The first time one of my hens went broody was quite a shock to me! My normally docile Barnevelder was now acting quite peculiar and no longer docile - I wasn't sure what to do with my crazy, broody hen. Maybe you are wondering what is wrong with your chicken or maybe you are even hoping one of your hens will go broody, but are not sure what to look for or how to make her broody. Hopefully, my experience and the information here on My Pet Chicken's FAQ page on Broody Hens will be of some help to you.
[caption id="attachment_198" align="alignright" width="292"] This is Penny, our Barnevelder, illustrating the puffed up feathers of a broody hen.[/caption]
When a hen goes through hormonal changes and decides she wants to hatch some eggs and raise babies, she is then referred to as being 'broody'. Many hens will never get broody - it's just not in their nature. Some breeds are more prone to broodiness than others, like Cochins and Silkies. These broody hens may go broody just once a year or could go broody at the drop of a hat, as one of my Ameraucanas did (5- 6 times per year)! Unfortunately, you cannot make a hen go broody - it's strictly hormonal and she will do so on her own time, if at all.
How to determine whether or not your hen is truly a 'broody' hen or just a leisurely layer.
A broody hen will stay on her nest both day and night, while leaving the nest box only 1-2 times per day to eat, drink, poop, and possibly take a dust bath. A broody hen is quite temperamental and is more protective of her eggs than normal. She will puff her feathers up to make herself seem larger. She will get quite huffy with you, when you reach in to pet her or to remove eggs from her nest, possibly even pecking at you. Our little dachshund learned pretty quickly to stay away from our Blue Ameraucana - our little Ameraucana would walk around the yard all puffed up and if our dog got too close, she'd attack. Don't worry about a bare chested broody. A broody hen may pluck out her own chest feathers, in order to provide more humidity and warmth for the eggs. Your broody hen may still be laying eggs when you first notice her, but after a few days of being broody, she will stop laying and will not lay eggs again until she's no longer broody. I've included information on what to do with this strange acting chicken here in part 2, Your Hen is Broody, Now What?.