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Let's share our experience with broody hens.

What is a broody hen? It is when a hen sits on eggs in the hope of hatching chicks. She will stop laying eggs while sitting. If all you want is egg production, a sitting hen slows down production.

Personally, I want my hens to go broody. That way the genes to sit on eggs are passed down.

What breeds go broody? From my experience:

Buff Orpington
Australorp
Dominicker
Silkie - I do not have any silkies but they have a reputation of going broody.


Why don't all breeds go broody? Simply put, it is because of commercialization. Hatcheries do not want hens sitting on eggs. When hatcheries were developed to hatch eggs and mail chicks, broody hens may of been culled. The gene to sit on eggs has slowly been removed from certain breeds.

Old time favorite breeds such as Rhode Island Red and Barred Rocks have been commercially produced for so long they rarely sit on eggs.

How to get a hen to sit on eggs: Do not collect the eggs in one nest. Or provide a nest were eggs are left. Place maybe a dozen of so eggs in the nest and leave them alone. If a hen wants to go broody she will start sitting on the eggs.

Once a hen starts sitting: Remove some of the eggs from a dozen or so to around 8 - 10. I have heard of hens hatching a dozen chicks, but a lot of it depends on size of then hens. If she can not cover a dozen eggs, then some of the may not hatch.

If the hens can not cover all of the eggs she may move around, covering some then others. Very few of the eggs may hatch when a hen moves around.

Give the hen privacy: Collect eggs in other nest as soon as you can. Maybe build a cage just for hens to sit on eggs. Being left alone is the best thing for her.

If another hen gets in her nest to lay the broody hen may get upset. Fresh eggs laid in her nest daily means chicks will hatch at different days.

My cousin has a 2 foot x 2 foot cage wired in with 1/4 inch hardware cloth. Protects the eggs and chicks from snakes, and gives the hen her privacy.

If you attempt to look at the eggs chances are she is going to bite or peck you. I have had hens draw blood by pecking my hand.

When to move the hen to the floor? If the hen is sitting on an elevated nest when do you move her and the chicks to the floor?

At 4 - 5 days old the chicks will be ready to run, explore, start scratching, eating chick starter,,,. If the hen and chicks are in an elevated nest off the chicken house floor the chicks will start falling out when they are just a few days old. I had one of my chicks go over the top of a 1x4 at only 4 days old.

When the chicks start running around on the floor, the hen may abandon the rest of the eggs to take care of the chicks. The eggs have had around 4 days to hatch. Decision time on what to do with the other eggs. I usually cull them. I feel bad about culling possible viable eggs, but the hen has to take care of the chicks. She can not take care of chicks running around the chicken house floor and sit on eggs at the same time.

Should you help a chick hatch? No.

Some hens may roll the egg out from under her when it starts to hatch. From my experience, put it back under her. This will keep the chick warm while hatching. Chicks can not maintain their body heat. Getting cold while hatching and after hatching may kill it.

Let nature take its course: Let the mother hen do her job. I put chick starter and a waterer for the chicks on the chicken house floor.

Besides that, let mama hen do her job.

Share your experiences with broody hens.

Lets help others by sharing our experiences.
 

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We have had various breeds of chicken in the attempt to get a flock that can reproduce themselves [Orpington, Australorp, Dominicker, Silkie, Cochan].

Our experience has been that first-generation hens [meaning hens that grew-up under a brood-lamp], will only partially become a marginal brooder at maturity. Second-generation hens are your best hope.

Last season; from 2 coops, each with 2 roosters and a dozen hens. We managed to get one hen in each to produce 4 chicks.

Proven mother hens are rare.

3 years ago, I bartered a day's work for one proven mother hen. She came home with me along with a clutch of her eggs. They hatched out and 4 hens lived to maturity. The next year, she did not hatch out any more chicks, nor did her daughters. Then one of those daughters went broody last year, but those chicks did not survive.
 

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A good, proven broody is worth her weight in ...whatever happens to be the valued currency of the day. I've had one hen go broody; last year my Marans hen, Gertie, decided she wanted to set. I got 3 BBS Orpington eggs, and she hatched out 2 of them...one started crowing and off he went to my sister, who has acreage and is allowed chickens. (no chickens are allowed where I am, so my girls are in hiding). The other is laying, and so far has shown no inclination to set. Gertie has not shown any interest yet this year, either, but last year she didn't decide to go broody until June, so I'm still hoping...
 

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My brother got an English Game hen from work. Game hens are illegal in the city, so the owner gave it to him.

