So, You’ve Got a Broody Hen

A broody hen is one that wants to raise chicks. At some point in your chicken raising career you’ll encounter one of these tenacious birds. A broody hen is determined to sit on her eggs until they hatch, and persuading her otherwise can be challenging. Fortunately, a broody hen can be very useful. She’ll do all the hard work of hatching eggs and raising baby chicks.

Symptoms of a Broody Hen

A broody hen is highly temperamental. The first time one of your sweet chickens becomes a viscous, puffed up ball of fury, just try to remember that she is going to give you the gift of effortless baby chicks. Here’s some signs that you have a broody hen:

  • She stays on the nest day and night, leaving only once or twice a day to eat, drink and poop.
  • She puffs up her feathers to make herself appear larger when you look in the nest.
  • She is very protective, perhaps even pecking you if you come to close to the nest.
  • She may have a bare breast. Sometimes a broody hen will pull out her chest feathers to provide more warmth and humidity to the eggs.
  • After the first few days of broodiness she’ll stop laying and won’t start again till the chicks are raised.

Caring for a Broody Hen

Don’t try to move a broody hen. You can help her out by giving her some privacy and keeping the other hens from trying to enter her nest. If you can build a little fence around her nest box and keep fresh food and water readily available. If you can give her space and dirt for a dust bath she’ll appreciate it.

If you are allowing a broody hen to hatch eggs your biggest job is to be patient. She’ll take care of everything as long as you keep her safe from predators and harassment by other hens and give her plenty of food, water and grit.

Chicks from a Broody Hen

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Best Broody Hen Breeds

For many people a broody hen is a desirable prize. If you are striving for self-sufficiency or are interested in making a business as a breeder the best broody hens will make it easy. By far the easiest way to raise chicks is to allow a broody hen to do it herself. There is no incubator, brooder or extra work for you.

Some breeds tend more towards broodiness than others. In general, you are most likely to end up with a broody hen from a heritage breed. Many of the egg and meat powerhouse breeds have had the broodiness bred out of them.

Here are five of the best broody hen breeds:

  1. Buff Orpingtons – Great layers, docile but aggressive when protecting their eggs.
  2. Silkie Chickens – Beautiful, entertaining and the queens of broodiness.
  3. Cochin – Not the best layer, but they are amazing mothers.
  4. Brahma – Giant, sweet and great winter layers.
  5. Sussex – Also a winter layer.

A perfect way to care for a broody hen is purchase a coop like below:

Standard chicken tractor

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Extended Reading

Guide to Backyard Chickens & How to Raise Chickens

Sonya Schaffer shares a useful trick: how to get a broody hen to adopt baby chicks that aren’t hers.