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Topic of the Week - Broody hens

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by sumi, Oct 16, 2016.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

    Jun 28, 2011
    Rep of Ireland
    Broody hen hatches is probably my favourite part of chicken keeping. But with this wonderful, natural event there are potential problems and questions and dilemmas for chicken owners too. This week I would like to hear you all's thoughts on everything broody hen. Specifically:

    - How can you tell a hen is committed (really broody)?
    - What is the best/quickest way to break broodiness?
    - Is there an "ideal" number of eggs to give a hen to hatch?
    - How do you best take care of a broody and her nest?
    - What to do once the chicks hatched?
    - Can/should you let a hen raise her chicks in with the rest of the flock?
    - What do you feed a broody hen and chicks?

    For a complete list of our Topic of the Week threads, see here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/topic-of-the-week-thread-archive
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2017

  2. melishkia

    melishkia In the Brooder

    May 26, 2016
    commenting to subscribe! [​IMG]
  3. DancingWthDucks

    DancingWthDucks Songster

    Feb 21, 2016
    Cumbria, UK
    2 people like this.
  4. Adalida

    Adalida Songster

    Nov 21, 2015
    Haha, I have to comment on the second question about breaking a broody.

    My white Orpington, Vidalia, decided to go broody a few days before my toddler niece and nephew came for a visit. They were thrilled with the chickens and had a grand time picking them up and carrying them around. (My chickens are very tame and many times would 'squat' for the kiddos and let themselves be picked up.) The toddlers found Vidalia to be great fun. A chicken that just sat there, waiting to be picked up! They'd carry her around and set her down somewhere, she'd head back to the nest. Typical toddlers, they thought this was a great game. Vidalia finally got tired of it and decided being broody wasn't worth it. So if you have a chicken good-natured enough not to peck a child, having a toddler repeatedly haul her off the nest will break her of being broody!
  5. NanaKat

    NanaKat Free Ranging Premium Member


    - How can you tell a hen is committed (really broody)?
    A broody hen sticks to the nest box and protects it from you and any hens by puffing up, pecking, squawking and growling. She will get a glassy eyed stare to her eyes. her belly is hot to the touch and often loses feathers. If you remove her from the nest, she will remain on the ground where you place her for a few minutes, run to feed and water and quickly return to her chosen nest.

    - What is the best/quickest way to break broodiness?
    I often pull the hen and place her in a cage suspended above the floor for air flow to cool her belly and the swinging of the cage as she moves makes her less comfortable. Feed and water in the cage must be secure to keep it from falling out.

    - Is there an "ideal" number of eggs to give a hen to hatch?
    Depends on the size of the hen and the amount of feathers. A Bantam hen can cover 6 banty eggs or two large eggs. A Cochin hen can cover up to 18. Another factor is they type of material lining the nest. Hay depressed into a ring helps keep eggs close to mom. ..wood shavings do not.

    - How do you best take care of a broody and her nest? If I want the hen to brood, I will prep a comfy nest in a brood cage in a quiet part of the coop. Food and water close to the gate and fake eggs in the nest. I then move the hen to the cage late in the evening. Once she is settled, I will give her eggs.

    - What to do once the chicks hatched? I clean the nest of shells and unhatched eggs..these I candle. The hen and chicks stay in the brood cage for several days to bond. Depending on the breed variety, I often add incubator hatched chicks to the clutch while the Broody is still in the cage. When two days old, I move to a larger cage for another few days. I then move them to the floor of the hen house for the hen to raise.

    - Can/should you let a hen raise her chicks in with the rest of the flock?
    I always place the hen and chicks on the floor of the hen house with the flock. By the end of the first week, the hen and chicks are bonded and the chicks have learned she is their source of safety. My Wyandotte and Cochin hens are great mothers and begin taking their chicks outside very quickly. They are great defenders of their chicks and will claim a corner in the hen house or adjacent brooder room where food and water is provided for the chicks.

    - What do you feed a broody hen and chicks? In the cages, chicks get medicated broiler/starter and water treated with Nutridrench.. The hen has 15% layer pellets. They are given a small amount of cracked corn from day 2. The chicks eat both. Water with either Oxine or apple cider vinegar is provided. Once on the ground, the hen teaches them to forage, but broiler starter is provided in feeders. Chicks learn to use the large water dispensers.
    henaynei and sumi like this.
  6. Had a hen disappear the other day with no signs of predators. [​IMG]

    Finally discovered she is broody under the house where we can't get to her. She is a hatchery BO who laid only 1 egg in the actual nest box and has been mated by a Lav Ameraucana. I have never done this before, so I will be following along and hope to have a bunch of cuties running around before long. [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Thank y'all for sharing. The pics are especially fun! [​IMG]
  7. KDOGG331

