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How To Encourage A Hen To Go Broody

19 January 2010 51 Comments

I previously posted asking if anyone had any suggestions on how to make a hen go broody. I got some helpful answers, and did some research, and found a few suggestions:

  • leave eggs in the nest
  • put golf balls in the nest, so she thinks they’re eggs
  • set up a nice quiet nest in a darkened, sheltered corner of the coop

The nest where this chicken was laying was already in a dark corner of the chook house, so I just put some golf balls in there. Sure enough, she thought they were eggs and started sitting on them! It took about 2 days for her to get ‘in the mood’.

I had been keeping aside the eggs from all our chickens for a few days, hoping that I might be able to put them under her if I could get her to sit.

Interesting aside: you can keep eggs at room temperature for up to 10 days, and they’ll still start to develop if you then put them in an incubator or under a chicken. This is why baby chicks hatch all on the same day, even though mother hens only lay one egg per day. Development doesn’t start until the last egg of the batch is laid and the hen begins sitting on them.

Once she was settled, I replaced the golf balls with the reserved eggs. She’s been happily sitting on them ever since. I’ve even seen other hens climb into the nest with her, lay an egg, and she pulls it under herself to join the others! I’m not sure what she’s going to think when her chicks come out all different colours :-).

It should be about 3 weeks now until the eggs hatch. I’ll post updates as things progress.

Build your own chicken coop.

51 Comments »

  • Jen R. (emeraldsunshine.org) said:

    Yay! I’m still gathering data on how to convince my town to let me have a few chickens, so I live vicariously through others stories. 😉

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Jen: Good luck! There seems to be a lot of towns/cities around the world that don’t allow the keeping of chickens. Thankfully, this is changing. Keep pestering them, and get like-minded locals to do the same. Talk to the newspapers etc as well, and get some public pressure happening! Good luck!

  • donna said:

    Hi Darren, Good Job, I still have a couple of broody hens. They are driving me up the wall… I got some turkies in a small cage. Once they are gone if the girls are still broody i will have to buy some fertile eggs off you to put under them..

    I put some eggs into the dapto show and got a 2nd prize for them. I was most cuffed…

    Donna

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Donna: Congratulations! You can now truthfully advertise “the second-best eggs in Dapto” :-). Once my Brahma pullets start to lay (how much longer can it be?!), I can get you some purebred Brahma eggs. They’re a lovely-looking chook, and very subdued and friendly. I’ll even take the young roosters back if you can’t keep them.

  • Kelly said:

    My suggestion for making a hen go broody? Don’t bother with the hen you’ve got–get a Buff Orpington. Mine just loves to go broody a few times per year. She’s the sweetest pet, very friendly and lays good eggs (when she lays) but she takes several long breaks each year.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Kelly: This hen is prone to broodiness several times per year, it’s just that she wasn’t broody at that time. The golf ball trick worked in the end. If I was going to buy a hen specifically for brooding, a bantam is hard to beat. They’re great little mothers.

  • Noah said:

    I don’t know about broody chickens to much, can someone help me.?

  • Noah said:

    I have a broody hen in my chicken coop and some chickens layed some eggs under her, could they hatch, Because i heard it is a 50/50 chance.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Noah: The most obvious first question is – do you have a rooster? Without a rooster, none will hatch. If you do have a rooster, then let her sit on them and see what happens! It should take 3 weeks for them to hatch, although you can “candle” them (shine a bright torch through them from behind) on day 8 to see if chicks are developing inside. Stay tuned, I’ll be posting some articles about hatching chicks over the next week or two!

  • Oisin Cleary said:

    You shouldn’t let other hens lay on top of her as those extra eggs will hatch at different times and put the hen under extra stress!!

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Oisin: I find that it’s no problem to let other hens add their eggs in the first couple of days. After that, I mark all the eggs with an X – then I can remove any “new additions” that sneak in over time.

  • miha said:

    I’m sorry I don’t speak very good english, because I came form Slovenia. I shall consider the advice and I am going to make a hen go broody.

    My muscovy duck is hatching chicken eggs also. I will see, how many eggs will be hatched.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Miha: Welcome! Your English is fine, I had no problems understanding your comment. Good luck with your hen. I’d like to hear how the duck goes with hatching chicken eggs – I’ve heard of people using chickens to hatch duck eggs, but not the other way around. Muscovies are high on my list of most-wanted animals for our property.

  • miha said:

    Last year I got the duck eggs and they hatched hen. One week ago muscovy duck started to hatch. Duck had 14 eggs, but I removed the 10 eggs.Eggs from Muscovy ducks hatch in about 35 days after setting. han hatch in about 3 weeks. i will give my broody duck after two weeks chicken eggs. they(ducklings and chicken) will hatched in the same time.

    i will see then if can duck hatched a chicken egg.

