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How can I make my chicken go broody?

ThumperEvery now and then I get an email from someone who desperately wants a chicken to go broody. Going broody means that the hen suddenly fancies raising a brood of chicks and will sit on the eggs constantly to incubate them until hatched.

You can’t make a hen go broody. It’s like trying to make X more amusing, or sexy. Either X has the tendency to be amusing or sexy or does not.

If you want to breed chicks you need an incubator or a broody hen. There are strains that have a tendency to go broody. Bantams (a small breed of chicken) are well known to be more prone to broodiness. They can be great mothers. Despite this tendency, we have six bantams and only two have gone broody over the past three years.

I have been told that Silkie bantams go broody at the drop of a hat. Some pals that had a shoot and raised pheasant eggs, used Silkie bantams with great success. But you could buy a flock of Silkies that never go broody. It’s the luck of the draw.

Mrs Boss is the one bantam chicken in our flock that goes broody regularly. Her comb gradually pales from red to pink and she will sit in the nesting box, caring for any eggs that have been laid. She is not bothered about the progeny and will happily sit on anything as long as it’s egg shaped.

It’s important to check your chickens every day and lift a broody hen off the nest. Left sitting, a broody hen may not move. If not shunted out of the nesting box to eat and drink, she will die. The sad fact is that without a cockerel to fertilise her eggs, an undisturbed broody hen will pointlessly sit on a nest of unfertilised eggs indefinitely.

If you have fertilised eggs and want to breed, a broody chicken is a boon. Settle her in a quiet place with her own supply of food and water. She will get up every now and then to stretch her legs but she will care for her eggs.

A bantam will generally be a good mother. Any sitting hen connects with any chick when she hears the first cheep. A hen sitting on eggs will generally accept all fowl that emerge from an egg that is placed under her. This could be a pheasant, guinea fowl, partridge, quail, duck or chicken. We haven’t tried ostrich or peacock (it’s a question of space).

It’s important to provide a safe environment, well away from the rest of the flock. Chickens do not go all gooey eyed when new, trembly legged chicks emerge. There is a pecking order. Need I say more?

Mother and chicks retire earlier than the other chickless hens each evening and so need a separate apartment for the first few weeks. Initially, the mother hen teaches the chicks how to drink, forage and run from danger (under her protective wing) from the word go.

Think laterally and protect your precious chicks from danger. A large stone in the drinking saucer will stop them drowning in the water. You also need to check that bullying is not going on. If this is happening, fence off the separate apartment.

I am very fond of Mrs Boss. Heaven knows why – she is broody on and off all summer. Her broodiness is a problem for us. It affects the rest of our small flock. Broody hens will chase other normal egg-laying hens out of the nesting box. Egg production goes down.

I have learnt that leaving Mrs Boss to her own devices is a downward spiral. She will not give up. She is resolute and single minded unitil I escort her to the prison cell broody coop. Now I clean out the broody coop and pop her in as soon as I spot her comb going pale. I feel a pig but if I catch her early in her broody state, her stay at Her Majesty’s Pleasure is just a matter of days.

She puts in a vociferous High Court appeal every time I pass by the run and her broody coop cell. This is ignored until her comb turns red again. Then the prison doors are thrown open and she rushes out for a dust bath.

If anyone needs a broody hen I would gladly lend Mrs Boss, although I would miss her because it takes three to four months to hatch and nurture a brood until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

My dream is that one day we will be offered fertilised eggs around the time that Mrs B is going broody. There was a fleeting hour or so this spring when someone needed to hatch out some duck eggs.
“Do you have a broody hen?”
“Well, yes. Mrs Boss.”
“I might bring round some duck eggs.”

Danny had a happy day imagining baby ducks swimming in a teeny pond (upturned dustbin lid in the chicken run.) Mrs Boss hovered in the nesting box. Finally we had the call. No duck eggs. Mrs Boss was popped into the broody coop and egg laying by the other hens erupted for the day. Chickens save up and the shells are harder.

