A Broody Adventure & Tips on Broody Hens

March 13, 2012
Silkie Bantams frequently go broody.

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.
Two broody Silkies share a box


Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest
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50 thoughts on “A Broody Adventure & Tips on Broody Hens”

  1. A timely article, thank you! It's so upsetting to watch the other girls pick on Ada when I take her out of the nesting box to eat. I hope that stops when she gets through this broody spell.

    • You are very welcome. I know, the other girls do the same to my broody girls. In my experiences, it does stop after the broody spell but can take some time. I am not quite sure why they do it. My thought is that they are reminding her of her place in the pecking order or asserting a new order.

  2. Wow Melissa. My girls will be one year old next month. I know that Buff Orpington's tend to go broody easily. I just learned so much about it from you! I had no idea that they went into a trance, and also, the tip about giving them flock time of at least 15 minutes per day is brilliant. Thank you for this wonderful teaching post.

  3. Oh!! I forgot to share this. Last week, I had to go pick my children up from school, and one of my hens WOULD NOT COME to be put safely in the run while I was away. I did however try to chase her down, "try" being the operative word. She took me through the woods and right into a huge patch of thorns. I tried to coax her with treats as well. Nothing. I wound up with bunches of bloody scratches on the my legs (through my jeans!!), and no chicken in my arms. Naughty girl! I ultimately had to leave her to her own defenses and pray that nothing got her. She was happily foraging and scratching in the leaves that carpet our woods when we got home, and came running when Madeline called her. LOL.

  4. Hi there, I'm new to your Blog (recommended by ADoC). We have just added 4 Silkie chicks to our flock of Silver Spangled Hamburgs. I've heard the Silkies have a tendency to be broody so loved reading this post of yours! Good luck with your flock – it's very addictive isn't it!! Mel (from Tasmania)

    • Welcome! So glad you are enjoying raising chickens. Silkies are just the sweetest little ones and I so agree with you it is ADDICTIVE:) Good luck with you flock too and thank you so much for stopping in. Tell ADoC I said hello.

  5. My Old English Game bantam hen is broody for the first time this year. I noticed yesterday while I was doing outdoor work the hen and rooster was making sounds constantly. I went to see them and the hen was on her nest. The rooster was keeping a close eye on her and when she got off the nest he went over to it. I thought he was about to sit on the eggs but didn't. When he got up on the perch I noticed he had a lot of feathers missing underneath. Do roosters sit on the eggs too? If not what would be the reason for no feathers in the lower area? I've never noticed this before.

  6. Thanks for responding so quickly. That's great news. I was a bit concerned that something was wrong to cause the feathers to come out. I feel better now. 🙂 All the research I've done on chickens I've never found anything on this subject of roosters

  7. i have 2 broody hens…. but they switch nests every 3 or 4 days…. i keep thinking they will stay there and hatch them but then they move to another nest ….. then i have eggs that are 'old'. is there anything i can do to stop them from sitting?

    • Yes, you can break broody hens, but I feel some of the techniques can be cruel. You can do a search on how to do it. We just take the eggs each day and let it run it's course. As always, keeping plenty of food and water right by the broodies!

  8. Help!!! This is my first time with bantams-I Have other chickens also. The bantams are 4 1/2months old,we have 3 hens and 3 roosters (got them from TS-not knowing the sex at the time) -About 2 weeks ago ,we found 2 small eggs and removed them. did not find any more. But within the last week or so,one of the banties (we think its an old english-not sure) -disappeared one evening,so we looked and still did not find. She reappeared later the next day. Ate,drank,played for a few hours etc. Again later that day disappeared but this time for 1 and 1/2days-then after searching and worrying-reappeared again ,then disappeared. Is it possible that there can be a hidden nest somewhere? So soon? Any ideas for hiding places could be used-we haved looked everywhere!! If she does have eggs and possible babies-will she eventually come out from wherever she is and bring them with? Thanks in advance from a worried mom 🙂

    • Hi there! Yes, I would suspect that there is a nest hidden somewhere. Your best bet is to follow her. Otherwise, if possible keep the chickens confined to the run and coop for a couple of weeks to retrain then to lay in the nesting boxes. A couple of wooden eggs in the boxes helps them to know.

  9. I have a white Cochin hen who has been broody for eight weeks now. She has NO eggs underneath her at all but she won't leave the nest. I hate the methods for "breaking" her and have not had the heart to try any of them. I take her out of the nest a few times a day but sometimes I forget and only get her up once. She is about a year and a half old. Last year when she molted she got really thin, she's not that thin now but she's not very heavy either. Will she quit this on her own or do I need to get her some fertile eggs? Will she sit on them the whole 21 days if I do? I have four hens total, all the same age but so far she's the only one who has gone broody. I don't have a rooster. Thank you in advance for any advice you can give.

    • Eggs or no eggs, it should run it's course after about 3 weeks. The main thing is getting her off the nest a few times per day and making sure that she has plenty of food and water very close by. I hope this helps.~Melissa

  10. hi i have two white silkie hens, both have gone broody, so i bought six fertile silkie eggs. both sit side by side on the eggs. if the eggs hatch should i leave the chicks with the two hens ,and is there any special food i should put down for the chicks. both hens have been brought up together, so they never fight. many thanks

  11. hello i have a silkie cross blackrock i no its a weird breed but there cute i have never seen anyother ones but i might be rong anyway my hen the silkie cross called aliza is gone broody again i have 5 other hens but they r for laying she did go broody last year but i put the bowl of water across from her and it might of looked like an egg to her she roled it under neeth her and broke all the eggs she went crazy for the past couple of days then she calmed down and went on with her life then this year i was looking for eggs and i found her in a nest and there was fearthers everywhere i picked her up and moved her and she just sat down on the ground and did a little shufle i looked underneath and seen that her feathers were gone i was delighted but acorse i had no rooster so i had to go to my friends house and get some eggs she gave me 2 bantom eggs 5 hen eggs of somesort and 1 duckegg that she mestaken for a hen egg its already under neath her and i candled it and there was a vein i didnt have the heart of taking it out it was living i didnt want to repeat that again like last year o and i think its a peckin duck do u think it will be ok and hatch in time with the others she is 4 days true broodiness if that helps thank you – james

    • I think she will hatch out any eggs for you. Personally I don't have experience with it. But Silkies tend to mother anything they can add to their nests. Keep me posted with what you do and what happens.

