Learning more about behavior changes in a flock of birds and what initiates it. Let’s start with what is a brooder chicken?
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 during broody hen season.
These are hens that sit on fertilized eggs and take good care of them until they hatch into chicks. This often happens when 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 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.
How Do You Tell that Your Hen is Broody?
If you are an experienced chicken keeper, you will easily know a broody hen. But if you are a newcomer in raising chickens, it will be tough to distinguish a broody hen from the rest.
You do not have to worry about identifying a chicken brooder among your flock of birds. So, what will make you point out a broody hen from other chickens?
Signs that tell you 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 whenever you look at her eggs or check for the progress of eggs underneath her.
You will notice that your hen’s belly and chest feathers are missing because she spends 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 twice daily to stretch out or look for food and quickly returns to her eggs.
If you look carefully at the poop of your brooding hen, you will notice it’s larger and smelly than 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 takes minimal 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 above 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 continue 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 for a fertilized chicken egg to hatch into a new chick.
Beyond that, your hen should stop brooding and return to its healthy lifestyle like the other chickens.
But if she doesn’t stop, you must 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, you may use the breaking methods to prevent your hen from brooding.
Therefore, please 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 condition, 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 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; a good example is 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.
So, when you decide to raise chicks using your hens and not incubators, you must choose breed hens with a reputation for brooding.
What is the Main Purpose of a Brooder Chicken?
A brooder chicken is actually an adult, sexually mature hen that willingly sits on her fertilized eggs to take care of them during hatching. One thing remains clear regarding a brooder chicken.
You can never force them to behave brooding 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 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 12 fertilized eggs ready to be hatched into new chicks.
How can 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 considering a few essential steps. These include building large and comfortable nesting box right inside the coop.
When the nesting boxes are ready, you may keep them full using clean straw or hay bedding. Collecting the eggs your hen lays inside her nesting box is not advisable.
If you do so, your hen will refuse to hatch unless you present a whole clutch of eggs to her.
How can 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 temperature and remove 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 normal, given that the broody hen always prepares to bring forth her chicks. Hence, care, protection, and commitment must be shown throughout the hatching process.
***Click on the Image Below to Save to Your Pinterest Board***
Backyard Chickens FAQ
- Are Backyard Chickens Noisy?
- Do Backyard Chickens have Salmonella?
- Do Backyard Chickens Attract Rats?
- What do Backyard Chickens Eat?
- 9 Best Beginner Chicken Breeds for Your Backyard
- What are the Best Chicken Breeds for Beginners?
- What are the Friendliest Chickens?
- The Best Backyard Chicken For Eggs
- How Much Space do Chickens Need to Roost?
- What Size of the Chicken Coop is Suitable for 10 Chickens?
- Can You Have a Chicken as a Pet?
- How Many Eggs Do Chickens Lay in a Day?
- How Long do Roosters Live?
- What do I need to Know about Hatching Chicken Eggs?
- What Can You Feed Your Chickens for Organic Eggs?