Chicken Coop Chatter©
April 7, 2015
We hear two different sides to broodiness. Either people do not want a hen to go broody or they do want a hen to go broody. If there is no rooster, broodiness is not acceptable unless you want to hatch fertile eggs that you purchase or acquire from a chosen source.
Since commercial poultry farms are production oriented, they choose breeds that are not prone to broodiness. A broody hen is not a productive hen, since she stops laying when she is setting for 21 days and through the rearing stage of the chicks. This time period could be as much as a three month duration, which is not acceptable to a commercial production farm.
Modern breeders have mostly bred broodiness out of the full size fowl in a trade off for high volume egg layers and meat birds. However, there may be a broody hen in any breed, and there are breeds that are most prone to broodiness and the mother instinct. The most common and most reliable are true heritage breeds, along with silkies, banties and cochins. Hybrids or production breeds rarely if ever go broody.
To answer why some hens will not go broody, first consider the breed. Is it a production breed (Sex Links: Red or Gold Sex-Link or Black Sex-Link or White Cornish), or a true Heritage breed, such as Wyandotte, Orpington or Plymouth Rock?
The second question to ask is if the hen is getting a proper feed ration with balanced nutrients?
Third, what is the age of the hen? Some hens may continue broodiness long after their productive years; however, many will reach their non-productive years and have no desire to go broody. This stage of life may be referred to as “henapause”.
And fourth, is the hen a lead hen or low in the pecking order, and is the breed docile or flighty? Flighty birds such as White Leghorn rarely if ever go broody, yet a docile breed such as Brahma or Orpington may be prone to broodiness. Lead hens may not go broody, since they are duty oriented and broodiness can change the pecking order if that lead hen is not on the job; she cannot tend to business keeping the flock in line and brood chicks at the same time.
New breeding methods concentrate on specific traits; egg laying, meat quality, dual purpose and fast growth are all factors in why most modern breeds and hybrids do not tend to go broody.You can attempt to encourage broodiness by leaving a few eggs or artificial eggs in a nest. This method, along with a quiet nesting area that is semi-dark, can prompt the broody instincts with some success, and you may get a hen to actually set through a hatch. But be aware she may abandon the chicks after hatch, so be prepared to care for those chicks and provide a warm brooder with food and water if this does happen.
You will need to monitor carefully to make sure the hen is continuing the mothering. Some may do the hatching, but the instinct is no longer strong enough to carry out the mothering.
Always provide a good, well balanced feed for the hens and keep them in good health. These factors are important regardless, but even more important if you are trying to encourage broodiness. A true broody will sacrifice her health to bring chicks into the world, so you want her to be in tip top health before encouraging broodiness.
We offer fertile hatching eggs of our rare Landrace breeds and our heritage chicken breeds if your hen happens to go broody. Please refer to our breed profiles. http://justfowlingaround.weebly.com/breed-profiles
For more information on encouraging broodiness, refer to our article: Is it possible to make a hen go broody. http://justfowlingaround.weebly.com/chicken-blog/can-you-make-a-hen-go-broody
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