July 13, 2011

Broody? (Can It Really Be?)

I believe I've mentioned that our hope to perpetuate our flock of chickens is with hen raised chicks. I say hope instead of plan, because this requires a cooperative hen, who is willing to set on a clutch of eggs and hatch them out. Anyone with chickens can tell you this is rather iffy, and why many folks prefer to use an incubator. However, my husband is determined that our animals should be allowed to live their lives as naturally as they were intended to. For chickens, that means hen raised chicks.

We had to raise our chickens as mail order chicks. We have 8 chickens of four breeds: 3 Welsummers; 2 Ameraucanas; a Delaware; and 2 Barred Hollands, one hen and our rooster. According to Henderson's Handy Dandy Chicken Chart, none of these tend to be especially broody, though I've read that Delawares can make good mothers.

Three days ago, I noticed this....

I didn't think much of it at the time because this is a favored egg laying spot. I did think it odd though, when she made a soft, high pitched trill anytime another of the hens came near. I'd never heard our chickens make that sound before. Even odder, Lady Delaware, who's at the top of the pecking order (and very demanding when it comes to her right to lay her eggs wherever she wants), respected her for it. That afternoon the makeshift nest was empty. I collected the egg from it and assumed it was chicken business as usual.

After sunset, I made my final chicken count of the day before closing the coop for the night. I counted only 7 chickens on the roost. Puzzled, I wondered if something had happened to one of the hens. I hadn't heard hawks that day, but that doesn't mean they aren't around and watching. On a hunch, I peered into the dark, to see if that nesting spot was occupied. Sure enough, she was in it.

The next morning she was still there. What's unusual, is that she's one of our Welsummers. Welsummers supposedly go broody only rarely, so she's the last one I expected to do so!

I had a dozen eggs sitting on the kitchen counter from previous days' collections. She let me poke 8 of them under her before she gave me a peck. Later, when she got up for a brief break, I counted 9 eggs in her nest. They are a variety from our different breeds of hens.

If she does maintain the vigil for the full 21 days and they do hatch, we'll have us a mixed breed batch of chickens. The only purebred chicks would be Barred Hollands. We really like this breed, and at one time I thought I'd keep Barred Holland eggs at the ready, in case any hen went broody. That was easier said than done however.

We do have some question about how many of these eggs are fertile. Or if any of them are fertile. We've watched Lord B with his ladies and it seems to us that his, um, aim is off. I've been reading up on candling eggs, so hopefully we'll have a better idea of what to expect soon. If none of the eggs are fertile, plan B would be purchasing chicks and popping them under her at night. I've heard mama hens will raise these as though they hatched them themselves.

Considering I wasn't sure if we'd ever hen hatch our own eggs, I'll be happy with whatever chicks we get. If all goes well, expected hatch day is July 31st.


  1. I believe in hen raised chicks as well. They are better accepted by the flock and the mother teaches them everything they need to know. And the soft way the mother speaks to the chicks is just so cute. I hope your hens decides to see this thing through.

  2. How exciting! We have a hen on the nest right now and any day we should see chicks. I laughed about yours roosters 'aim' as I have thought the same thing at times...hahaha!

  3. Got my fingers crossed for you!! How neat!

  4. Yes, very exciting! Can't wait to hear more good news!

  5. Sounds broody to me. I have two hens that refuse to go un-broody right now. My lone cuckoo maran spends most of her spring and summer broody. I like home chicks myself. They tend to be hearty and, as Jane said, are more easily accepted by the flock and a darn less work.

  6. My cochin's little brood are starting to get big! It has been great fun to watch her with the chicks. She has 7 little guys and not one is her *biological* baby. I so hope you get chicks...you will really enjoy the whole process.

  7. Oh I hope she is going broody! I too refuse to buy an incubator so I just bought a big variety of birds & hope one of them in the future will be broody.

    Great, scientific plan eh? lol

    We have hens in Cochins, Ameracanas, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Speckled Sussex, Maran, Jersey Black Giants, High Production Reds, & Buff Orpingtons. 3 definate roos...Braham, Jersey Giant, & High Production Red. One unknown gender Blue Andulusian.

    If I don't get anything broody in that group, I'm lost! Though I've been told I should have good luck with my Cochins being broody...

    Crossing my fingers that your placed eggs are fertile & your girl will set for the entire 21 days! :)

  8. My Welsummer hen surprised me by going broody a few weeks ago. I let her sit on a half dozen eggs and three of them hatched yesterday!

    She abandoned the four that didn't hatch and is being a very attentive mamma to the three hatchlings.

