What is a Broody Hen? What signs should you look for?

The first time one of my hens went broody was quite a shock to me!  My normally docile Barnevelder was now acting quite peculiar and no longer docile - I wasn't sure what to do with my crazy, broody hen.  Maybe you are wondering what is wrong with your chicken or maybe you are even hoping one of your hens will go broody, but are not sure what to look for or how to make her broody.   Hopefully, my experience and the information here on My Pet Chicken's FAQ page on Broody Hens will be of some help to you.

This is Penny, our Barnevelder, illustrating the puffed up feathers of a broody hen.

When a hen goes through hormonal changes and decides she wants to hatch some eggs and raise babies, she is then referred to as being 'broody'.  Many hens will never get broody - it's just not in their nature. Some breeds are more prone to broodiness than others, like Cochins and Silkies. These broody hens may go broody just once a year or could go broody at the drop of a hat, as one of my Ameraucanas did (5- 6 times per year)! Unfortunately, you cannot make a hen go broody - it's strictly hormonal and she will do so on her own time, if at all.

How to determine whether or not your hen is truly a 'broody' hen or just a leisurely layer.

A broody hen will stay on her nest both day and night, while leaving the nest box only 1-2 times per day to eat, drink, poop, and possibly take a dust bath. A broody hen is quite temperamental and is more protective of her eggs than normal. She will puff her feathers up to make herself seem larger. She will get quite huffy with you, when you reach in to pet her or to remove eggs from her nest, possibly even pecking at you. Our little dachshund learned pretty quickly to stay away from our Blue Ameraucana - our little Ameraucana would walk around the yard all puffed up and if our dog got too close, she'd attack.   Don't worry about a bare chested broody.  A broody hen may pluck out her own chest feathers, in order to provide more humidity and warmth for the eggs.  Your broody hen may still be laying eggs when you first notice her, but after a few days of being broody, she will stop laying and will not lay eggs again until she's no longer broody.  I've included information on what to do with this strange acting chicken here in part 2, Your Hen is Broody, Now What?.

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Christine Roth
10 years ago

My americauna went broody from Nov to Dec. I would collect the eggs and she would sit on them as quick as the others would lay them. She is out of it now but I was wondering if I bought fertilized eggs would she go broody if I left them out there or would I have to wait for her to go broody and then pick some up? And how can I encourage it? I dont' have any roosters.

Thank You

10 years ago

I have not had much success in setting eggs out to entice a broody hen. However, I have added fertile eggs when some of my hens have gone broody. I have a little frizzle who is an egg hoarder and when she is broody, I have to sequester her in wire enclosur in the yard, other wise she will roll any adjacent egg in her vicinity into her clutch. I have placed eggs under her when she is in the broody state and she had happily accepted them and hatched them too. She is the best mom - and just loves the babies.

Tara
10 years ago

I have a surplus of broody pekin bantam hens. The first two have incubated foster eggs (silkies) and they are alive and 3 weeks old all doing well as mama hens. Now another hen is broody. I don't want any more baby chicks, they are very time consuming and the five we have is plenty. I feel like I am in over my head. Plus I may have many roosters which I am not excited about either. I have heard of making an uncomfortable chook house for a hen like this but my husband has had enough of building for these chooks. Do I just leave her alone? She has stopped laying eggs a few days ago and the other two hens without chicks are due to start laying their first eggs any day. Many thanks for any help. 🙂

Christine Roth
10 years ago

Thanks so much for you advice. I watch for the next time she goes broody:)

10 years ago

My sweet silkie actually GROWLED at me when I attempted to feel under her. A short time later I had 11 cute chicks.

Phil
10 years ago

It is Feb. 4 and still quite cold here in Maryland near DC. My Buff Orpington seems to have gone broody on a dozen eggs. Can she manage them in the coop? She is in a nexting box. Do I need to isolate her from the rest of the flock? Thanks. Phil

blueberyy
10 years ago

I am thinking about getting Chickens. however i have question about the Broody thing. if my chicken(s) go Broody does that mean the eggs are feritizled? also, if i dont have a rooster will the chicken be broody/have chicks?

Eleanor Farlow
10 years ago

I have had a little Cubalaya sit on 14 eggs and hatch 9 or them...about a dozen eggs the approximate size of the hens own eggs will be the right number, if you put fertile eggs under a broody hen (who isn't laying her own fertile eggs without a rooster to do the fertilizing)...

ann
10 years ago

My first hen to go broody was a Blue Silkie. She went broody a total of 5 times last year. And now she is back dedicated as ever.

Kim Gee
10 years ago

Hi Mary Ann - I thought I had lost one of my hens but found her under a wheel barrel sitting on eggs, she had been there for a little over a week. The weather over the weekend was freezing at night and rainy most of the time, are the eggs okay? I moved her to a coop by herself now and she is still on them. Thanks for your time

Kim Gee
10 years ago

Thanks Mary Ann - I am so excited! This will the the second time for chicks hatching. It's really funny - the first hen that was broody, I got from a day care center that was roaming wild, she hatched 3 eggs. This hen, I got from an animal shelter for free. It's the ones that I paid money for that must be too good to sit, but they are good layers

Thanks again for getting back to me

zallema
10 years ago

i have a pet chicken and lately i found her sitting on her eggs ,i do not have a rooster and i feel sorry for her.what can i do to help her?will she be okay. thank you worried mom zallema.

saim khan
9 years ago

how old eggs are to place under broody hen .

