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She’s Gone Broody!!

>14 June 2011
 
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I am SO excited. One of our hens has finally gone broody!

For all you non-chicken owning people… she’s sitting on an egg! You know, to hatch it!

See how fluffed up this hen is? That’s how we knew she’d gone broody when Jerry found her like this two days ago. He was collecting eggs from the boxes when he came upon this hen sitting in one. But instead of hopping out and running off, she stayed put and guarded her precious egg. Jerry, not knowing what she was so obviously upset about, simply reached under her and stole the egg away.

Later on that evening, he told me about the funny hen acting so crazy. I immediately realized what was going on. “Jerry!” I scolded, “She’s broody! She was gonna hatch that egg!”

“Oh.” He replied.

Goofball!!

I’ve been waiting FOREVER for one of the hens to start sitting. I’d honestly given up on them. I really hoped she would bounce back and sit on another egg the next day. I’ve heard that you can break up a broody hen, so I was anxious to see what she’d do.

Before I ever owned chickens, I had no idea how it worked. I guess I just pictured a hen sitting on a clutch of eggs, and I kinda thought that they lay a bunch of eggs at once and then sit on them and they hatch. And I couldn’t figure out how you could collect the eggs to eat without cracking one to find a chick in there. I can’t help but laugh at my naivety now.

For those who are still in the dark about the chicken and the egg, here’s the rundown…

Hens typically lay one egg a day. And they don’t usually sit on them, they just lay them and then run off to forage. Unfortunately, the instinct to sit has been bred out of most breeds. So, it’s very exciting when you actually have a hen who is willing to sit on a clutch of eggs and hatch them herself!

Yesterday morning I could hardly contain myself when I went out to check on the chickens and found her back in her box, sitting on another egg. Woo-hoo!!

So, from what I understand, she may lay a few more eggs to sit on while she’s there. Hopefully she will. You can also put eggs from other chickens (or ducks or whatever) under her to hatch out. That’s just what I did tonight.

While all of the chickens were snuggled onto their roosts, and the hen in her box, I snuck into the chicken coop and stuck another egg under the broody one. Which was kinda scary, ’cause when I got close she fluffed herself up all big and growled at me. Growled! I just knew she was gonna reach back and peck a chunk of my hand off. Fortunately, she was all talk, and didn’t do anything when I lifted her back end up to place the egg underneath her warm body.

Mind you, this was an egg I’d collected earlier in the day which had not been refrigerated.

Now she has two eggs to sit on. Oh, I just can’t wait to see what happens! I keep thinking about going out there and finding baby chicks all around her. Starting from yesterday I countdown 21 days. And then, if all goes well, we should have some new babies here on the homestead!

I really hope this works out. Remember last year when we tried incubating some eggs for the first time? That was exciting and then heartbreaking for sure. It would be great not to have to worry about humidity levels and heat lamps and all that this time around.

But will the chicks be okay if we don’t put them under a heat lamp? I mean, they survive without human intervention in nature, right? Should we bring a lamp out to the coop after they are born, or will the mama keep them warm enough? And I hope they’ll be okay being up in the nesting box like that; I hope they don’t fall out! I’ll have to keep a very close check on them.

I guess we’ll have to give the mama and chicks a separate living area for a while. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. I’m a little worried that the eggs aren’t even fertilized. I haven’t seen Dirty Wilson doing his thing in a while.

Well, as you can tell this is a new and exciting experience for us. I’m already full of questions!! I’ll definitely keep you up to date on how things work out!

Any advice for me on what to do once (*if*) we have baby chicks hatched out? I really don’t wanna mess this up!