    KDOGG331 Crossing the Road

    Jan 18, 2008
    I had my first broody a couple days ago. She wouldn't get off the nest and I'd move her at night but then she'd be back the next day. This lasted about 2 or 3 nights and she finally gave it up lol but the first time i put her to bed when it was still a little light out so she flew out and paced the run making quiet upset noises and flew into the coop to look for her eggs, which i showed her, all while i talked to her. She was just quietly protesting, very upset that I took her eggs. That was the first time i knew she was really broody. Anyway, i let her eat and drink and went back out later and she was back on the nest, which was empty. She stayed in bed this time though when I put her there. I think this was actually the second night, the first one i just left her in the box overnight to see if she'd be off by morning, so then the third night/fourth morning she finally broke.

    Anyway, i dont think it's necessarily accurate that they have to be mean and nasty and peck you to be broody. My girl is second from the bottom in the pecking order and the smallest girl so just a really nice, gentle Orpington gal who just wanted some babies.

    I knew she was broody because she planted herself for a couple days straight, refused to move, and she was upset when I took her eggs.

    The first night she was on 9 eggs which I took and left her. The last night she was only on one egg (and it wasn't hers) because she was in the best nest.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016

  8. cey0786

    cey0786 Hatching

    Oct 3, 2016
    Hi we had 2 hens , both of them stop laying eggs, but not helping for the breading, please advise me how can I make them for breading. Thank you [​IMG]
  9. Teila

    Teila Bambrook Bantams Premium Member

    Ah broodies .. finally, something I can comment on with confidence [​IMG]

    I have a Pekin [Bantam Cochin] who goes broody every 10 eggs in summer and her daughter is not far behind her. Obviously I do not give in to them every time they are broody.

    How can you tell a hen is committed (really broody)?

    Here, they look like this!



    My gals are easy to tell, they puff up, they pancake, they screech; they plank ….


    Basically, they throw a full on temper tantrum [​IMG]

    One way to check is to put an egg in the nest box with her, if she rolls it under her, you probably have a broody.

    What is the best/quickest way to break broodiness?

    For me, the crate method.

    Is there an "ideal" number of eggs to give a hen to hatch?

    Having bantams and only a small flock, I usually stick with 6 to 8.

    How do you best take care of a broody and her nest?

    After ensuring she has somewhere safe to nest, I subscribe to the look but do not touch method. I do, however, dust the nest .. stationary broodies on a warm nest are an open invitation to mites/lice.

    I have the food and water close but not close enough so that she can reach it from the nest. Having it that bit further away encourages her to take a break.

    I do, however, have a broody who did not get the memo that ‘broodies take a break once or twice a day’. I know from experience with her that if you do not move her once or twice a day, she will sit for days, not moving.

    With our heat, I do offer them additional drinks throughout the day from a little cup I have. One broody in particular seems to enjoy being waited on [​IMG]

    What to do once the chicks hatched?

    After I have finished happy dancing, I take a ton of pictures! [​IMG]

    ETA: If you can, remove any empty shells. I have heard of a pipped egg managing to be covered by an empty half shell. The poor little munchkin who had pipped, found itself faced with another layer of shell.

    Can/should you let a hen raise her chicks in with the rest of the flock?

    Sadly, no. Our set up and flock dynamics does not allow for raising chicks with the flock and we have to go through an integration process if/when we have any keepers. I ensure that the integration is done when they are older but before mumma hen cuts the cord so that she is there to protect them.

    What do you feed a broody hen and chicks?

    Chick Starter … I reckon I can see one of my broodies roll her eyes when the chick starter comes out, she is not a fan [​IMG]

    My broody area is outside, in the garden, so they are out there with mumma, scratching and exploring their little area.

    When they are a week or so old, they get to sample some of the other treats the big girls get, just in much smaller portions.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
    2 people like this.
  10. Rocky64

    Rocky64 Chirping

    Jan 25, 2015
    I have a silkie named Silks( creative huh lol) that goes broody 2-3 times a year, and she went broody again a month ago so I put some eggs under her to hatch. Unfortunately none of them hatched, but coincidentally I got two peachicks yesterday that are young and need heating still and so I put the two with her to see if she'd accept them( she accepted 4 three week old silkies earlier in the year, plus the 4 she hatched, so she had 8 bigger chicks stuffed under her lol) and she took them in just like she did with the silkies before and the peachicks took a liking to her too. They try to go fully underneath her, but they can only go about 75% of the way under because of the size comparison between Silks and them. She's by far the best momma chicken I've ever had and I look forward to many years of her hatching eggs.[​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016

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