Rachael
9 years ago

We are new at hatching chicks but we're thinking at least one of our hens are ready. She had five eggs she was sitting on but not constantly, they've been building up about a week. We marked them yesterday and today she moved one to the back and is keeping it really warm. She came after me as soon as I got to her box. Why would she only keep one? And also, I don't think they are hers. She lays white ones and these are all brown. Anybody have an idea what's going on?

Marcia
9 years ago

I have 6 hens laying right now and all of a sudden I noticed the eggs are being covered with straw. Does this mean one is going broody and should I leave the eggs out there and for how long? None of them has been sitting on them when I'm out there I have noticed that two of the hens have started just laying down anywhere with their breast flat on the ground.

8 years ago

Has anyone had a rooster show signs of broodiness?
Our sweet Sicilian was acting pretty weird today.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zValQBALJ6c

8 years ago
Reply to  Lily Piel

How funny! Roosters will sometimes show "nesting" behavior in order to show hens where to lay and make them feel safe, but I've never seen it to that extent before. 🙂

Stephanie
8 years ago

Ok...We have 5 hens...4 that lay and a rooster. We have a coop with a nesting box and we have been getting 4 eggs a day like clockwork until a few days ago...we started only getting 1 in the box.....We cleaned out the coop today and found 9 eggs in the back corner of the coop...Could our 1 of our hens be getting ready to try to hatch them? Do we leave the eggs just to see? We've not noticed any of them acting broody but according to a poster above they lay until they think their nest is big enough and then start sitting on them day and night....is this correct? We enjoy getting eggs daily, but we have no objections to hatching some if that's the case...we are really new to this, have only had chickens since January.

[…] be broody, give her chicks, or break her broodiness? Tell us what you think in the comments! (P.S. Here is a link to 2 My Pet Chicken blogposts about […]

[…] be broody, give her chicks, or break her broodiness? Tell us what you think in the comments! (P.S. Here is a link to 2 My Pet Chicken blogposts about […]

Leena
8 years ago

My variety of chickens do not brood, so i gave the fertile eggs to a different breed of chicken who was broody and got success

CJ
7 years ago

One of my hen's went broody a lil over a month ago with 6 egg's it's going into 4 weeks now and she has laid another bunch besides one's she was sitting on and seems the first batch she personally cleaned up as not happy with them. so over past two weeks she laid another 12 thing is she is a brown egg layer here's the clinch she laid a white egg out of the 12 "One is white " I am not kidding or playing a game I am leaving her alone to do her thing if nothing by end of July, I am breaking her of this broody business and get back to laying some $$ egg's/ 5 weeks is more then enough time for egg's to hatch.
Thing is how long are the egg's fertile chicken/hen being away from a ROO? She has been away from him for 4 weeks// past week & half she laid the other 12 would they be fertile?

7 years ago
Reply to  CJ

Eggs laid by a hen away from a rooster for a month will probably not be fertile... but they can be. Hens store semen in areas of their oviduct, and it can fertilize eggs for up to four weeks, but fertility will be far better if there is a rooster around--you know, four weeks is really the very outside that a hen can be separated from a rooster and still possibly lay fertile eggs! But something that struck me about your question is that you say your broody hen continued to lay eggs. Remember, when a hen is broody, she will not be laying eggs. So your girl probably was not broody (or at least not fully broody) when you first removed her. Some signs of broodiness are walking around with ruffled feathers, staying on the nest... but these are also signs that can mean she's not feeling well, especially if she's NOT broody and continues laying. If you look her over carefully and don't find a wound, then you might consider consulting a vet to see if she's suffering from an illness or infestation of some sort.

Mel
6 years ago

My Hen has all of these systems and sounds like she is Broody but how is that possible if we do not have a rooster? Does this mean she is sick?? She is only 14 months old.

6 years ago
Reply to  Mel

Chickens do not need to have a rooster around to lay eggs or to get broody, the same way a human woman doesn't need a man nearby for her hormones to naturally cycle. Of course your hen's eggs will not be fertile, so they won't hatch.

salman khan
6 years ago

my hen is not broody , but she lay eggs after a day. how should i get her broody.?

5 years ago

My hens r a yr old at what she do they show signs of boodly

Betty GHANA
5 years ago

My husband bought some chicks for the house and three of them survived (two roosters and a hen). The hen layer so many eggs for almost two months and to our surprise it went bloody and now have six new chicks out of the seven eggs given. Many are surprised because we all taught only the local hens go broody and hatch.

Marilou Loulou Wolfram
7 months ago

My Cochin bantam has been nesting all my other chicken eggs. All day all night. She bare chested. The other chicken pick at her all day. I had to put her in separate coop. Should I remove the wood chip? She just sat there all night. She won’t perch.

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