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  1. hi fiona how are u today i have a great news for u i placed 6 fresh eggs under my broody hen and today by the grace of God all the 6 of them hatched me and my whole family is so happy and excited i thought its my duty to give u the great news as soon as possible as u have helped me a lot thank u 🙂

  2. Alexandra

    Thank you for your comments, the other eggs never hatched, and the hen didn’t stay on them, so I took the eggs away.

  3. hi feona ,………its very urgent……i have got two broody hens one of them won the battle with me some 15 days ago and i gave her 6 chicken eggs to sit on then some 5 days ago another chicken of mine went broody and she was 10 times stubborn then the first one so i bought some bantam and silky breed eggs for her to sit on now the problem is that the second chicken has stopped eating and drinking even when she is lifted and shunned she comes right back to her eggs now i open her beak and feed her by hand and gives her water with a spoon other wise she looks fine i am sure she is not sick she stops eating when she is broody always now i was wondering would it b OK if i exchange the two chickens eggs in this way this moody lady will have to sit only for 6 more days on the chicken eggs and the other one will have to sit for 16 more days actually the other chicken is good as she also takes care of her self too she eats and drinks properly and have a run for 15 to twenty min every day ,i am scared that the moody one will kill her self with her non eating habits.what should i do.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Erum

      Don’t move the hens. The first chicken to go broody may go off being broody if chicks don’t appear at the ‘right’ time.

      Put a small water fountain and food container near the head of the hen that isn’t eating, so that she can access this easily without leaving the nest. Take her off the nest twice a day and this may help her wake up to the fact that she is hungry and thirsty.

      Good luck.

  4. hi fiona
    how are u , i have a broody hen and she is sitting on 6 fresh eggs just 1 day old now the problem with me is that our broody hen when she is lifted up for eating she runs to see other flock member and then spends a bit longer time to come back to eggs so the eggs loose the temperature to some extent is it ok ?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hello Erum

      It’s safe for her to stay off the nest for a good 20 minutes or so, without any danger to the eggs.

      Good luck with the chicks , when they come.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Alexandra

    You can candle the eggs to find out if they are fertilised. I think that the cockerel is probably a bit young but you never know.

    Yes, the hen and eggs can be moved. Ideally she needs to be separate from the rest of the flock with food and water that she can reach when sitting on the nest.

    If the eggs are not fertile you can buy hatching eggs to put under her.

  6. Alexandra

    Hi again,
    Forgot to ask, can one move eggs and the broody chicken to another place? Our broody chicken found a place in the garden to lay and sit on her eggs, should we move to a more protective area?
    Thanks, Alexandra

  7. Alexandra

    I have a mother bantam with one son (cockerel) and one daughter both born Nov 08. The mother is now sitting on eggs, could her eggs be fertilized already from her son? How does one know if eggs are fertilized?
    Thanks, Alexandra

  8. Mark Daymond

    We have some pekin hens which will go broody at the first signs of spring. We have succesfully hatched hens and ducks from them!

  9. Hi James
    Thats brilliant. We have all sorts of poultry and with xmas coming up means turkeys and a few ducks will be going the same way. I was interested to read about your cockerel,I was always under the impression that they werent really suitable for cooking. I know commercially males are discarded as soon as they are born.We are hatching a few eggs so I will definatly not discard a male chicken for eating.
    We have been growing veggys for the past year too. The satisfaction of eating own produce is great.

  10. Ending the cycle

    Hi guys.
    Mr cockerel has made some fine chicks, some happy hens and a few sleepless nights. He is about 1 year old now and his time has come.
    He was taken from the run and put into darkness in a shed for 24 hours, the last 12 minus food. At 11am, november 11th, he met his maker, or the business end of a 12 bore shotgun to signify the end of the two minutes silence.
    Immiediatley, I plucked him and gutted him and hung him up in the game fridge, along with two pheasants, a duck and several rabbits.
    Yesterday, we had a gorgeous, roast dinner, thanks to good old self-sufficiency. Roast spuds and honeyed parsnips from the veg patch, roast chicken from the run, yorkshires and runner beans and tasty buttered carrots with home made butter (shop bought milk though) 🙁
    And to finish off apple tart with home grown apples and the last of the wheat i grew in a sheep farmers un-used half acre.

    Brilliant Thats what is all about, dont you think?

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