What to do with broody hens

Updated: May 6, 2021

Four years ago, we purchased a little electric egg incubator with hopes of raising chooks from eggs to hens. What we didn't factor in at the time was that we'd need to sort out what to do with the inevitable roosters once the chicks were hatched. Instead, we skipped that step and bought pullets at the point of lay. Julia is hoping to get into an agricultural high school, so in 2 years, we may pull out that incubator to get started again. Better yet though, is to let nature take its course and either bring in a rooster for our flock or purchase some fertilised eggs and let one of our hens go broody.

As discussed yesterday, many variations exist between differing chicken breeds, including the

propensity to lay eggs and whether or not a certain breed “goes broody.” One thing we know though is that Isa Browns are not good mothers, but golden laced wyandottes have a propensity for broodiness.

For breeding purposes, fertilized eggs are left unharvested. Once a clutch of about a dozen eggs is complete, one of the flock’s hens, determined by their pecking order, will proceed to incubate. Foregoing food or drink, the hen will protect the nest, keeping it a constant temperature and humidity while periodically rotating the eggs.

To stimulate broodiness, owners may place several artificial eggs in the nest.

To discourage it, as in when prioritizing egg harvesting, caregivers may place the hen in an

elevated cage with an open wire floor. After approximately three weeks of incubation, the first chick hatches. For up to two additional days the broody hen will continue to set the nest.

Meanwhile, the newly hatched chicks feed on the eggs’ internal yolk sacs.

Brooders - utilitarian boxes made of cardboard, plywood, plastic, metal, or acrylic - are used to isolate the chicks from the flock during their initial growth period.The brooder needs to be well ventilated but located in a draft-free location. It needs to be kept warm using a

red heat lamp to simulate natural processes. For the first week, the box should be maintained at 95 ℉ (35℃). If the chicks huddle together, they may be too cold. The temperature may also need adjustment, decreasing heat, if all of the chicks appear to be distancing themselves from each other.

After each week alive, the temperature within the brooder can be decreased by 5℉. By the completion of the sixth week, the chick has grown into a young pullet with enough feathers to join the flock’s general population.

If you are interested in learning more about whether you should raise chickens in your backyard, please pick up my introductory ebook about the subject. https://www.etsy.com/Craftoday/listing/1009566811/you-can-raise-backyard-chickens-an?utm_source=Copy&utm_medium=ListingManager&utm_campaign=Share&utm_term=so.lmsm&share_time=1619584672754

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