Broodiness questions

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by newchickgirl, Sep 10, 2010.

  1. newchickgirl

    newchickgirl In the Brooder

    Aug 1, 2010
    Appleton, Maine
    Ok, I don't exactly understand the brooding process. I get that the hen lays the eggs and sits on them until they hatch, but what I don't understand is if the hen lays an egg a day for a week or so, sitting on them the entire time, wouldn't the egg she laid on Sunday hatch a week earlier than the egg she laid the following Saturday? How does the hen know how many eggs she can handle? I want to try hatching eggs in the spring, but I don't think I can "make" a hen go broody, right? Is it easier to just hatch eggs in the incubator then introduce them when they are bigger?

  2. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    It's a miracle!


    First, no, you cannot "make" a hen go broody. She either does, or doesn't. It's hormonal. (First sign of magic, via Mother Nature's whimsy.)

    Second, IF a hen is broody, and starts to lay eggs each day for her clutch, when she gets to the number she instinctively (another magical Mother Nature thing) feels is the best amount, she will stop laying eggs. In the meantime, those eggs are sort of in suspended animation because she really isn't incubating them.... she's moving them around, pushing them to the outside not directly under her body, all that. When she really starts to set on 'em, she will move cooler eggs directly under her breast and body, and rotate them so they all get the right amount of heat. And incubation will being in earnest, and last for about 20-22 days.

    And if everything goes well, most or all of the eggs will hatch.

    See? A miracle.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2010
  3. mmaddie's mom

    mmaddie's mom Songster

    [​IMG] it IS a miracle!
  4. Debbienmousey

    Debbienmousey Songster

    Just to clarify, a hen starting a nest doesn't continuously sit on her eggs until she has enough to hatch. Most of our chickens go broody directly in the coop, and of course we gather eggs daily, so they eventually just decide when they want to set, and then sit on the nest, regardless of whether there are any eggs or not. We did have one chicken who nested out in our neighbors field. She'd go off and lay, til one day she came up missing and I searched for her and found her. She had a nest of 11 eggs. Guineas are like that too, they lay a load of eggs (and even get their friends to help) and then decide when there's enough to sit on.

    Hatching chicks inside is fun, and generally safer for the chicks (depending on how you're set up), but seeing the mama hen raise her chicks is really awesome. [​IMG]
  5. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    No, she's not sitting on the eggs while she's laying. I didn't even know mine was broody until she stopped laying and started sitting on 2 wooden eggs. I let her sit for a few days on the wooden eggs to make sure she was serious. Then I put her in more private quarters of the coop, and gave her eggs that I wanted her to hatch. It is important that you give all the eggs at once, otherwise you have eggs at different stages. Then the hen has to decide whether to let the eggs that haven't hatched die to care for the chicks, or let the chicks die to hatch the rest of the eggs.
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    A broody hen does not lay eggs. Sometimes a hen will act kind of broody, spending a lot of time on the nest, growling, fluffing up, whatever, but they are not always serious about being broody when they act like that. The key to me is that if they spend two consecutive nights on the nest instead of on their favorite roosting area, then I consider them to be serious about being broody. A broody hen is not eating and drinking enough to keep her weight up and in the top peak of health anyway. If she is also laying an egg that is 2% or 3% of her body weight on top of that, she is putting her life in serious danger. Mother Nature would not allow that. A hen that is getting ready to go broody will often lay very well before they go broody. When they truly go broody, they stop laying.

    A hen does not have a clue how many eggs she can handle. When the hormones hit, a broody will set on a nestful of eggs, one fake egg, or her imagination. Some people think letting eggs build up in a nest will cause a hen to go broody. It may be a factor, but I can tell you from experience that it does not always work.

    I prefer to have a broody hatch and raise the chicks. The problem is that you cannot tell when a hen will go broody and I don't know any way you can reliably make a hen go broody. Using an incubator and raising them yourself is a sure way to get new chickens, but I don't consider it the easy way.
  7. serendipityfarm

    serendipityfarm Songster

    Mar 28, 2010
    " A broody hen is not eating and drinking enough to keep her weight up and in the top peak of health anyway. "

    So, with that in mind, how often is it safe to allow a broody hen to hatch? I have one who hatched a single chick about 5 weeks ago and is just starting to lay again. Would it hurt her if she decides to sit again?
    She seems to be back to her pre-brooding vigorous, grumpy old self!


  8. elmo

    elmo Songster

    May 23, 2009
    I weighed my hens when they finished hatching out their clutches this spring, and each one had lost about 30 percent of their body weight. They regained this weight pretty quickly once they were done raising their chicks, but if it was up to me, I wouldn't encourage a hen to go broody again until she had regained her lost weight.

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