At What Age Does A Hen Go Broody?

Free Ranging and Training Chickens...

“I would like to know if there is a certain age that a hen will start setting on eggs if she is going to be a broody? What would be the youngest age that she would start setting if she were going to? Thank you for any information that you might be able to give me about this.” ~ Debby Gray

Hi Debby,

Thanks so much for the question.

If you have a hen that has broody instincts, she could start showing brooding behavior very early on. Once she starts laying and her eggs reach normal size, you could start seeing brooding instincts within a month or so.

However, if she doesn’t begin brooding early, that does not mean that she will not brood later on. Time of year is a factor as well.

I wish I had a more definitive answer for you but each hen is different.

One thing that seems to be a factor in the hen’s ability to mother is if the hen was raised by her broody mother. A hen that was mothered seems to know how to mother. I guess that shouldn’t surprise us, isn’t it the same for humans?

But as with humans, hens can learn how to mother even if the example was not set for them.

Debby, I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to piggy-back onto your question.

We’ve had a few people asking in the last weeks how to get a hen to go broody.

The answer is that you can’t!

She either will or she won’t.

There is no way to cause a hen to go broody but there are some things you can do to encourage her.

First provide her a comfy nest that is private and dimly lit. Place some plastic or wooden eggs in the nest and leave them there. You could even leave some real eggs but mark them with a pencil so you know which ones are the fresh eggs when you collect and which ones you left there.

See if she catches on.

If she seem interested, let her sit for a day or two and then remove her from the nest a few times to see if she goes back. If she doesn’t return, don’t get your hopes up that she’ll stay put long enough to hatch any eggs.

If you want a hen to hatch your eggs, the following breeds are more likely to brood: Orpingtons (especially the buffs), Turkens (also called Naked Necks), Partridge Rocks, Buff Rocks, Speckled Sussex, Dark Cornish, Columbian, Wyandottes, Buff Cochins, Partridge Cochins and Light Brahmas.

Bantys are also more likely to brood.

Many of the “super laying” breeds have had the instinct to brood all but bred out of them.

These prolific breeds are too valuable to egg and chick suppliers to be out of commission while they hatch their eggs and raise chicks.

So… it was to the benefit of business to use genetic selection to discourage broody behavior.

Now our back yards are filled with breeds that will not brood.

If you’re interested in hatching eggs with a hen rather than an incubator, choose your breeds with that in mind.

Look for “heritage” breeds or make sure you are dealing with a reputable supplier that understands you are wanting hens that will likely brood.

I hope this has been helpful.

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