“To the broody hen the notion would probably seem monstrous that there should be a creature in the world to whom a nestful of eggs was not utterly fascinating and precious and never-to-be-too-much-sat-upon object, which it is to her.” –William James
… and that creature is me. Not to say that I don’t think eggs are a wonderful thing, because let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be working on a chicken farm if I didn’t. For me, eggs are an essential part of breakfast and baking cakes… but not much else. However, I’m not the one who squeezes an egg out of my body almost 260 days a year.
Before laying an egg a hen will experience an increase in hormones, which usually returns to normal after the egg is laid. If the hormone level remains high, you may find yourself with a broody hen. This hen will do what she can to protect the eggs that she just forced out of her little chicken body. Broody hens will puff up their feathers, make terrifying noises, peck at you (which actually does hurt), and rip out their breast feathers in order to keep the eggs warm. She will not leave the nesting box except to eat, drink, and go potty once each day. Where as this is annoying for someone trying to collect eggs, the hens are just doing what their hormone crazed bodies are telling them to do.
Hens will often find a dark and private location to attempt to hatch their eggs. A larger hen will be able to incubate around 10 medium sized eggs, whereas a normal sized hen can incubate around 5. While this fact may fill your head with heartwarming scenes of baby chicks running around your backyard, unless the hen has had “relations” with a rooster, the eggs that she intends to hatch will be infertile. So if you want your hen to keep producing your morning eggs, there are ways to manage this. To get your hen to stop sitting on her nest of eggs:
- Collect eggs daily, as many times as possible.
- Remove the hen from the nest when you collect the eggs.
- Close off access to the coop and nesting boxes during the day.
- Separate the broody hen from the rest of the chickens for a few days and place it in a wire-bottom cage with only fresh food and water.
On the other hand, if your hen has had “relations” with a rooster these eggs could
actually become the cute little baby chicks you imagined. It will take a hen 21 days to hatch the fertile eggs. The hen should be kept in a safe place and have food and water nearby. And 3 weeks later… baby chicks!