Hatch Eggs With a Broody Hen

From proper preparation to caring for a sitting hen, here’s the egg-xact information you need to hatch chicks the traditional way.

| May/June 2019

Photo by Susy Morris.

My hen is sitting persistently on her eggs — again. Many chicken keepers get frustrated when this happens, but I embrace her “broodiness,” because it makes my job a whole lot easier. Why spend the time, trouble, and money buying fertilized eggs, babying them in an incubator, and hand-raising chicks when I can let one of my hens do all the work for me?

When I first became interested in getting chicks the old-fashioned way, I was surprised to find that helpful advice could be hard to come by. Perhaps this is because farmers have culled broody hens for centuries. After all, broody hens don’t lay eggs, and that costs farmers money. Because of this culling practice, modern hens aren’t well wired to hatch eggs.

In general, consider heritage breeds if you’re selecting for broodiness. Heritage breeds have a greater tendency to go broody, because they haven’t had the trait bred out of them to the same degree as modern hybrids. Still, you’re not guaranteed a broody hen from a heritage breed, or a non-setter (a hen that won’t go broody) from a modern breed. And to complicate things further, there’s no way to tell ahead of time if a hen will go broody; you’ll just have to wait and see.

Thankfully, some breeds are more apt to go broody than others. Breeds that top the list include Brahmas, Cochins, Orpingtons, Silkies, and Sussex. Even so, not every hen among these breeds will bother to hatch eggs, because many factors influence broodiness, including genetics and environment. And I’ve learned not to judge a hen too quickly; some don’t go broody until they’re at least 2 years old.

Photo by Susy Morris.

6/18/2019 4:06:31 PM

When getting a hen for setting, laying or both, does a person know how to pick one or both types. Linds

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