That hen has gone broody twice in seven months. We've had two other chicken go broody, once for each.

The down side is she lays her eggs out there on the acreage so we have to go look for her when she disappears for a couple of days.

The first time we let her hatch out her eggs. Now we have a game hen Rhode Island Red cross of four birds, two roosters. The second time we swapped out her eggs for chicken eggs, but something came along and ate them.

Next time we will put an electric fence around her or move her into a cat carrier with the fence and lock her in at night.
 

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Cave canem
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The best broody breeds are typically those bred as showbirds, pets, game birds etc... Basically NOT bred for egg laying.

I have OEG bantams and they make excellent mothers, the challenge with them is convincing them NOT to go broody.

As far as letting nature take it's course, a hen house is NOT a natural environment. It is crowded and multiple hens use the same nest box. In nature a broody hen goes off on her own to sit on her eggs, hatch out chicks and then returns to the flock when the chicks are a few days old.

If they go broody in a hen house certain changes greatly increase the hatch rate.

First step is to ensure all of the eggs are set on the same day (broodies stop laying so all eggs begin incubating at the same time BUT in a hen house other hens will lay in the nest at different times which means the eggs won't all hatch together).

When a hen goes broody give her an infertile egg (marked) while you collect the eggs you want hatched out. Unless the hen is an experienced broody you typically want to wait 2-3 days to make sure she is serious about setting. Set up a new nest area in a quiet corner of the coop and move her and the dud egg to that nest, make sure she settles in (she may keep going back to the nest boxes)

Mark the hatching eggs with a pen and place them all under her at the same time to ensure the chicks hatch at the same time. Remove new (unmarked) eggs daily.

Pen off her nest area shortly before the chicks arrive so they stay near her during the hatch and for the first couple of days. If they aren't penned in together an early hatching chick could run around unattended which can force the broody off the nest to care for them. Other hens may also get curious and interfere. Try not to separate her or the chicks from the flock entirely as that will cause integration problems (the chicks will be picked on) when they are introduced at a later date.

Like most other things there is a learning curve involved for the birds. A first time broody can be unsure and first time chicks often freak out the flock a bit simply because they haven't had tiny chicks show up before. I have had broodies raise chicks with the flock 5 times now and while the first time caused a few ruffled feathers now they all take it in stride when new chicks appear.
 

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Cave canem
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Also learning to candle eggs is a very good idea plus it is FUN!

8 to 10 days into incubation you should be able to see which ones are developing and which ones are dead/infertile. You want to remove any infertile eggs as a rotten exploding egg could contaminate/kill all of the good eggs.

Super easy to do with a bright LED flashlight at night. 10 day mark is a good time to see development, if you wait until too close to the hatch date the egg appears solid black with a large empty air cell on one end (it is filled with a live chick). If in doubt assume the egg is good and leave it in the nest.




As far as helping an egg hatch it can be done safely IF people use common sense. If all eggs were scheduled to hatch on a certain date and they all hatched on time (within 24 hours of the first hatching egg) but one pipped with the others but never hatched most experienced people would assist at that point. Use a pair of tweezers and gently remove tiny pieces of egg shell in a strip around the wide part of the egg starting at the existing pip, if you see even one tiny drop of blood STOP! The membrane should be completely bloodless.

Sometimes chicks get stuck in the membrane and can't rotate inside of the egg which prevents them from hatching naturally. Getting stuck in the membrane doesn't mean there is something wrong with the chick, usually it means the humidity level was too low for some reason and it dried out the membrane. Only assist if the egg all of the other chicks in the batch have already emerged, sometimes the chick will be frantically calling for help (not occasional peeps but frantic calls) which is another sign that they are in trouble and need assistance. Standard sized chicken eggs usually hatch close to the 21 day mark, bantam eggs often hatch at 19 days.

Realize eggs pip (tiny hole in shell) and the chick practices breathing/using it's lungs for up to 24 hours before emerging.
 

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Cave canem
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When the chicks start running around on the floor, the hen may abandon the rest of the eggs to take care of the chicks. The eggs have had around 4 days to hatch. Decision time on what to do with the other eggs. I usually cull them. I feel bad about culling possible viable eggs, but the hen has to take care of the chicks. She can not take care of chicks running around the chicken house floor and sit on eggs at the same time.
Not sure who wrote the above but 4-5 days is way way too long. Eggs started on the same day will hatch together within 24 hours (usually within 8 hours) assuming they are all standard size chicken eggs. The eggs should hatch in one day, the hen may sit another day in the nest but by day 2 she is taking them to food and by 3 she is scratching around with them. I usually give the hen/chicks a dish of scrambled egg on the first day to get them all eating (plus the hen is super hungry at that point).

