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Five Ways to Encourage a Hen to go Broody

Want a chicken to sit on eggs  for you to hatch them? Here are five ways to encourage her to go broody for you.

Letting a hen sit on a nest of eggs to hatch them is far easier than using an incubator. The broody hen IS the incubator, turning the eggs and keeping them warm and at the correct humidity level.

After the eggs hatch, she acts as the brooder box as well, needing no electricity to keep the chicks warm and safe. No more messy, dusty brooder in your laundry room or garage, no worries about heat lamps.

The mother hen also shows the chicks how to find bugs and which weeds are safe to eat, and she will introduce them to the rest of the flock when she feels it's time.

Can you "Make" a Hen go Broody?

But for this you need  broody hen. So how do you know when a hen is broody and how do you "make" a hen go broody?

The short answer is - You can't "force" a chicken to sit on eggs. 

Sadly, the broodiness gene has been bred out of most modern breeds of chickens.  Since the advent of incubators and shipped chicks, broody hens aren't as desirable as they once were.

Broody Hens Stop Laying Eggs

Since most people raise chickens for the eggs nowadays and aren't concerned about their flock self-propagating, a hen who will stop laying eggs once she goes broody is counter-productive to modern backyard chicken keeping. 

But you still can sometimes get lucky.

Five Ways to Encourage a Hen to go Broody

So what to do if you want a hen to go broody? 

Here are five ways to (hopefully) end up with a broody hen.

Choose Broody Breeds

The first thing you can do is to choose breeds that tend towards being broody.

Breeds that tend towards broodiness include:

  •  Australorps
  • Brahmas
  • Buff Orpingtons
  • Cochins 
  • Silkies

 Hens of these breeds are much more likely to go broody than other breeds.

Leave Dummy Eggs in the Nests

A second way to encourage a hen to go broody is to leave some eggs in the nests. 

"Dummy" eggs, such as golf balls, smooth stones or plastic Easter eggs work just as well as real eggs and don't risk being broken. 

This can encourage your hen to start sitting on them. Once she's committed to sitting, you can replace the dummy eggs with real ones.

Create a Private Nesting Area

You can also encourage a hen's broody nature by providing her a dark, safe place to sit on the eggs. 

Hang some curtains across the front of the nesting boxes, even a piece of sheet or fabric will help convince her the nest is a secret place to raise her chicks.

Add Some Aromatherapy

Add some herbs to the nesting boxes.

Calming herbs such as lavender or chamomile can help a sitting hen relax and feel safe and secure. 

Be sure the nests always have plenty of clean nesting material that's thick enough to provide a nice cushion for the eggs so they don't break.

Put Feed and Water Nearby

Be sure there's ample feed and water close by to your nests. A broody will be more apt to go broody and sit on the nest more of the day if she doesn't have travel far to eat and drink.

You want to make it convenient for your hen to sit, so be sure to move some feed and water closer to the nest, so your hen can still easily get up off the nest to eat and drink without venturing too far. 

Feathering her Nest

If you are successful, your broody will begin to spend nearly all her time on the nest, leaving only periodically to eat, drink and defecate. 

She will begin to pull her breast feathers out, literally "feathering" her nest, and growl and fuss if you try to move her.

Slip some fertilized eggs under her and with a little luck, in 21 days, she'll hatch some chicks for you.

But just be aware, you could start an's thought broodiness is "contagious" to some extent and you might find that you have bitten off more than you can chew!

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For advice on hatching chicks under a broody hen, read HERE
For pros and cons of using an incubator vs. a broody hen, read HERE.
For ways to break a broody hen, read HERE

Get everything you need to hatch chicks from our friends at Brinsea! 

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