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22 Comments »

  • Victoria said:

    We have a broody hen too! But I know the eggs are not fertilized since our rooster is yet too young to help in the matter. :) Each day I have to watch carefully because she wants to gather the eggs that have been laid in the box and sit on them. She gets very unhappy with me when I remove her from the nest. Hopefully, once our roosters are old enough and we have the potential of extending our flock then she will go back to brooding. In some of my reading on brooding hens and mother hens the advice has been to let momma do what momma hens do best, and that is raise their chicks. Instead of a heat lamp they have momma to gather under and she works at showing them how to forage and show them where the water is at etc…I think your right that nature has been doing this a lot longer than we have :) I don’t know about the nesting box question and if they would fall out – maybe they could be moved once they are hatched. Our boxes are close to the floor so we don’t face that issue.
    It is always exciting to see new life on the farm. We too are once again discovering the joys of homesteading and working at building our flock. I look forward to the updates :)
    ~Victoria
    Blackberry Creek Farm ~ Fresh from Nelson

  • Kelly Morris said:

    I am so excited for you! Looking forward to hearing about what happens in 21 days! Isn’t homestead life fun? I absolutely love this lifestyle!

    I hope to have chickens next year so I’m listening and learning, girlfriend!

  • Nikki R said:

    Your mama hen will do great keeping her chicks warm.:)They are very protective of their young.It would be fine to have her hatch them up there but then you will want to put her down so the baby can eat.Chickens do not bring food to their young but she will teach them how to find the food on the ground.Chicks do not need to eat the first day this is why people can mail order them but they will need to eat after that first day.Hope it all goes well.:)
    We currently have no rooster and so we knew that our broody Bantaam(sp?)was not going to hatch out any of her own so we stuck some guinea hen eggs under her.It is so adorable to watch her with her baby who looks nothing like her.We had four and are down to one after a few accidents.One drowned in his water dish:(and a rat got one,we are not sure where the other went.It is really adorable to watch them teach the little ones how to scratch the ground…etc…

  • Melissa said:

    Oh Kendra! That is so cool! A friend of mine had a hen go broody a little over a month ago and decided that she would just see what happened (she had roosters). Well, on June 5th I got a phone call from her. She was squealing…I have baby chicks!! Three hatched that day. Ultimately, because things were a tad cold here (still down towards freezing at night) she did bring them into a brooder box. On Thursday, I went up to visit her farm for the day and I know have two of those chicks at home, in a brooder box, peeping gently and quietly at me as I type this to you. It is so awesome! Anyhow, her broody hen is still broody and hatched another one Thursday night, and another hatched yesterday. My friend never saw her rooster(s) do his thing, but obviously he did. :)

  • samantha said:

    I had my first broody this past spring also!!! it was SOOOO exciting. It my was bantam cochin and she sat on 11 full sized eggs and hatched out 10 of them, and 9 of them survived. This was the most amazing thing i saw! i had partitioned off a little 2×4 foot area (with her own food and water) for her inside the coop with chicken wire so she was safe in the coop from predators but the the rest of the hens didn’t try to scoot her out of the nest to lay eggs, which is what happened the first few days. she was a bit antsy when i first moved her but she settled down on the nest very well (just a pile of straw on the flooor actually, no nest box in the penned off area) i marked on my calender 21 days and then nothing…….but late on day 22, i picked up an egg and i heard pipping inside……by early morning on day 23, there was a chick and then on throughout the day there were more chicks :) i had to help a few of them out of the shell because the shells were so hard……they couldn’t quite pip all the way around and break them open.

    It was the neatest thing, i would go in there and the chicks would be actually up underneath her wings, a head here and there poking out from different areas of her feathers just randomly like they were saying “whose here?” and when i would pick her up gently to count the chicks and see if they were okay, literally chicks would fall from all different parts of her body :) so the saying “took someone under my wing” had to have come from a chicken mama :)

    She did absolutely EVERYTHING for these chicks…she had this little cluck that she would give and they would all come running, she had a certain cluck when she was telling them she found food for them, etc. at around the 3-4 week old time frame, i let them go back into the regular coop and mama was still in charge of them and they followed her around though they widened their exploring a bit each day but if any hen tried to peck her babies….ooooh boy! they paid for it by the mama bear (hen :) )

    All this to say….having a broody hatch you chicks is the EASIEST and most AMAZING way to increase your flock!!! just let mamma do all the work and all you have to do is provide clean water and food and enjoy!!!

