How do you know a hen is going broody?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Chicken5555, Feb 9, 2017.

  1. Today I noticed one of my nine month old pullets in the nest box when I did morning chores. She was still in the box a few hours later when went back in to check for any early eggs. She was still in the nest box. I didn't think anything of it because for the last week she's been spending more time in the box.

    I went back around noon (I like to visit my birds a lot) and she was still in the nest box. She was just sitting there puffed up and her eyes were glazed over. Two other pullets were trying to push her out to lay eggs while the other nest boxes remained empty. Silly girls.

    Anyway. Just before dark I went out to the coop again to see that everyone made it bed alright, and she was still there! I started hoping for a broody, but all of a sudden she got up and went the roost. The eggs she had been sitting on were hot.

    Is she getting ready to go broody? I don't want her to sit all day if she is going to roost at night because she'll starve and the eggs will die. Any thoughts? How can I encourage her to stay on the eggs at night if she is broody?

  2. myfivegirls

    myfivegirls Songster 9 Years

    Jan 12, 2009
    Delhi, NY
    Often, when I hen is "thinking" of going broody, she'll sit almost all day, but return to roost at night. After a day or two of this, when she's ready to sit tight, she'll stay on past roost time. I've found that leaving 10+ eggs in the nesting box usually triggers certain hens to go broody. IE - right now I have 6 broody hens, all b/c the hens are laying like crazy, so there's lots of eggs in the nesting boxes.

    I'd keep an eye on her & try not to disturb her. She may just go broody, especially if there's eggs in the nesting box. You could just switch them out, until she gets serious, as you don't want them to start developing until you are sure she's "committed".

    If you're on the "desktop" mode of BYC, in my signature there is an article I wrote several years ago about broody hens. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask me, as I love broody hens & have many broods each year.
  3. Awesome. Thank you so much for your answer.
    I keep a golf ball or two in all of the nests to try to encourage the younger pullets to lay in 'the right place'. If I move the golf balls all to one nest, do you think she'll sit there instead of in everyone's favorite nest? One more question for now, assuming she decides to stay on the nest to hatch eggs for real. If she insists on sitting on the flock's favorite nest, on the top level, can I move her without breaking her of being broody?
    I'll look at your article later today when I have more time.
  4. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member 9 Years

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    She is broody when she quits laying and stays on the nest all day and night. Right now, it sounds like she is thinking about it, but not fully there yet. Look for belly plucking, growling sounds, puffing up at you when you approach her as well.

    I don't move my broodies, they hatch eggs where they choose to sit. I've tried many times to move them with eggs, and they always freak out and try to go back to the nest they wanted to be in. So I mark the eggs I want them to hatch with a sharpie, and remove unmarked eggs every day. Then, when they hatch the chicks, I move them at night to a secure location (still in view of the flock) where mama hen can care for them. Hens generally don't take chicks out of the nest box for a couple of days. My hens hatch in the upper nest boxes all the time. (it seems to be their favorite)

  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging 9 Years

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Hens go broody because hormones take over. Sometimes those hormones hit like a ton of bricks, sometimes they just sort of ease in over time. I’ve had hens act as if they are going broody for over a week and never truly flip over to full broody mode where she can be trusted with eggs. Sometimes they flip after a day or two. Sometimes when it hits hard it seems they are instantly ready.

    There are a lot of different ways a hen can act broody. Some of the more common: When they are off the nest they walk around fluffed up and make a constant “pucking” sound. Usually they stay by themselves and are kind of in a hurry to eat, drink, poop, and maybe take a dust bath. I have had some hang with the flock a bit, but that’s rare. When they are on the nest they are usually pretty defensive, fluffing up, growling, and pecking if you get close. But I’ve had hens just on a nest to lay get defensive the same way. It’s not a sure sign they are even thinking about going broody. When a hen truly goes broody she stops laying eggs. My test to see if a hen is actually broody enough to trust with eggs is that she has to spend two consecutive nights on the nest instead of roosting in her normal spot. Someday that test will probably fail me but so far it has worked.

    Before a hen starts laying eggs even, she stores up an excess of fat. Anyone who has ever butchered a laying hen or pullet can verify this compared to a cockerel or rooster. They have a lot more fat. Different hens store up different amounts, mostly in the pelvic region but it is somewhat scattered throughout their body. This excess fat is what they live on if they go broody. That’s why a broody hen doesn’t have to leave the nest more often that she does to eat and drink. A broody hen will lose weight while broody but it’s fat that was stored for that purpose. This is a reason truly broody hens stop laying eggs, they need to live off the nutrients they have stored instead of wasting them laying eggs that won’t hatch because they were laid after she started incubating eggs.

