Friday, December 27, 2013

Broody hens

Q. What do you mean by "a hen that's gone broody"?

A. It's a hen that wants to set on eggs instead of lay them. 

When you put your hand in the nest to collect eggs, the hen will fluff her feathers up (like raising the hackles, but all the feathers) and try to peck at your hand to prevent taking the eggs.

Most wild birds and waterfowl won't be broody until they have a full nest. Domestic chickens have a tendency to get over-protective of their nests, even if they don't have eggs. 

"Back off, buddy!"
(source: Wikimedia Commons)
Silkies and bantams are prone to being broody and they will try to set for long periods of time. Bantams will want to set on the nest even if there aren't any eggs there. Hatcheries have tried to breed the broodiness out of the standard-size birds.

A remedy to try:
Put the broody chicken(s) in a pen with no nest and no bedding. You don't want to include a chicken that will lay, because a broody hen will set on the others' eggs. If you have bedding, they will try to make a nest. 

Usually, you don't have a lot of luck trying break them of this habit. You'll just have to wait six-eight weeks, that's the standard amount of time for the hens to grow out of it. They'll decide they don't want to be a mother anymore, get off the nest and start laying again.

Keep watching in the corners of your pen, because if one hen starts laying in the corner, others could follow. If you have a rooster in the pen and a hen that goes broody, you could have surprise baby chicks in the corner.

As always, if you have further questions, post them in the comments.

--Dale aka Turkeyman