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Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by edenrice, Nov 27, 2016.
What are the best ways you've found for getting a hen broody? Thanks!
IMO, we mere humans have no control over the matter. It's purely hormone driven. Some breeds are more prone to broodiness, and there are some birds that just seem to ignore the reputation of the breed they belong to, and choose to go broody in spite of the fact that their breed "just doesn't do that." But it's hit or miss, and usually not when it's convenient for the owner. Old wive's tale says that allowing eggs to collect in the nest will induce it.
Not wanting a broody at a particular time...
Honestly, I agree with LG - it's hormonally driven and there's not much we as humans can do about it. If you want eggs at a particular time, get an incubator. It's the only way to guarantee hatching on your schedule.
I think I am having some success with a breed with strongly developed inclination for broodiness. In my setting feed intake can be limited. Once a hen has been laying for 6 to 8 consecutive days, her feed ration is restricted to about 2/3 what she would otherwise eat. This causes her to deplete nutrient reserves including fat, protein and possibly medullary bone (Calcium and Phosphorus) which is closer to natural. Broodiness then commences usually within a few days. The exhausting of nutrient reserves is somehow part of the counting process that naturally limits clutch size. The exhausting of those reserves is what I think sets off hormone changes associated with broodiness.
If hens are not of breeds of strong inclination for broodiness, then approach does not work so well with my birds. My American Dominiques are less reliable by going out of lay and not go broody.
I agree you can't force a hen to go broody.
However, if you have one of the breeds (Silkie, Cochin, or game) that frequently broods, and thus may have the genetic makeup, and she is mature (especially a hen that has brooded before), you can create an environment that entices a brood....usually this works best in spring, a common season for brooding, but for the really broody types, you have a good chance of throwing them into a brood almost any season.
In poultry, the hormones are set by warmth and clutch pressure (see article below). I've also read that if their calcium intake is too low, they will not go into a brood as brooding hormone release, genetically (if present), typically comes after a high lay period. (My Silkie wasn't entering into her normal brood, and I gave her extra calcium which seemed to help...she shortly went into a brood). I give my broodies some free feed calcite grit to make sure they are getting enough calcium.
I would also keep them on good high protein feed, like 18% protein, as they need overall good health to promote a good brood. The hen needs to build up her body since brooding will take it out of her.
Letting eggs gather in the clutch is actually a good thing as the pressure of the clutch size places pressure on the nerve in the breast bone that causes release of hormones to cause brooding. (That's not old wives tales...that comes from Veterinary science...see article below).
A nice cozy nest with limited light is also very important.
Create a nest that is safe, dry, secluded, warm, dark, and full of nice nesting materials with a clutch of fake eggs (I like Timothy hay best but soft pine shavings work well too). I've even penned my broody girls to limit their access away from that nest. If she just isn't in the right cycle, she'll get cranky. Let her out. If she is hormonally close, you can trip her into a brood.
And the best way to get a brooding hen is to place an ad on a chicken forum asking for an annoyingly frequent broody and proven hen.
I've gotten them for free or small change, as most people don't want them (as they don't lay eggs).
Silkie owners almost always have a hen or two they can part with who is a proven brooder.
I got my bantam Cochins from a turkey breeder who was using them to hatch turkey eggs (of all things). I purchased young pullets from the best brooding mother...and they have not let me down when they matured.
It is unlikely you will get a broody from a commercial feed store line as the broodiness has been selected out of them since the focus is on egg production.
But your heritage, breeder quality lines often have some very good brooders.
And then you have goofy Black Sex Links...of the 5 or so I've had, 3 have been excellent brooders. So it can happen even in commercial lines, but don't count on it.
Get a proven broody, feed her well, create a nice little out of the way nest that other hens can't bother her in, and soon you should be rewarded.
Very good information LofMc! Thank you!