If you've noticed one of your hens being protective or sitting on her eggs for long periods of time, then it's likely she's gone broody. A broody hen is a chicken that has become determined to hatch eggs.
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Broody Hen Behavior
Knowing how to deal with a broody hen is an important part of successful chicken-keeping.
How do you know your hen is broody? Signs of a Broody Hen:
- She will refuse to move from the nesting box
- She fluffs her feathers out to make herself look big
- Growling and pecking when you try to remove her from the nesting box
- Running back to the nest box after you've managed to remove her
- Plucking out her chest feathers
A broody hen will leave the eggs for very short periods of time, to get food and water, but as the eggs develop she'll leave less frequently.
She will turn the eggs multiple times a day. As she approaches day 21 she will start clucking to the eggs.
How Long Will A Hen Brood for?
Left unattended, a hen will stay broody for around 21 days, which is the time it takes to hatch a clutch of fertile eggs. After 21 days the behavior should stop at which point she will raise her young.
Tips for Dealing with Broody Hens
When a hen decides to incubate some of her eggs, she sits on top of them for a prolonged period of time, often raising her body temperature and consuming less food and water than she would ordinarily.
You need to make sure you provide them with access to sufficient food and water near their nesting box, usually by setting up a waterer and feeder.
Silkies and bantam breeds in general are famous for being broody hens. They will hatch just about anything and are good mothers as well.
If you want her to hatch out eggs then I recommend setting up a brooding pin or cage of some sort for her. Other hens can be mean to a broody hen while she sits on her eggs. And any other chickens in the coop may attack the chicks once they hatch.
I keep a “maternity ward” cage, a rabbit hutch, in our main run so that all the birds are able to interact with each other but also keep everyone safe.