  • Marie Lally said:

    Hi. We have a broody muscovy who is sitting on infertile eggs. Her sister has now joined her and they seem to be sharing the eggs and both are on the nest. If I remove one of them and put chiken eggs under her will she take care of the chickens. We have no natural pond (use a paddling pool) so will she try to make them swim? Miha, what happened to your chickens with the duck as mother?

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Marie: I’m not sure if they’ll hatch chicken eggs. It’s probably worth a try, though, if you have fertile eggs available. Do let me know how it goes!

  • Lorraine said:

    Hi all, I have a batam currently sitting on some fertile eggs. I’ve noticed the rooster seems to be hassling her. Do I move him out whilst she’s sitting on the eggs. I’m in Victoria and the weather getting colder, when the chicks hatch, do I need to warm the coop up? Do I move the other chickens and rooster?? Thanks Lorraine

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Lorraine: I like to separate broodies from the rest of the chickens. I have a few smaller mobile cages that I can put them in. It stops other chooks continually adding eggs to the clutch (which won’t reach full term, since they were laid later), it gives the expectant mum a break, and it removes the risk of other chooks or wild birds attaching the new chicks. It also means I can feed them chick crumbles without worrying about the other chooks stealing it all. I wouldn’t worry too much about temperature – the mother should be able to keep them warm as long as she’s getting plenty of food. Bush wisdom says that feeding chickens wheat heats them up through winter.

  • miha said:

    @maria:I apologize that I was offline. My broody muscovy duck didn’t hatched nothing. All the eggs have become rotten.

    This duck has today 3 eggs. I don’t know what to do. Should I let her eggs and than she will be broody duck, or should i put her a chicken eggs?

    I hope that you will no problems with understanding 😉 have a nice day!

  • miha said:

    I do not know if it is guilty of a duck, that nothing had been hatched..

  • noah smith said:

    i live in the middel of the south so i dont have to worry about the law not wanting chickens

  • Siena said:

    I have a silky rooster and the other chickens are not silkies. They are leghorns and Isa browns. Can they still be compatible with a silky rooster? And, none of the leg horns are laying but the Isa browns are. Can I help this? The rooster also isn’t very active. Siena

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Siena: In theory, your silky rooster is compatible with the other hens as long as he can catch them. In my experience silkies aren’t as active as other breeds of chickens, so he may not be up to the job. I do know for sure that non-silky roosters can cross with silky hens. ISA Browns are bred for high egg production, so they often lay well into winter and only take short breaks. Leghorns are a traditional egg-laying breed, not quite the machine that the ISA Brown is but still very productive. It wouldn’t surprise me if they slowed down in the colder weather/shorter days, and stopped laying for longer when they molt. They’ll probably live longer than the ISA Browns, though, and will generally be more robust and healthier.

  • miha said:

    I have two hens New Hampshire and 1 rooster. Are these hens good broodies?

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Miha: I don’t have any personal experience with New Hampshires, but I have read that they do go broody and are good mothers. They were bred for fast growth so are good as a meat chicken, but they are also fair egg-layers making them a useful dual-purpose breed.

  • miha said:

    I will see how the New Hampshire proved. I have at home also Cochin China hens, they are very good broodies mother. I can hatch New Hampshire eggs with Cochin China hens :DD

  • Colleen said:

    Hi. I am new to poultry this year. I started with 14 assorted chicks and 6 guineas. Then I bought 3 adult Muscovey ducks from a local farmer about 4 weeks ago. 2 females and a male. The girls did not lay for about 10 days, but once they settled in they were laying 1-4 eggs a day. Now one of them has gone broody and has about 8 eggs in the nest. She doesn’t sit on them all the time, but stays pretty close by. When should she start really settting these eggs so I know when they might hatch?

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Colleen: I’m jealous! I want some guinea fowl (for tick control) and more Muscovy females. I’m still waiting for our one female to go broody. I expect your duck is already incubating the eggs, if she’s spending any time sitting on them. The incubation period is 35-37 days, so you should know in a month or so!

  • Colleen said:

    Thanks Darren. I’ll just watch and see how it goes. I love my giunea hens, but they can make a lot of noise. Oh and I got my first chicken egg yesterday!

  • miha said:

    My Muscovy duck is sitting on the eggs. I have to wait 3 weeks and we will see how many ducklings will be hatched. She has 5 eggs.

  • Colleen said:

    Hi again Darren, Just wanted to let you know that the muscoy ducklings have started to hatch. We started with 18 eggs and so far we have 6 hatched and 4 more working their way out(we lost 2 eggs out of the nest). Thanks again for your advice. It’s very exciting! Colleen

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Colleen: That’s great news! Ducklings are gorgeous, aren’t they?

  • Colleen said:

    So we have 12 beautiful yellow ducklings and both moms are very attentive. The cutest little things ever!

