Chicken Broody Questions

Not sure if you have a chicken broody question. Well, the first thing to know is that it’s normal for hens to “go broody” especially in the spring and summer. This is a time when the hen’s body is telling her to sit tight in her nest and hatch some eggs.

Some hens are so broody they don’t even care if there are any eggs under them. Here are some things you might notice: a hen that seems to always be in the nest, even sleeping there rather than roosting with the rest of the flock.

This is normal since chickens don’t build nests in trees like some birds, but rather find a secluded and hopefully safe nest site on the ground. Some hens happily use nest boxes provided in the coop, but some insist on finding a secret place.

Another thing you might notice is a chicken broody becoming thin and not eating or drinking well. This could be a sign of an illness, but some hens will sit on their eggs for the entire 21 days protecting the clutch and keeping the eggs from cooling off. 

In warmer weather hens are more likely to get off the nest, stretch their legs, relieve themselves and get something to eat and drink daily. A hen in a brooding cycle seems to be in a trance.

She may not respond normally to things going on around her. They stay very still and I like to believe they are invisible.

Many of today’s chickens have retained their natural instincts that came from their wild ancestor, the Red Junglefowl. If your hens free range, it’s not uncommon for one to seem to be missing for three weeks and suddenly show up with a little parade of day old chicks following her.

One of the kindest things you can do for a chicken broody, if you want her to sit and hatch chicks, is to set up food and water dishes in her nest, if there’s room.

This will ensure she stays at a good weight, stays hydrated and is healthy at the time the chicks hatch. If you believe it’s safe you can leave a broody hen where she has chosen to nest.

If you find a hen in an unsafe nesting place it can be possible to move her at night, with her eggs, to a safe brooding cage or pen. This can help ensure that she and the chicks will be safe from predators. If you cover her cage with burlap or a sheet for a few days, she is less likely to leave the eggs, and hens do enjoy privacy when broody.

A chicken broody may or may not need to be separated from the rest of the flock. This can depend, in part on her social standing in the pecking order of the flock. If she is a high ranking hen, she may become aggressively protective when her chicks hatch.

If she is a low ranking hen, she may be harassed by the flock and possibly her chicks harmed. Chicks always do best in a separate space with their mother. Allowing them a few weeks not having to compete for space, food and water will help them grow and mature at a faster rate and give them a better survival rate.

Even though chicks hatch with very good instincts about eating and drinking and staying warm, I believe they benefit from being raised naturally by a broody chicken.

Her broodiness continues well after hatching as she continues to have to nest on the ground over night until her chicks are able to roost. I believe chicks raised this way are more likely to play well with others.

With the mother hen being the dominant one, her chicks seem to get along better as she keeps them in line and they are less likely to pick on smaller or weaker ones, as is common in artificially raised chicks.
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Chicken Broody Questions


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