Keeping ONLY Hens--and help choosing breed

Heyruthie

Chirping
Nov 1, 2015
50
5
86
Virginia, USA
Hi, All! I am new to chickens, and I've researched quite a bit on here about different breeds, and I currently keep Coturnix Quail, but I actually have a question that I don't know the answer to, since Quail don't sit their eggs. So, quail never go broody.

If you keep only hens, what do you do with them when they go broody, since the eggs will never hatch?

In terms of breed, I was leaning toward a good-natured breed like Silkies, but I understand they go broody a lot. But in my area, I am not allowed to keep roosters. So, I want to really have a plan in place, and I've never had a broody animal of any kind. What do you do with them when they go broody, but the eggs aren't fertilized? Do you just take all the eggs no matter what? Do you let them sit on them even though they won't hatch? Do they eventually give up?

Also, any tips on breeds would be great. I need:

-Ability to withstand temps down to 0C (32F) in winter and up to 38C (100F) in summer.
-Good with kids, gentle, friendly birds
-Some egg production, although they don't need to be super-great layers
-Smaller breed is better, although not Bantam, if that means they aren't as gentle or "nice"
-Ability to do some free-ranging (daytime) or foraging for food
-Ability to eat table scraps and a variety of forage
-Tolerates living as a flock of hens only, with no rooster
-Living in a suburban environment with a good sized yard and protected hen house

Any thoughts, specifically on Silkies, Cochins or Brahmas? Other breed suggestions? THANK YOU!
 
Last edited:

donrae

Hopelessly Addicted
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Jun 18, 2010
31,453
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Southern Oregon
Since you're not looking for high egg production, the breeds you've listed would be great. I'd go with bantam versions of the Cochins and Brahmas unless you're wanting large birds. Faverolles would be another good breed, very docile, friendly, great pets.

One thing is all those breeds are feather legged. They can be more challenging in a wet or muddy environment. Those breeds, being so docile and laid back, aren't usually as predator savvy if your'e free ranging so you'll need good layers of protection for them. Silkies especially seem to be predator magnets when they're out and about.

Easter eggers are always top of my list for backyard folks, especially those who have kiddos. The birds themselves usually come in different colors, so they're easy to tell apart. The egg color varies from bird to bird also, different shades of green or blue (usually), and the kids love that. They're smaller, good foragers, decently predator savvy, and friendly enough when raised as pets with lots of treats.

Do a search for "breaking a broody". If you do have a hen become broody, they're not too hard to break. Classic method is to put them in a wire bottom cage with no bedding for 3-5 days, usually elevated so their underside cools off. I don't like to let a hen brood if there aren't going to be chicks as brooding is a major stress on their bodies, and puts them out of egg production for quite a while.

The bonus to having a broody is, when you do want to add to your flock, you can let her brood on dummy eggs for about 3 weeks, then purchase sexed pullets as day-old chicks and graft them to her. She'll think they're her own babies and raise them right in the flock. You won't have to brood chicks, you won't have to worry about introducing chicks to the flock, and you'll have the breeds and gender you want.
 

ChickenCanoe

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Nov 23, 2010
33,030
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St. Louis, MO
To break a broody hen you need a wire bottom cage elevated off the ground. We used to suspend some from the ceiling of the hen house.
The 3 breeds you listed all tend to be relentlessly broody.

There are so many great breeds - hundreds. For that reason, I'm reluctant to suggest any for fear that a deserving breed will be overlooked.
I send you to a couple excellent breed charts for temperament and other qualities.
http://www.sagehenfarmlodi.com/chooks/chooks.html
http://www.albc-usa.org/documents/chickenbreedcomparison.pdf

Almost any breed of chicken will do just fine with your low temperatures. Your highs are a different story. Stay away from cold hardy breeds as they may suffer in a VA summer.

Most breeds, even those that avoid human contact can be tamed if handled as chicks.
 

Heyruthie

Chirping
Nov 1, 2015
50
5
86
Virginia, USA
Thank you! Any more advice is welcome.

Question on the "Easter Eggers," What breed is that, exactly? I tried to find them on those charts, and somehow I couldn't. I'd love to know more about them. Thank you!
 

austrolover1

Songster
Dec 14, 2015
675
117
118
Austrolorps are great even though they are slightly big. They lay good eggs, are friendly, and are BEAUTIFUL. A's are great at foraging too; mine do it all the time.You can order EE's from McMurray hatchery (which I completely recommend)! Cochins are great pets too!
 

keesmom

Free Ranging
12 Years
Jul 28, 2008
10,711
4,650
531
MA
In my experience silkies and Faverolles do not do well in hot weather (mine aren't hatchery birds though). I think there are many breeds that could suit you. We have had personable black sex links, buff Orpingtons, Austrolorps, Wyandottes of many colors, and most recently Buttercups (extremely nosy), buff Minorca and brown Leghorn. birds that were people friendly and cold hardy.
 

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