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Breeding with Broodies

| 6/15/2017 10:07:00 AM


Hatching chicks by letting broody hens do the job is easy, satisfying and rewarding, if a little unpredictable – you don’t really have a way of knowing when a hen will go broody, and there is only so much you can do to encourage it. Here is what we do in our coop.

Provide enough nesting boxes – hens tend to sit where they are used to laying, and when one goes broody, you don’t want other competing with her for space. I know some people remove the broody and her eggs and place her in a different location (such as a secure enclosed section of the coop), but from our experience, this might make the broody abandon the eggs, so we just let our hens sit in the nesting box. Since we have plenty of boxes, this usually isn’t a problem.

We used to let hens accumulate a clutch of eggs in the hopes they would begin sitting, but it only resulted in a lot of mess and many spoiled or broken eggs. Now we collect every egg as soon as it is laid and, to encourage broodiness, provide a clutch of plastic dummy eggs (can be bought cheaply at a toy store or on e-bay). Note: we’ve had some hens begin sitting even without a clutch. Once the broody instinct kicks in, they’ll just do their thing.

Keep your fresh eggs in a cool, dry place (not in the fridge!), turning once a day, so you’ll always have some to give a broody when you have one. We don’t recommend using eggs that are over a week old.

Once a hen displays characteristic signs of broodiness (sitting over a chosen spot with puffed-up feathers, overnight as well as during the day, clucking in a characteristic manner and pecking anyone who gets too near), choose some of your freshest eggs to give her, or get some from another breeder. Your broody won’t know or care whether she’s sitting on her own eggs, eggs from another hen, or even duck or turkey eggs.

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