In the course of keeping chickens, you will come to notice some changes among a certain group of hens. The changes are usually behavioral, especially when it is a broody hen season. Let’s learn more about this change of behavior and what initiates it among your flock of birds. So, what is a brooder chicken? These are hens that sit on fertilized eggs and take good care of them until they hatch into chicks. This happens more often than not, where an incubator is not used to enable fertilized chicken eggs to hatch. Thus, the broody or brooder chicken comes in handy to facilitate the entire hatching process.
Brooding happens most of the time when the hens get ready to sit on their fertilized eggs. This sounds like a season whereby hens spend most of their time sitting and turning their eggs in preparation for hatching into new chicks after 21 or preferably 3 weeks. The hen provides the ideal conditions necessary to cause the embryo inside the eggs to develop into young, good-looking chicks that come out of the shell after the hatching period is over.
How Do You Tell that Your Hen is Broody?
If you are an experienced chicken keeper, it will be easy for you to know a broody hen. But if you are a newcomer in the business of raising chickens, then it will be tough to distinguish a broody hen from the rest. Anyway, you do not have to worry about the identification of a chicken brooder among your flock of birds. So, what will make you point out a broody hen from other chickens?
Here are a few signs that will tell you if your chicken is about to brood:
- You may notice your hen becoming reluctant to get far away or off the eggs in the nest.
- The hen in question will prefer spending more of her time in the nest regardless of whether there are eggs or not.
- The hen may become aggressive and hostile every time you take a look at her eggs or check for the progress of eggs underneath her.
- You will notice that the belly and chest feathers on your hen are missing due to spending most of her time lying on the eggs.
- The wattles and combs turn pale on broody hens.
- The broody hen leaves her nest once or even twice a day to stretch out or look for food and quickly comes back to her eggs.
- If you look carefully at the poop belonging to your brooding hen, you will notice that it’s larger and smelly compared to that for other chickens.
- The hen becomes territorial, particularly over her nest. In most cases, you will see her puffing the feathers out or squawking at anyone or anything that gets close to her.
- The hen may seem flattened all the time when it is in her nest in a bid to cover the eggs. Even if you pick her up from the nest, she will likely refuse to put down her feet.
- Much to your surprise, you will notice that your hen is taking a minimal amount of food and water, unlike when she is not brooding.
- You may hear your broody cackling softly and occasionally when the hatching day gets close.
All the signs mentioned above will clearly tell you that your hen is about to brood. This means you need to provide her with the right environment. This will enable her to carry on with her brooding while preparing the fertilized eggs to hatch.
How Long Does Your Hen Stay Broody?
Your hen can stay broody for about 21 days if left unattended or undisturbed. In the real sense, this is the time it takes for a fertilized chicken egg to hatch into a new chick. Beyond that, your hen should stop brooding and get back to its healthy lifestyle just like the rest of other chickens.
But if she doesn’t stop, you will have to think out of the box to help her stop brooding. This is when the breaking method comes in to save the situation. We’ll discuss more of these methods in the following sections.
Using breaking methods will only help your hen to stay broody for a short while. When your hen returns to her healthy life, you should expect her to start laying eggs again after a few days.
Unfortunately, some breeds can take up to one month or so to start the egg-laying routine as it was previously. After some time, the hen will begin showing signs of brooding in readiness to start sitting on the eggs.
If you do not need chicks immediately, then you may resort to the breaking methods to prevent your hen from brooding. For that reason, don’t allow your hen to brood for 21 days unless you want it to hatch the fertilized eggs.
Should you allow your hen to brood, ensure that you keep an eye on her conditions given that she would remain sitting on her eggs most of the time. And in the process, she may take more dust baths and consequently get lice or mites. Apart from that, ensure that she eats and drinks water once per day.
When Should You Expect Your Hen to Brood?
It is never easy to tell the exact time of day when your hen will start to brood. Also, you cannot predict this behavior or force your hen to start brooding. This period is uncertain and variable depending on your hen’s instinct, maturity, and hormones.
All these statements don’t mean that you cannot tell the season in which hens start brooding. In essence, hens are more likely to brood in the spring. This is because spring comes with warmer conditions which are ideal for raising chicks. You will rarely see your hens getting broody in cold winter weather.
On the other hand, some breeds are likely to go broody earlier than others. But only a few birds don’t get broody at all, and a good example is found among the hybrids. Why is this the case? A simple explanation of this strange phenomenon is that these hybrids are born without the brooding instinct in them.
Some of the breeds that broody multiple times in a year include the Buff Orpingtons, Columbian, Turkens, Wyandottes, Brahmas, Cornish, Silkies and Cochins. So, when you decide to raise chicks using your hens and not incubators, then you need to choose breeds of hens that have a reputation for brooding.
What is the Main Purpose of a Brooder Chicken?
A brooder hen is actually an adult, sexually mature chicken that willingly sits on her fertilized eggs to take care of them in the course of hatching. One thing remains clear when it comes to brooder chickens; you can never force them to show brooding behavior when they aren’t ready.
In fact, they can only exhibit this behavior when they feel the biological need to go broody. For that reason, these hens will sit on their eggs for a period not less than 21 days or three weeks in what is commonly referred to as hatching.
But they only do so when they have already laid a whole clutch of eggs. On average, each clutch size for hens comprises of 12 fertilized eggs that are ready to be hatched into new chicks.
How do you encourage broody behavior?
- As stated earlier, you can’t force your hen to start brooding if she is not ready. She will only exhibit her brooding behavior at the right time when nature permits her to do so. But you may encourage her to start brooding by taking into consideration a few essential steps. These include building large and comfortable nesting box right inside the coop. When the nesting boxes are ready, you may as well keep them full using clean straw or hay bedding. Keep in mind that it is not advisable to collect the eggs laid by your hen inside her nesting box. If you do so, then your hen will refuse to hatch unless you present a full clutch of eggs to her.
How do you discourage broody Behavior?
- There are cases where you may not want your hen to brood. Therefore, you may find ways of curbing this behavior. To begin with, gather her eggs regularly to prevent her from collecting enough eggs to hatch. Other ways of discouraging her from hatching. These are taking her out of the nesting box, sealing off the nesting box, and allowing her to roost again. Placing frozen vegetables under her belly tp lower her temperatures and taking out the brood buster.
A chicken brooder is a term that describes a hen that is displaying signs of brooding. This happens mostly when the hens are ready to sit on their eggs to make them hatch after 21 days. During the brooding season, you will notice your hen displaying strange behavior. This will let you know that she is ready to start hatching. This is quite normal given that the broody hen is always preparing to bring forth her chicks. Hence, the need to show care, protection, and commitment through the entire hatching process.
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