If they were candled halfway through incubation then there should be very very few dud egg surprises on hatch day or the need to abandon live chicks in the shell. Even if they weren't candled midway through incubation it could be done at the end of the hatch to determine which eggs were infertile and which died early on. No point in keeping her on a nest to try and hatch an obviously infertile egg.

Fun fact -- the chicks start to peep a couple of days before they hatch, the hen hears that and answers them back so they learn to recognize her voice before they are even born. The eggs also start jiggling a bit, if someone is unsure whether a fully developed egg has a live chick inside (after candling) then placing it in a bowl and watching carefully for tiny movements will often show signs of life.

Kev how many chicks did you get from the hatch and how many eggs were left unhatched?
 

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Broody is contagious. My problem is too many broodies. I have 7 setting right now and 4 out running about with chicks. One hen is on her third round. I have to keep more hens than I want to make up for the non-laying broodies. Its seems that the first broody is hard to come by, but as soon as some chicks start roaming about, the rest of the hens turn almost instantly. Same rule seems to apply to ducks; one going broody seems to trigger the rest.

I gave up trying to break broody. It doesn't work very well and there isn't enough time in the day to keep on it.

I have Chanteclers, Cx, Black Copper Maran, Americaunas and mutts. They all go broody. I didn't run the incubator at all this year. I bought some leghorn pullets this spring and am waiting to see if they go broody after exposure to the rest of them next year. I am guessing its all down to pheromones.
 

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Cave canem
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I bought some leghorn pullets this spring and am waiting to see if they go broody after exposure to the rest of them next year. I am guessing its all down to pheromones.
White leghorn or brown? Would be interesting if a leghorn went broody and whether or not their mothering instincts carried through to raising the chicks.

One thing worth mentioning for first time broody keepers, while it is rare, occasionally a broody hen will reject the newly hatched chicks or stop mothering them at too young an age (before their feathers have grown out). I have only heard of first time mother hens having that problem, not experienced broodies.

If it happens the human needs to step in to care for the chicks, if the chicks are a few weeks old and not fully feathered then providing supplemental heat at night in the coop (i.e. heating pad) may be all they require.

Also you can buy chicks for them to raise if you want new breeds or only pullets. I don't want more roosters so I give my broodies infertile eggs and then purchase the chicks of my choosing, I wrote up a little tutorial on how to do it here: http://www.survivalistboards.com/showthread.php?t=480729

Note to Kevin -- you need to clean that mess of eggs under the Dominique up. If the Dom has been setting for 3 weeks and you know the eggs under another hen are developing and close to hatch (candling) then personally I would give her two or three viable soon to hatch eggs instead (or steal a couple of newly hatched chicks from another broody that has extras and quietly slip them under the dom at night). Leaving a few of the existing eggs under the Dom isn't a good option as the eggs may already be dead. If the hen has already been sitting for 3 weeks she needs to hatch out the chicks and resume normal eating/activity (her health will fail if she sits too long, broody hens eat very little and drop a lot of weight so this can't go on for 2 months).

The hens lose weight while setting and then expend a LOT of energy raising tiny chicks (like toddlers, the chicks require constant attention from the hen. My broodies spend every waking minute teaching, watching and communicating with small chicks and it takes a toll on them).

Instead of giving the newly hatched chicks a tiny dish of dry chick feed I usually throw a raw egg and a bit of water on the feed to create a thick mush not just for the chicks but for the hen, you want to pack some calories into her especially after the hatch (they won't eat/drink/leave the nest when eggs are hatching).
 

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My current favorite breed is the White Plymouth Rock. Good dual purpose birds that lay brown eggs. They can be broody, but not any more than the average hen and less so than BOs.
 

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In the past when I'm fairly sure that we will have hens going broody we have hatched out 20 or so chicks in a incubator and slip them under a broody hen at night, she doesn't seem to mind the fact that she has only been sitting for a few days and suddenly she has 20 chicks. A good hen will easily raise 20 chicks once they are hatched, a good trick to really get your numbers up quickly and a lot easyer than trying to raise the chicks by hand.