  • Colleen said:

    Hi again Darren, I was wondering if you could give me any advice on sexing my 12 muscovy ducklings. They will be 4 weeks this weekend and I have people that are looking for males or females. I have read a little about size and body shape, but so far I really don’t see any difference. Any ideas? Thanks, Colleen.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Colleen: Hi! I’m not very good at telling muscovies apart yet – they’re not like all the other breeds of ducks. The males will start to get bigger than the females now that they’re 4 weeks old, and it’ll be noticeable by the time they hit 6 weeks. Looking at their bodies, the males will be a bit longer and have bigger feet and thicker legs. The females will be more petite. Keep watching them, and you should start seeing some differences soon!

  • Lauren said:

    Hi. I have 9 hens and 1 rooster. I have been wanting one of them to go broody. One of my neighbors chickens is going broody, I think (they share a coop with us). It is sitting on the fake eggs plus a few real eggs. Is that a good way to make the hens go broody, putting fake eggs in one of the nests? Thanks, Lauren

  • Lauren said:

    Also, do you know what breeds of chickens are best to go broody. I have heard that Silkies and New Hampshire chickens are good chickens to go broody. Thanks, Lauren

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Lauren: Yes, putting a few fake eggs (or even golf balls!) in a nest is a good way to encourage a hen to go broody. Some breeds are more prone to broodiness than others – in general the heritage breeds are quite good and the modern hybrids aren’t. People recommend silkies all the time as mothers, but I’ve had three and none of them ever went broody. I had Brahmas, and they were very good – they’re big, too, so they can cover more eggs than most other breeds.

  • Colleen said:

    Hi Darren, So now I am wondering when my adult ducks will start laying again? The ducklings are 8 weeks old and I can mostly tell the difference between males and females, but no duck eggs since they started to brood. Thanks for all the info. Colleen

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Colleen: The mother will start to ignore the ducklings soon, and leave them to fend for themselves – when that happens, she’ll start laying again.

  • Lauren said:

    Thanks Darren! I’ve heard that any breed will go broody if they weren’t born or aren’t from a hatchery… do you know if that is true???

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Lauren: It’s not strictly true. Some breeds are more prone to broodiness than others. In particular, older heritage breeds are generally better, and modern hybrids have had the broodiness bred out of them (as it reduces productivity in a commercial environment). In my experience chicks raised by a mother hen are better foragers, and make better mothers themselves, but I haven’t noticed that they’re more likely to go broody than incubated chicks.

  • miha said:

    Hi! I put the chicken eggs in incubator on 27th of January afternoon. I know chickens needs 21 days to hatched. When the chicken eggs start to move? When I will hear them? Thank You very much!

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Miha: You won’t hear the eggs peeping or see them move until they’re ready to hatch – about day 20 or 21. You can candle them to check that they’re developing, though – shine a bright torch through them from behind. You should see large dark shadows and an air pocket, since your eggs are close to hatching. If the whole egg is clear, then there’s no chick in there.

  • Colleen said:

    Hi again Darren,

    So my Muscovy ducklings(12)were born in early November. Still no eggs from the 2 adult females since they brooded. I am also down to 3 ducklets( 5 boys went into the freezer a couple of weeks ago). About when will they start to lay? Last, I would like to add some Midget White turkeys this summer. Can I house them all together? The ducks, chickens and guinea hens all share a coop at night and when the weather is too cold for them to go out. A lot to think about. Sorry to be a pain, but any info would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Colleen.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Colleen: I think they start laying at around 6-7 months old, but they’ll often wait until well into spring to get started. I’ve got no experience with turkeys, but I’d like to try to grow some for Christmas this year.

  • miha said:

    Hi!

    I have one big question for you!

    i search for long time one good automatic chicken incubator. Can anyone recommend me any incubator?

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Miha: I’ve not used an automatic incubator, so can’t recommend anything specific. I’ve only used a manual incubator and broody chickens. You should try one of the many poultry forums on the web for advice.

  • miha said:

    HI! Again I do. 😀 One of the hens, sounds like clocking. This hen do not stay in the nest. Also, do not behave like a broody hen. Just sounds like the typical broody hen. I want that this hen become a broody hen. What can I do?

    I’m sorry for my terrible english an thank you verry much!

  • Colleen said:

    Hi Darren,

    Its Colleen again. So all my ducks have started to lay and now 1 of the mama ducks is brooding again. She has 5 eggs in her nest and has been setting for about a week now. I have 2 questions. Someone that I work with wants the ducklings. When can I take the ducklings away from mom without causing too much trauma to mom or ducklings? And it seems that the other ducks have stopped laying. Is that normal? Should the other 5 keep laying or not untill this bunch hatch? Thanks again for all your advice.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Colleen: Great news! I’d wait until the mother starts ignoring the ducklings before removing them, just to make sure they get the best start possible. If you really want to, though, you can take them away at any age as long as the other people are willing to give them some warmth in a brooder box. By 3 weeks old they won’t need heat if kept in a protected area, and by 6 weeks old they can go outside as long as conditions aren’t excessively harsh. I’m not sure why the others would have stopped laying, although mine do tend to lay in batches with breaks in between. I’ve got some little muscovies just hatching now. So cute!