  • Lisa said:

    I have four broody hens sitting. I couldn’t figure out why we were only getting 5-6 eggs a day (when we should be getting over 20). Here all of the chickens were laying their eggs in one of the four nests that hens were sitting on. They’ve now been moved into their own pen because there are probably 60-80 eggs between them!! Ack!

    Being that it’s summer you won’t need a heat lamp but you probably do want to move her nesting box to the floor. We typically move the broody hens into their own pen so that we don’t have to worry about roosters and other hens potentially hurting the chicks. This year my extra pen is being taken up by extra roosters I haven’t yet butchered so I put the hens in with the turkey hen and young turkeys. I know, I know you aren’t supposed to mix your birds. But in 6 years of having turkeys, ducks, geese and chickens, we’ve mixed them and never had a problem so if it’s ain’t broke I’m not fixing it! :)

    Even if the eggs don’t hatch, it’s still good practice. If you have quite a few hens that look the same, I would mark her because like you said, the instinct has been breed out. So if you have a hen that gets broody, keep her!! :)

    Good luck!

  • Kim said:

    Kendra dear she’ll do a fine job taking care of them. Don’t worry about them falling out. Eventually they’ll jump down when she wants. Now they might not be able to get back IN the coop after they go out, but she’ll stay outside and keep them warm even if they can’t. Don’t worry. Mama chickens are great fun. And if she loses a number of chicks, she’ll be MUCH better next hatch with them. It’s a learning process for her too. She needs to be able to lose one and learn from it like anything else. Congrats!

  • Cat said:

    I can’t believe how excited about this I am too.
    I’ve never had chickens and probably never will, but I love the lifestyle and the adventures of reading about this. Am looking forward to reading the progress of it all. Thank you

  • Cathy Ethier said:

    Isn’t it exciting ?!?!? We have had 2 hens (one frizzle and one silkie) that was broody. We now have a Muscovy duck that is extremely broody. She has hatched 14 of her eggs and 4 geese. We have been putting eggs close to her and she pulls them under her. There is one mallard female and one goose that stand behind her and wait for her to get up so they can sit on the eggs. Too funny to watch. I went out this morning and they have stolen an egg from her so they have something to sit on.

    Be sure to take a small handful of food and put close to her so she can eat. If she is like the ones we have had, she won’t get up to eat.

    As time goes on, you should get an egg out and candle it for the little ones to see. We made it a school project when we first started hatching eggs. It is such a joy to see the baby develop.

  • Monica said:

    I have read the Buff Orpingtons make great mothers! I have an entire new batch of hens growing up (about 16 weeks now). I can’t wait to see what happens with them. Thanks for sharing!

  • Mandie said:

    If I were you, I’d put more than two under her, and I’d date them with a marker, for two reasons: One, so you can add more than one a day (and keep track of hatch dates), and Two, so you don’t accidentally gather one of her brood by mistake. Most hens will jump in the box with her there or not, nevermind that they have plenty of other boxes to lay in, and then she’ll have a fresh egg under her on day 14 or something. Also, just like in the brooder, some eggs won’t hatch because of fertilization, or a draft, or some other odd quirk, so if you want more than one to grow to adulthood, make sure to put about a dozen eggs under her. Don’t spread them out for more than about 4 days, because she’ll jump off the nest to take care of the little ones and leave the other eggs to rot.

    Since that’s a Buff Orpington?, I’m almost certain she won’t leave the nest, even for water, which is her natural tendency. Like Cathy said, you can take her a small amount of food and water each day, but don’t be surprised if she doesn’t eat or drink much at all.

    Our nests were fairly high, but when the chicks hatched, she clucked to them until they jumped out of the nest onto the floor. None were hurt. From then on, she found a cozy corner and kept them there at night. Large breeds are good mother hens. This is going to be so fun for you guys!!

  • Emily said:

    We had a hen hatch eggs this spring! She went broody – really trying to hatch some golf balls we had in the nest boxes. lol She didn’t move for 2 days, so I figured she was serious and I took 8 eggs (from different hens, all fertilized). She ended up eating 3 of the eggs (for some reason our Dark Cornish shells are rather thin). She often had to fight other hens for the next boxes, so we put her in her own caged in area for the duration. Out of 5 eggs, 4 hatched and she gave up sitting on the 5th one. It died or something and she knew it.

