Broodiness in backyard chickens: What to do with a clucky hen
A clucky chook is a hen that’s ready to be a mama. Here are the signs to look out for.
If you spot one of your backyard chickens sitting on a nest, and is:
- making a funny clucking sound,
- refusing to leave the chicken coop,
- looking grumpy,
- staring into space,
- trying to peck you if you touch her...
You, my friend, may have a clucky - or broody - chook. And it can happen to all breeds of chickens.
In short, she's ready to hatch out baby chicks in 21 days. Warm weather tends to breed this broody behaviour.
But some birds are serial year-round broodies, especially the heavy heritage breeds (large and bantam), Silkies, and Pekins. Some Silkies will lay around 12-20 eggs and return to their broody behaviour again.
Even if there are no eggs under her or you don’t have a rooster (which means the eggs aren’t fertilised) she may sit on the nest as if she is hatching a clutch of eggs.
What to Do With a Broody Hen?
Breaking a broody hen - remove her from the nest
Do not leave her in the flock. They will make egg collection hard with defensive pecking and even scratching.
Place the chook in a separate pen or cage where she can’t create a nest. Ensure she has plenty of food and water. After 72 hours, she will have lost her desire to sit.
Eggs can break as the rest of the flock carries on using the nest, and this may lead to egg-eating.
In the wild, chickens would only be broody for three weeks, assuming the eggs were fertile and hatched out chicks.
Hatch Your Own Chicks
Place some fertilised eggs under the hen and hatch out chicks of your own. But if you have a hybrid layer that goes clucky, I wouldn’t recommend hatching chicks. They often abandon the nest before the eggs can hatch - these hens don’t make good mothers.
If infertile eggs are left under a broody hen, the egg albumen (egg white) quickly deteriorates. If they are fertile, they may germinate, which will spoil them for eating.
Want your chickens to be the healthiest and happiest they can be? I offer backyard chicken workshops, online programs, phone coaching, and in-person support to families, schools, and free-range egg farmers. Visit my online shop for natural, tried-and-tested poultry supplies in Australia.
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Elise McNamara, Chicken Consultant & Educator.