Hen, is possible are better off having there nest on the floor, a dirt floor with plenty of straw. the eggs naturally soak up moisture from the ground which softnens the shells and makes it easyer for the chicks to hatch. If this isn't possible it and its a hot dry time its a good idear to spray the eggs with a little water every few days. The only problem with having a hen set on the ground is that a electrical storm will sume times kill all the eggs, something about the electricity in the ground, don't ask me how it happens but it does.

A broody hen should be separated from the other hens otherwise other hens may lay beside her and she will slip the new egg under her.
 

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Great Thread! I bought chicks back in October, 2015...my first Buff Orpington just hatched 2 out a couple of days ago! 7 months old, starting 2nd generation! I've got 8 Buff Orpington hens, 8 Rhode Island Red hens and 9 Barred Rock hens. With a couple of Buff Orpington roosters and a RIR Rooster, I'm hoping the Buff hens will hatch out some RIRs and Buff/Barred Rock pullets that will eventually go broody as they've been raised by some broody Buff hens.? We'll see
Also, the hen was setting on 6 eggs, 2 hatched. For the first time in my life I felt "intimidated" by a chicken when gathering eggs, so I left her alone...otherwise I was going to have to go get my welders gloves to check the eggs under her, so I just let nature do her thing.
 

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Cave canem
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A broody hen should be separated from the other hens otherwise other hens may lay beside her and she will slip the new egg under her.
That is why the eggs should be marked on both sides with the date at the first opportunity.

If you want to let them hatch out the eggs they sat on in the nest box then just keep a pen in the coop and mark the eggs the first time you notice they are broody (mark them on day 1 then move them when you get around to it). That one tiny step greatly increases the hatches success rate and ensures you can collect/eat the new eggs without any unpleasant surprises.

If the date is noted then the hatch date can be anticipated and monitored (i.e. you know they will hatch on Fri/Sat so you can keep an eye on things).

(marked egg below was an infertile placeholder, hen was given store bought chicks 3 weeks after she started setting, the new unmarked eggs were collected daily)

 

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The English Game hen has gone broody again. This is the second time in about five weeks. She is over by the peach trees under a pine tree top that was cut down a while back and not removed. She had 15 eggs under her. I put eight hen eggs under her and put up an electric fence around her nest. Its about two feet high, easy for her to fly over. I also put some feed and water in the enclosure, but she ignores them, preferring to go out into the barnyard.

I've discovered that moving a hen and eggs doesn't work, at least not for me. The one hen that I tried moving, with eggs, went back to the old nest, leaving her eggs. So I'm not doing that again.
 

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I've discovered that moving a hen and eggs doesn't work, at least not for me. The one hen that I tried moving, with eggs, went back to the old nest, leaving her eggs. So I'm not doing that again.
You absolutely can move them but you need to keep her penned in for a couple of days or for all 21 days if she starts sitting on new eggs nearby.

If you have a wire dog crate set her nest up in that inside the hen house or in a predator safe chicken yard with food and water. Make sure you let her out to move around and poop at least once a day. 30 minutes or so after you let her out check the crate, if she went to sit on the wrong nest put her back in the crate and close the door.

They can stay off the nest for an hour or more in warm weather and the eggs are fine.
 

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I had her and her eggs in a cat carrier. She did nothing but stomp and peck at the sides and door. After two hours or so I let her out thinking the eggs were well scrambled, but somehow they weren't! She went right back to the old nest, which is under the garden shed. So I put the eggs back.

A big black snake eventually got her eggs. I used to leave snakes alone. Now they are on my list of vermin. I don't care if they eat mice.
 

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Cave canem
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I had her and her eggs in a cat carrier. She did nothing but stomp and peck at the sides and door. After two hours or so I let her out thinking the eggs were well scrambled, but somehow they weren't! She went right back to the old nest, which is under the garden shed. So I put the eggs back.

A big black snake eventually got her eggs. I used to leave snakes alone. Now they are on my list of vermin. I don't care if they eat mice.

Try putting the eggs/nest in the cat carrier and leave it her chosen nest spot for couple of days (so she gets used to the nest/carrier in the spot she associates with her nest and settles into it). Don't lock her in it right away, just watch and see if she uses it where it is, if she still hates the carrier remove the top for the first day. Then after she has gotten used to the nest/carrier move it into the coop at night. If she starts freaking out and won't settle down go back a step.

While locking her in a cat carrier is fine for night time safety that is really too small for a full sized hen during the day.

Killing every black snake won't fix the problem and more predators will show up. Broodies are stubborn and their decisions are made purely in instinct/hormones, be patient and give her a couple of days to adjust to the changes a little at a time.
 
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