a hen will go broody is the time of year, just like wild birds, although there are very occasionally ones that will brood even in winter. Mine usually keep me waiting until late Spring or Summer when the conditions are best for rearing chicks, much as I would love them earlier in the year.
Anyway, I hope that clarifies things a bit for you.
I assume you were hoping for one of your hens to incubate and rear some chicks? What breeds do you have and do you have a cockerel/rooster to make them fertile or were you planning to buy in fertile eggs?
I have a langshan/buff orphington mix that is about a year old. She's been acting funny this past week. Making these low clucking noises I've never heard before and walking around with her neck feathers slightly puffed up. We'll I went to close everyone in the coop tonight, and she was in a nesting box, and had been there for 6 hours. When I opened the lid to the box, she did this high pitched screech. Thoughts? We'll see come morning if she's still in the box.
And yes I have a rooster who fertilizes eggs all day long.
Yes, that sounds like she is going broody. Orpingtons and Langshans both have tendency to broodiness and mixes are more likely to go broody than pure breeds in my experience.
Do you want her to raise chicks? If so, then wait until you are sure that she is serious, usually two nights and days spent in the nest and then select the eggs you want her to hatch..... I would say a big bird like that will easily cover 10 egg for her first brood but you don't have to give her as many as that of course. Choose the cleanest eggs you have (but not washed and not thin shelled eggs) and mark them with a pencil mark right around them so that you can see at a glance which ones they are we they are in the nest. Put these into her chosen nest and remove any others. She may try to peck you so wear gloves and keep the eggs protected by your hand so that she doesn't break them as you try to put them in, or put them on the edge of her nest and let her pull them in. It's important to check every day for other eggs and remove them as the other hens will be tempted to lay in her nest or she may steal eggs from other net boxes. The alternative is to confine her to her chosen nest by fitting a makeshift door or cover, so that the other hens can't get in and then let her out once a day to relieve herself and get something to eat and dust bath etc.... I always dust their nest with Diatomateous Earth before I set eggs because sometimes they can get infested with mites with being on the nest for so long. Anyway, it will take 21 days for the eggs to incubate and then they should hatch.
If you don't want to hatch eggs, then it is best to break her of her broodiness by putting her in a wire bottomed cage with no bedding, chocked up off the ground, so that there is air flow underneath her. This will cool her off and help her return to normal behaviour and egg laying.
Good luck with her.
Thanks. I have 15 hens and get between 9 and 12 eggs a day. I already collected 10 eggs before she started to sit in that box so I don't know how many are under her. And I have a mixed flock and collected the ones already that I know who they belong to. The others that were laid, I don't know who the owner is. She was still in the box when I let them out this morning so we'll see. Can she continue to lay eggs as the days go on and try to hatch those ones? Or are the eggs she already has, going to be the only ones? (Unless she steals them)
And I read a link last night that said almost never will you get a hen that goes broody in her first laying season. And she was born last spring.
That's not really true. Hens go broody due to their nature rather than their age, however a number of other factors can play a role.