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January 18, 2012 / 74

Broody Hen

We have a treasure!

At least one of our hens is “broody” – which is to say she’s willing – nay DRIVEN – to sit on the eggs until they hatch. This is a HUGE benefit because if you allow a broody hen to sit on the eggs and hatch them, you don’t have to spend all that money on electricity for the incubator or the egg turner.

Some breeds have pretty much had the brooding instinct bred out of them. Having had White Brahma chickens before, we know they have a tendency to sit and hatch eggs… which is just one more reason to select the breed. (Others include large size, both summer and winter-hardiness, high production of eggs, and the extra large size of their brown eggs which can be sold for more than white eggs.) They’re also excellent foragers so when the ground is bare and not frozen, I turn them out to “free range” and they save me a mint on feed costs AND the eggs taste better!

When you have a broody hen, you must take care to NOT disturb her when she’s on the nest, lest you discourage her from sitting eggs. This involves some loss in production – but is well worth the cost. After a few days, she’ll have all the eggs she can cover – and the other hens will stop “contributing” to her clutch and will lay in other nests.

Another benefit of the breed is that, even if a hen is broody, she remains good tempered. Which is to say if you really WANT to fetch the eggs from beneath her, she will permit you to poke your hand beneath her and get them without pecking you or making a fuss. One hen even went so far as to raise herself up a bit so I could more easily see and get the eggs! Now, THAT’S accommodating!

I remember one breed we had, but not for long. Even though they were not at all broody, the hens would attack you if you tried to get the eggs from the nest while they were on it. I had to wear welding gauntlets when I went to collect the eggs! And the vicious rooster attacked the kids in the yard! I finally made the kids sticks with bright red 2 inch rubber balls on the ends. When the rooster came around them, they’d chase him with the stick and bop him in the rear with the ball. He was a bit slow in the head – (Ummm… CHICKEN?) but he finally learned to stay away from them, especially once they started to play rooster polo with him. He was NOT amused! ;-D

BTW – egg production from 19 mature hens is currently running between 9 and 16 eggs per day, and the 6 guineas we have seem to have decided that they are the de-facto bosses of the chickens, and that the chickens are part of their flock. When it’s time to close them up for the night, the guineas will NOT all go in until ALL of the chickens are in. Sometimes one of more of the guineas will sit on the shed roof and squawk at the slow chickens, sometimes they get right down on the ground and nag them in. Given the relative size of the hens compared to the guineas, being “forceful” about it would never work for the guineas. I’ve seen one hen chase all 6 guineas when they irritated her!

This behavior is kind of nice in a way – since in the evening I know without counting them in whether they are all inside. (But I count anyway. :-D)

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