  12. I am unable to find where my old english bantam is spending her time. 7 days ago I saw my rooster attempt to mate with her. She disappeared not much later. This morning she reappeared after 7 days as I was filling the water containers. She had a drink and a snack and disappeared 10 minutes later. Could she be broody and have made a nest outside the coop and free range area?

    • You bet! I think you are 100% right. She has a nest and is trying to hatch some babies. When she comes around next, follow her. You can transfer her and her eggs into the nesting box in the coop. How cute!

  13. Hi Again. I just found my old english bantam. I tied a string of wool to her foot and let her wander back to her nest, which was under the house next door. She has a nest of 14 eggs. She was separated from the eggs today for a little over an hour but is back on the nest now. I brought the eggs home to the coop but she was too unsettled to sit on the eggs at home and paced the fence line so I returned the eggs to the nest next door in a box that I plan to bring home tonight with her on the eggs. Do you think they will survive and hatch after being separated for that long? Should I put a cage over her and the eggs/nest tonight when i bring them back to the run so she feels safe. Also, I have found some scaley mites on the feet of my other bantams that have been sharing a nesting box. I have changed the bedding in the box. should i just directly apply petroleum jelly to the feet of those hens while they are nesting? or should i remove them, bathe and clean them and then apply and put back with their eggs?

  14. Hi
    We have a little brood frizzle who is sitting on eggs and has also fostered some little chicks given to us. Today I noticed our black Aslop kept entering the box and rolling eggs out from under the brood hen and pecking at the chicks who hide behind their new mum.
    Why would she be doing this?

  15. I only have two hens (silkie and polish). My silkie is extremely broody and I'd like to let her hatch a few eggs. Would separating them freak my Polish out? The woman I got them from said that they both hatched clutches before and "co-parented." Is it possible to brood with her still with her friend?

    • Absolutely! They sure can co-parent. I would go for it, I would set at least 5 or 7 eggs for them then you can see what they hatch and they can share the babies. Keep me posted!

  16. Our sweet Buff Orpington went broody a couple years ago so we purchased her some fertilized eggs. She was the best mommy ever! We only kept one of the babies, but she mothered her "baby" even into adulthood. For the first year, the "baby" would go in the nest box with her mommy when she would lay an egg, and she always shared her treats with the baby. Around her second birthday, the "baby" got sick and the mommy never left her side, even when free ranging. Unfortunately, last month we lost the "baby" to a predator, but it was just the sweetest relationship.

  17. Hi, I have two silkies, 2 hens and a rooster. One of the silkies are broody, and sits on her egg all day. However, I am unsure if the egg is fertile or not.

    • If you have a rooster, I would assume the eggs are fertile. Try candling them and checking to see if they are developing. I have a post on how to do that under the "chickens" tab at the top.

  18. Hello, i’m new to having chickens. I rescued 3 silkies hens. I have had them for about 2 months now and one went broody.I read up on breaking it and thought it seemed mean. I bought some firtalized eggs for her since the ones she was sitting on weren’t fertilized. But now a second one has gone broody…….. will all three do this at the same time? Now that two want to sit the one is lonely.

    • I would definitely let it run it’s course. Be sure they have food and water nearby. You could also let them both co-parent the eggs. The other one will be okay. It should last about 3 weeks or so. Yes, they will hatch the fertilized eggs. I’m so excited for you!

  19. I have a very broody hen sitting on 14 eggs for 22 days now. She is from a flock of 4 hens & 1 rooster. I separated the rest of the flock from her in the very beginning. Although it’s been 22 days, still no peeping or movement in the eggs. She still does leave the nest a couple times a day but always goes right back to sitting. How much longer should I wait before assuming my eggs won’t hatch?

  20. Hi! I am 13 years old and I need a little help with my chickens. My favorite chicken who is a Buff Orpington went broody a few months ago. When I first saw the missing feathers on her belly, I was very worried. Then I researched and found it was normal. We have 16 hens and no rooster so she will not hatch eggs. I tried everything I could do to stop her. I removed the bedding, removed the eggs, removed her, put a frozen water bottle under her, blocked off the nesting boxes, blocked off the run, and when she free ranged, she would stand in front of the door squawking. I would give her scratch but she would ignore it and go back to pacing in front of the door. Finally it ended. I was very relieved. Recently another hen started to go broody. She is not my favorite so I took her out when I was out there but didn’t work as hard. Just today, my favorite chicken started to go broody AGAIN! I need some advice on what to do to help her. We are going away for a week in 2 days and if anyone has a solution that they found works for them please comment.

    • Ha Ha! You have broody hens too! I love that you have tried everything to break them. Great work! However, sometimes, they don’t want to stop being broody. As long as they have food and water close by and are taken off the nest daily, it will pass. I never try to stop them from being broody as some of the techniques seem cruel to me. I am of the thought to let them be. This too shall pass.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.