We all know the typical broody signs - hen sitting puffed up on the nest, flattened like a pancake to cover all the eggs, refusing to come off and nipping at any intrusive hand with an ominous cluck. But are there any early warning signs that your chicken is about to go broody?
Well, actually, from my experience there are some early signs indicating that your chicken has plans to go broody in the very near future, even if she hasn't started sitting yet. Here they are:
Changing laying spot to a new one. Chickens, in general, are creatures of habit - perhaps more so than any other homestead animal. Normally, a chicken will lay in the same spot, day after day, and often at the same hour. If a hen that always used to lay in the nesting box suddenly switches to lay in the bushes, it's pretty certain she's looking for a discreet spot to hide her clutch. Be on the lookout for these changes; often, a chicken owner will mistakenly assume the hen has stopped laying and might try things like calcium supplements or treating for lice or mites. Try to keep an eye on your chicken's behavioral patterns. Often, when released from the coop, a hen will make a straight beeline for her chosen laying spot.
Plucking belly feathers. Broody hens pluck out their feathers to ensure close contact with the eggs and increase warmth and moisture. If your hen has picked her belly feathers, it's almost certain she's preparing to be a momma. To check this, gently slide your hand under the chicken's belly. If you feel a bald, moist spot - but otherwise notice no loss of feathers and no parasites - odds are that you will have a broody on your hands soon.
Sitting every day for a while without laying. This is another telltale sign that a hen is about to go broody. An otherwise healthy chicken will stop laying but will still sit in the nest for a while every day. Sitting intervals may get longer and longer until the hen no longer gets up from the nest at all, and develops the characteristic clucking, feather-puffing, and defensive behavior typical for broody hens. Once she does, she has gone into "full broody" mode. Usually, once a hen has been sitting for over 24 hours, I will wait until nightfall and then carefully slide some eggs under her.
If you notice any of these signs, check your coop for "broody preparedness" and make sure you have some high-quality fertile eggs to give your chicken.
Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna, her husband, and their four children live on the outskirts of a small town in northern Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens, and foraging. Anna's books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.