What is a Broody Hen?
A Broody Hen is nature’s best egg incubator, she will sit for days waiting for her eggs to hatch (or not hatch). Having a broody hen can either be a great thing or a huge problem depending on what your goals are. If you want chicks you will have a live incubator, if all you want are eggs then you have a problem.
How a Broody Hen Works
A broody hen will lay or steal a clutch of eggs to sit on. She will stop laying once she is sitting and sit on her clutch for about 21 days. While sitting she is keeping the eggs warm, well rotated and removing duds. When the 21 days are up, you will find yourself with new baby chicks and usually one mean mama. We have a Buff Orpington that would rather find and sit on eggs rather than lay them most of the time. This hen must be watched so she doesn’t sit on eggs when more babies are not needed.
Note: Hen will still go broody with out a rooster or fertilized eggs present. The broody hens will sit on the eggs until they determine that they will not hatch.
Not All Hens Will Become Broody Hens
We have had Barred Rock, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Americanas and multiple other breeds on our farm. When it comes to hens going broody not all breeds or birds are created equal. We have had young Barred Rocks start to go broody only to leave their eggs halfway through, but the best broody hens I have seen complete the job of hatching live chicks is the buff Orpingtons breed.
Signs You Have a Broody Hen
You have a broody hen if:
- Your hen will not move from her chosen nest or box
- She doesn’t want you anywhere near her, to the point of biting at your hands.
- Puffy, noisy and aggressive to anything that comes within a foot of where she is
- If your hen is free ranging she may disappear for a while when she is sitting. We once made the mistake of thinking our hen had been eaten, weeks later she reappeared with 10 baby chicks in tow.
Fixing the Problem
If you find yourself with a broody hen and chicks aren’t something you want, there are ways to get her back to her egg producing self.
- As mentioned earlier most broody hens don’t want to be messed with once they have picked their spot. With gloves remove her from her nest and clean out all its contents. The object is to make her uncomfortable, so she doesn’t want to return to her spot.
- If you free range your chickens, make sure she can’t re enter the coop until roosting time.
- If you have the space available, move her to a new area. Set up a new pen with only a roost in it. Your hen won’t be able to get back to her nest or feel comfortable enough to create a new one.
Note: If you have a free ranging broody hen, she may choose to nest away from the coop. In this situation you will have to keep her in the coop and run for a time to be watched. Once she is back to laying eggs, she can go back to free ranging.
The easiest way to keep your hens from going broody is to collect their eggs daily. Even though our hens free range during the day, they still are in the habit of laying eggs in the nesting boxes.
You can’t always determine which hens will go broody even if the breed is known for it. When making the decision about what breeds you will add to your country life remember to keep in mind which are more prone to go broody. If you plan on being a chicken owner, you will see more than one broody hen, but now you know the signs and what to expect. Having a broody hen can be awesome if raising chicks for your flock is something you want, but can be a problem if eggs is all you are after.