Broody hens are quite interesting. Dolly, one of our Silkie Bantams, seems to be broody about every 8 weeks. Thus, we have developed a broody routine. A couple times a day, I remove her from her nesting box and set her out into the run with the rest of her flock to scratch and peck and take a drink. Usually, I lift her from the nesting box, set her on the ground, lock up the box and then place her in the run. However, yesterday, she preferred to free range instead of going in the run. Usually, I can call her and she will come right back to me. Yet, I think the beauty of the weather and the 66 degrees, enticed her to scratch and enjoy a little freedom. I can’t blame her. I know scratching in the woods and leaves is one of the girls’ favorite activities.
At first I tried to catch her. It has always been easy to do. She usually squats down and then I lift her up into my arms. Today, she wanted nothing to do with me. I have learned to never chase a chicken, so I decided to entice her with treats. I went into the garage and retrieved some. I shook the jar of meal worms and called her name. Nothing. Surely, tossing sunflower seeds at my feet would work. Nothing. I admitted defeat. For now, I was on Dolly’s agenda. So I plopped myself in the sun on the warm ground next to the chicken run.
I watched Dolly. She was having a great old time. Unfortunately, the flock soon realized she was missing. Poor Autumn was calling out the saddest little call looking for her friend. If only they knew that Dolly was having a grand old time, scratching in the compost pile, exploring the leaves under the pine trees and hiding underneath humongous rhododendrons. Today was definitely not the day for this. I had a meeting to attend in an hour. I was nervous about the possibility of leaving Dolly free ranging. Hawks have been abundant. I had no idea how to catch Dolly.
Then, it dawned on me. I had a thought that just might work. I went into the nesting boxes and retrieved a large egg. Dolly looked on from the underbrush. I could see her watching me. I purposefully ignored her and placed the egg in a nest of dried leaves. Then I sat down near the nest and watched with my peripheral vision. Dolly began to talk to the egg. Slowly, she hesitantly walked over to the egg. She continued to talk to the egg and then she sat on it, rocked it back and forth and settled down. I gently scooped her and her egg in my hands and returned them both to the nesting box. I have learned over time, that the broody instinct always prevails. I decided to let her keep the egg for the rest of the day.
Dolly’s clutch from last year, a little one waits for the others to hatch.
Broody Hen Tips and Facts:
Before a hen goes broody she will lay an egg everyday. This is called a clutch and depending on the size of your chicken, the clutch will be anywhere from 9-15 eggs.
Clutches usually consist of an odd number of eggs. Odd numbers help the eggs to fit closely together.
Broody hens will lose weight.
Broody hens will sit in the nesting box 24 hours a day. They will come off of their eggs once or twice in a 24 hours period to eat, drink and poop.
Broody hens while sitting on the nest, will go into a trance.
Broody hens make broody poops. Oh my goodness, those are nasty!
Broody hens will pull their chest feathers out to help make a nest. They will also place the eggs against their bare skin to help maintain the proper humidity for hatching eggs.
Broody hens will not venture far for food and water. Be sure there is a supply next to them. They can starve themselves to death being so dedicated to their eggs.
If you let nature take it’s course, the broody period typically lasts about 3 weeks.
There are ways to break a hen of being broody. I would not recommend these unless you fear that the hens’ life may be in danger.
If you are not hatching chicks, you should remove eggs promptly from a broody hen. However, that may not break her broodiness.
Broody hens will hatch out fertilized eggs in 21 days.
Broody hens will steal other hens’ eggs to sit upon and can often be seen rolling them into their nest from neighboring nesting boxes.
Broody hens talk to their eggs the entire time. Broody hens also rock and rotate their eggs every few hours.
When the eggs begin to peep at about 19-20 days of incubation, the broody hen will no longer leave the nest.
It is sometimes easier to separate the broody hen into her own brooder if you plan to hatch eggs. This way, she will not be in danger of another hen stealing her chicks or causing harm to them. If you do keep your broody girl in a separate brooder away from the flock, be sure to provide her daily visits of at least 15 minutes off the eggs and with her old flock. This ensures that her old flock remembers her and helps her to maintain her place in the pecking order.
Broody hens after hatching their chicks will stay with them until about 4 weeks of age. After that time, the mothering instinct ends. After Dolly left her chicks, she returned to being broody two months later, ready to hatch more eggs.