  9. Jane, that's what I've heard. And I've heard such mixed reports on trying to incorporate "outsiders" into a flock that we've been very reluctant. So far so good. Can't wait to check on those eggs!

    Sherri, maybe they all look that way. And there are always plenty of chickens in the world, LOL

    BRF, thanks!

    Michelle, just praying there is more good news!

    Susan, I've read that they way to shake a hen's broodiness is to give her a good dunk in cold water. Broodiness is associated with a higher body temperature in the hen, hence the dunk lowers her temp and snaps her out of it. Now, I haven't tried this myself, mind you, but I would if I ever needed to.

    Lynda, what fun! I'm still holding my breath though. Too soon to let myself get excited!

    Crystal, that's what I call a natural plan! The very best kind I say because science isn't all it's cracked up to be! I just read this morning that Buff Orpingtons have a broody tendency and make excellent mothers. That's one of the other breeds we want to try. Between that and your Cochins, you should have a very good chance at chicks.

    Janeen, let's hear it for Wellies! I was ready to give up on mine. Their eggs are neat, but they are our nosiest chickens. As you can imagine, I've definitely changed my mind. :)

  10. It's so clear to me that I need a dictionary, and a "chickens for dummies" book! Off to do research... lol

  11. Out of 15 Welsummers, one went broody in March. I put 9 eggs under her and she hatched out 9. After about week separated from the flock by a fence, she introduced the chicks to the flock and made sure to let the flock know they were "hands off". Unfortunately for us, a huge rat snake set up under our nest box and had himself some mid-night snacks. We had one chick survive. A rooster, of course!

  12. how wonderful, I hope she sits the entire time and you wind up with some chicks! It is really nice reading about all of you who have chickens, they are next on my list of things to add to our lil place in this world.
    Have a super week!

  13. How exciting to have a broody and want it. I had 3 of 7 go broody, also from a breed which is rarely supposed to. Of course we have no Roo, so we left them sit a while and then worked to break the cycle. I hope she sits the cycle and you get the desired babies!

  14. Good luck auntie...I once watched a brooding hen grab a trespassing mouse and swaller it right down..GROSS, but nice catch! Too funny about the rooster...ahhhh, life on a farm!

  15. Project Girl, we all start at the beginning!

    Paula, how horrible! I love it that it was a Wellie who hatched out all those eggs and was such a good mom. I hope for a success like that too.

    Deb, thanks!

    Nina, one is wanted, more than that would be a problem! So far so good though, and hopefully all those eggs are fertile.

    Wild Thing, that is gross! I watched one of our hens eat a small snake once. That was gross too.

  16. Very exciting! Good luck for a successful hatch! Regarding the comments--I didn't know chickens were meat eaters, wow.

  17. wow good luck with this clutch. I hope you get chicks cuz it would be smelly if you don't. :D

  18. How exciting!! I have one hen - a cochin - who goes broody every other time the sun shines. She stays that way too for 5 or 6 weeks!!! I've been tempted to put some fertilized eggs under her and let her do the mama thing but we are at (shhh, over) our legal limit in terms of chickens. So, for now, she sits on a golf ball!

  19. Angie, yup, chickens are omnivorous. Usually though, their meat is in the form of bugs, worms, and grubs. I have to tell you that my hen was really excited about that little snake and really proud of her catch. She carried the uneaten half around for the longest time, showing it off. Still gross to think about LOL

    Renee thanks! Next week I'll try candling. I'm supposed to remove all the clear eggs. I just hope they aren't all clear!

    Green Bean, 5 of 6 weeks? Wow, I was wondering how long they'd sit if there was no results. You could but a few chicks to put under her. I read that works really well.

  20. good luck - at least you know faster what's what than with the goats:))

  21. If you do the "poke the chicks under at night thing", you should do it at 21 days, and be prepared for it to fail... Some chickens will take to the chicks just fine, and some will eat them (says she with experience with this - ugh...).

    The best way to get broody hens is to raise up a couple from breeds that are known for their broodiness - light brahmas, cochins, etc. When they go broody, they will stay there throughout the whole process.

    Be sure to give your hen food and water by her nest (it would actually be better to lock her up on it).

    Good luck - there's nothing cuter than home-raised chicks being called by their mom to check out some juicy bug!

  22. Bettina, that's a fact!

    Laura, I didn't know that, thanks. I have put food near her, so I'll add water too. You're the second person whose mentioned caging or fencing, I just have to figure out how to do that; she's in an awkward spot. Still not sure about the sneak-a-chick thing. Dan would like to try some Buff Orpingtons, and I have my eye on Speckled Sussex. I reckon I'll wait until next week to see if candling reveals anything.

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