    Being new to the whole chicken farming thing (we got our first group of hens last July), we were quite thrilled that one of our hens wanted to hatch some eggs!

    There is nothing like watching a mother hen protect her babies and to “show them the ropes.” Then when the chicks were about 2 months old the hen’s hormones shifted and now she’s just the mean hen again, lol. She even pecks at her babies if they get too near her. It was so sad the first couple times it happened! She was eating something and one of the little ones thought she was showing them something, so she ran over and her mama pecked her! So enjoy when the mothering starts!

    When our hen was brooding, I would get her up every other day for a stretch, feeding, toilet break and dusting (about 20 minutes to a half hour is safe time). Broody hen poop is SO nasty, just an FYI. :) Since she was in a separate cage I didn’t have to worry about the other hens bothering the eggs, but made sure she got back before the half hour was completely up.

    Enjoy the experience!! It’s wonderful!

  • Emily said:

    You definitely won’t need a heat light, the mama does the job! It’s wonderful! Forgot to add that my big blabber comment. :) We also caged off a small section of our coop for the mama and babies until they were big enough to not need the nest on the floor anymore.

  • Mona @ Healthy Homesteading said:

    I’m with Mandie. Put more that two under her. I have two that I put 7 under each of them and marked the eggs with a perm. marker. One egg disappeared. Probably got trampled and eaten. One hen steals the other hens eggs two.
    I was also going to let the hen raise the chicks but decided that might get complicated with having two hens with chicks and the fact that I don’t let those chickens out every day. I am going to see how they handle it at first and decided if I need to bring them in the house.

  • Emily said:

    Must be exciting! I hope one day to have the same experience…

    (the ‘burb where we live doesn’t allow chickens.)

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    LOL, Oh I definitely plan on having her sit on more than two eggs!! I’m gonna take advantage of this broody hen. All I had yesterday was one fresh egg, so that’s all I could stick under her. I’ll give her some more today as the others lay them. Good news is as of this morning she was sitting on FOUR eggs. Yay!! I don’t know whose they are… there was another hen in the box with her earlier, but she’s gonna hatch it regardless.

  • Jessica K. said:

    Congrats and good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Rosann said:

    Kendra,
    Its best to put a whole clutch of eggs under her at one time, then they will all hatch at once instead of some chicks being days older that the others and driving her crazy wanting to get out from under her. She may abandon unhatched eggs if that is the case.
    I speak from experience.

  • Nicole said:

    That is so sweet!!! My sister has hens and roosters ( I only have hens for eggs) and she has been checking all her eggs lately to see if any look fertile, and has hatched a few these passed 2 weeks with an incubator box. They are just so sweet and soft!!! Now, I want a rooster so I can have baby chicks!!!

  • Kim said:

    I wouldn’t go past a few days of putting them under her. Rosann’s right that many moms will leave a couple of days after the first few hatch and abandon the almost hatched eggs. But if she has girls laying in there with her you may have that happen whether you like it or not.

  • Katrina said:

    We had a broody hen earlier this spring, but no fertilized eggs, so we bought 7 chicks at the local feed store, and during the night we put them under her. Then next morning she got up to get some water, noticed the chicks, did a double take, and adopted them right then and there. All 7 chicks survived. The were outside with no heat lamps and the nights were still getting cold at night. They were in a 4×8 run we had built which we moved everyday and had covered it at night wiht a tarp to help keep rain out and a little more warmth in. It was SOO much easier than doing it all ourselves with the heat lamps and whatnot.

    I noticed that your hen is a Buff Orpington, right? That was the same breed our momma hen was. I think they do tend to go broody more than other breeds. Good luck!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Katrina,

    That’s so cool :) Yeah, ours are Buffs. The lady we bought them from told us that she’s had good luck with them hatching out their own chicks. It would definitely be so much easier to let her do all the work!!

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