    In the heat of summer, I’ve had broody hens leave the nest twice a day for over an hour each time. In cooler weather I’ve seen broody hens come off once a day for about fifteen minutes. Usually I don’t see them off the nest for days at a time, but I know they are coming off because they are not pooping in the nest. Whether they come off for a short time or a long time they still normally get good hatches. The one that was off twice a day for over an hour each time had a good hatch.

    If I want a hen to hatch eggs, I start collecting eggs for her to hatch while I’m waiting to see if she is really broody. You can put extra golf balls under her or mark some “sacrificial” eggs that will be tossed when you give her the eggs you really want her to hatch to encourage her. For a lot of them leaving extra “eggs” under her won’t make any difference but for some I think it does once the hormones start. All the eggs you want her to hatch have to start at the same time or you risk a staggered hatch which is a horrible thing for someone to go through, especially their first time. Some eggs hatch, some are later, and the hen has to decide whether to bring the hatched chicks off the nest to feed and water them or let them starve while she hatches the later eggs. Most broodies sacrifice the unhatched eggs instead of the already hatched chicks.

    Like Happy Chooks, I mark the eggs the eggs I want her to hatch with a Sharpie and put the eggs under her, removing the fake or sacrificial eggs. Then after the other hens have laid for the day I check under her and remove all unmarked eggs. I let the hen hatch the chicks with the flock and let her decide when she wants to bring them off the nest. Some broody hatches are over and the chicks are on the coop floor within 24 hours of the first one hatching. That’s a little rare but it happens. Usually a hatch takes longer so the hen may stay on the nest and wait for two or three days. The unhatched chicks start talking to Mama after they internal pip so she generally knows when more are coming. She knows what she is doing much better than I do.

    Last night I saw a documentary where baby wood ducks hatched in a nest in a tree 30 feet in the air. When Mama said jump they did. Those landed in water but the narrator said they usually land on the ground. They were fine. I’ve seen a broody hen get her chicks down form a 10’ high hay loft. She said jump and they did, then ran to her. Some people freak out at the thought of a chick jumping or falling a few inches. A nest three or four feet high doesn’t bother me at all.

    If you decide to move the hen, wait until you are absolutely sure she is in full broody mode. That’s important. Prepare a place where she is totally enclosed, she cannot go back to her old nest and the other chickens cannot get in to her. This can be in the coop of somewhere else as long as it is predator proof. She needs a nest, some food and water, and a bit of room to go poop. She doesn’t need a lot of room but she needs some. A broody hen instinctively knows not to poop in her nest but she does not know to keep her food or water clean so you may be changing things out and cleaning a bit. Make it convenient for you to do that. I think it helps to build her nest so you can lock her in there in darkness. I think it helps if the nest is kind of dark anyway, try to avoid making the nest really bright. Make sure you are not creating an oven where she and the eggs will cook in sunlight.

    After dark, move the hen and her sacrificial eggs to the new nest. I lock her in the nest only for most of the next day. That’s not being cruel, broody hens often spend that much time on the nest. She will live off of that stored fat. I’ve moved a few and think locking them in the dark nest only for most of the next day helps them accept the new nest. Some hens will immediately start pacing their new pen and try to get back to their old nest when you let them out of the nest. Be a little patient with this, she might break from being broody or she might finally accept the new nest. That’s the big risk in moving her, she might break from being broody, she might not. These things don’t come with guarantees.

    Two ways I think you can ”encourage” her to flip to full broody mode are to give her some extra eggs, fake or sacrificial. And try to disturb her as little as possible while she is deciding to kick over to full broody mode or not. Then leave it up to a woman and her hormones. :oops:
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  6. I'm printing this info and saving it. Thank you for taking the time to type all of that. It's great information.

    The pullet I saw on the nest yesterday hadn't gone back to the nest when I fed/watered/etc everyone early this morning, but she was keeping to herself a bit. Based on what you all have said, it sounds like she is at the deciding stage. I seriously hope she decides to set.
    Here is a picture of her.
  7. She went back up to the nest she was in yesterday. Stayed there until about 3 in the afternoon then went back to her normal routine. She did not lay an egg and would not let the rooster mate her. Not sure if that means anything.

  8. myfivegirls

    myfivegirls Songster 9 Years

    Jan 12, 2009
    Delhi, NY
    1 person likes this.
  9. missy1971

    missy1971 Songster

    Dec 27, 2016
    Harris County Georgia
    I have a 1yr old red star , she is laying every day, but my question is, i just got 4 more sex links, that are 4 days old, would it be a good idea to put the chicks in to see of she would raise them, or just keep them separated? pretty sure she is not broody as she does not stay in her laying box except to lay.

  10. song of joy

    song of joy Crowing 6 Years

    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    I would not recommend putting the chicks in with her, as she is not broody and red stars tend to be a bit on the aggressive side.

    Best case scenario - she will ignore the chicks. Worse case scenario - she will kill or attempt to kill them. The worse case scenario is probably more likely, as she would view them as intruders.

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