A broody hen is a chicken that wants to hatch its eggs. Usually, she will sit on her eggs the whole day so that they can hatch. However, if you do not have a rooster in your flock, the eggs will not hatch since they are not fertilised.
It is possible for a hen to sit in its nesting box when it is not broody. You can slide your hand under her and try to take the eggs that she is sitting on. If your hen gets up or moves, she might not be broody. A broody hen should puff up her feathers and even peck your hand. She should also make some noise as she defends her eggs. If you let your hen sit on her eggs, they should take about three weeks before they hatch. You should make sure there is always food and water nearby, so your hen does not leave her eggs for long.
There is no specific reason why your hen would go broody. It is a blend of their instincts, hormones, and maturity. Most of the time, a hen will be broody in the spring and summer, but some hen can suddenly to go broody during other times of the year. Also, hens that are excellent egg layers (hybrid egg layers) do not become broody. However, hens that are not genetically enhanced go broody frequently but will stop laying eggs at some point.
Identifying a Broody Hen
You may wonder how you can know if your hen is broody, especially if you are new to poultry farming. Here are tips that will help you to recognise a broody hen:
• Inspect the nesting boxes regularly. Usually, hens lay at least one egg per day. But if your hen sits in its nest for a long time, then she might be broody or sick. If you notice any symptoms of illness, you should take the necessary steps quickly.
• Your hens will automatically turn protective when they become broody. In some situations, they might produce angry clucking noises and even peck you. However, some hens do this once their eggs hatch. Such behaviour can be attributed to motherly instincts.
• If the feathers of the hen are puffed up, then it should be a sign that she is preparing for her chicks by making a warmer environment. At this point, she will be very defensive over her nest.
• If your hen rarely comes outside, apart from eating and drinking, it is a sign that she is broody.
These are the conventional ways of identifying a broody hen. A hen that is brooding is a perfect option if you want chicks since hens are nature’s perfect incubators. She will get out after 21 days once her chicks have hatched.
When Do Hens Become Broody?
It is hard to know the time that a hen will be broody. You cannot predict the brooding cycle, and you also cannot make your hen is broody. You will never find a young hen that has gone broody in its first laying season. Nevertheless, your hens will most likely go broody during the summer since the warm weather is favourable for raising chicks. It is very uncommon for the chicken to be broody in the winter weather.
It is also vital to note that certain breeds turn broody more frequently than others. A good example is the hybrid hens which do not get broody. They never turn broody since this instinct has been removed out of them. However, some breeds like the Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, and Silkies can be broody several times in a year.
Hens which do not frequently go broody can decide to change their behaviour in the middle of brooding and leave their nest. Therefore, if you want chicks, you should bear this in mind as you select the breed of chicken you want.
How Long Do Hens Stay Broody?
If left unattended, your hen should stay broody for 21 days. This is the duration that fertile eggs take to hatch. After 21 days your hen will stop, and if she does not, you will need to do ‘breaking’. If you try this breaking tactic, the hen will stay broody for several days.
Once your hen goes back to normal, she should start laying eggs in a few days. However, it can last up to one month until the hen resumes laying eggs routinely again. If you do not want chicks, then you should try to halt the hen’s broodiness. Do not allow her brood for the entire 21 days.
If you allow your hen to brood, routinely check her condition. She will not be taking dust baths or moving around and might get lice or mites. Also, encourage her to eat and drink water at least once per day.
Ways of Protecting a Brooding Hen from Bullying and Other Hens
The nuisance from this phase is that you will frequently have to step in to help the girl to go back to ‘normal’. During the brooding, the hen will stay in the nesting box and will peck at you whenever you try to retrieve the eggs from underneath.
The biggest problem is that brooding often occurs in the summer and since they hardly go out to drink or eat they may be overheated, which can lead to sickness or death. Also during the brooding season, when they stay in the nest, other chickens may want to go at her. Sometime you may find a broody hen lacking some feathers as a result of being beaten up by the others. The whole pen will be disturbed, and the egg-laying process would be an unhappy situation for the hen.
How to Stop a Broody Hen
• Pick your hen and take her to the watering point. In a few occasions, you might have to dip her beak into the water and force her to drink. If she does not drink, she will be dehydrated.
• Do not form a habit of putting food in the nest. This can stop her from going outside whenever she is hungry.