This article is all about broody hens, but what does broody mean? Broody or broodiness, is when a hen starts to display behavior that she wants to sit on eggs and hatch them out into chicks and then raise those chicks. I personally love it when I have a broody hen, it allows me to add new pullets to my flock and cockerels for the freezer. A major plus of a broody hen is that she will do all the incubating and brooding for you. That means no brooder in my house for 4-5 weeks and no flock integration. I have had a few of my hens go broody since I started raising chickens a few years ago. Every single one of my broody hens has had a 100% hatch rate! Sometimes the chicks even hatched a day or two early. Read on to learn more about broody hens and broodiness.
Why is My Hen Broody?
Hens go broody because they have a natural instinct to hatch out and raise chicks. The majority of chicken breeds have had broodiness bred out of them, but that doesn't mean that an egg laying hen won't go broody. Many Bantams and ornamental breeds still retain the instinct to go broody. Silkies, Cochins, and American Gamefowl are some of the most likely chicken breeds to go broody. Silkies are so inclined to broodiness that many chicken breeders keep Silkies solely for the purpose of incubating and raising chicks of other breeds. Allowing eggs to accumulate in the nest boxes can cause hens to go broody, so if you don't want broody hens be sure to collect your eggs daily. Although some hens are so persistent and stubborn that they will sit on golf balls or even just shavings and try to hatch them out. Use roll out nest boxes to stop egg accumulation and hens from going broody. If your henhouse stays rather warm your hens will be more inclined to go broody. This can be remedied by simply adding more ventilation to the henhouse.
Broody Hen Behavior
A lot of new poultry owners come to me saying that they think that their hen is broody. It is very easy to mistake nesting behavior for broody behavior if you are new to raising chickens. Some hens spend up to an hour in the nest box before they lay an egg. When hens are laying they do not like to be disturbed, if you try and see if they have eggs or collect eggs while they are laying they will growl at you, some will even peck your hand. It is not uncommon to see hens picking up bits of bedding or feathers before or after laying, this behavior is just normal nesting behavior. The presence of nesting behavior alone does not mean a hen is broody. When a hen is truly broody she will sit on eggs for the whole entire day, she will growl, cluck, and be defensive to other hens that approach her, when removed from the nest she will promptly return. Broody hens also cluck in a low tone, walk around puffed up with wings outstretched, and growl at other chickens when approached.
What Should I Do if My Hen is Broody?
If you want to allow your broody hen to hatch and raise chicks you should move her to a secure area where other hens won't lay eggs in her nest. I keep a spare coop for my broody hens, but a large dog crate within the henhouse or run will work just as well. If you don't want your broody hen to be broody, you will have to break her of her broodiness. This can be achieved by placing the hen in a suspended cage with a wire bottom or poultry slat flooring. A HatchingTime grow out chicken cage will work perfectly for this. The sooner you break your hen of broodiness the sooner she will go back to laying eggs. Do not dunk a broody hen in ice water! Doing so can shock her body and kill her. To discourage broodiness in your chickens collect eggs daily or get roll out nest boxes. Roll out nest boxes have slanted floors so that when an egg is laid it rolls away from the hen to a collection area. Roll out nest boxes are also ideal for the collection of hatching eggs since they keep the eggs clean.
Broody Hen Care
When a hen is broody she will spend the whole entire day on her eggs. She will come off the eggs once a day for about fifteen minutes to eat, drink, dustbath, and poop. A broody hen will lose twenty percent of her body weight. For this reason you should feed her half scratch grains and half layer feed while she is broody. When the chicks hatch you can feed them and their mother chick feed, medicated or unmedicated. Since the hen isn't laying eggs, eating medicated feed is not an issue. She will only start to lay eggs again once she has weaned the chicks at 6-8 weeks of age. Sometimes it is best to house a broody hen in a separate secure coop so that she can hatch her chicks without the rest of the flock laying eggs in her nest. If you have a rooster in your flock, make sure to mark the broody hen's eggs so that you don't have other eggs getting mixed in with her clutch.