Avoid having to buy chicks every year and create a more self sustainable flock with these 5 best broody chicken breeds!
There are many pros to having a broody chicken. If self sufficiency is something that you are aiming for, then not having to buy new chicks each spring is a step in that direction.
If the term broody is unfamiliar to you or you are unsure how to utilize that trait then you are in luck!
This post was to help the modern homesteader or backyard chicken owner to be able to extend their knowledge on the topic of broody chicken breeds!
Lets dive in to the 5 best broody chicken breeds to grow your flock.
What does broody mean?
The term broody means that a female chicken, also known as a hen, has a natural instinct to lay eggs and sit on their clutch of eggs until they hatch out baby chicks.
This instinct happens usually in the spring and sometimes the fall. The hen will sit on their eggs for about three weeks. Not all chickens experience broody behavior.
In fact, that behavior has been something that has been bread out of the chickens that we see today. This is because the when a chicken is broody their egg production stops.
Most people want good layers and so that is why the gene has been selectively bread out. BUT there are still some breeds that tend to have more broody chickens.
How to use broody chickens to be self sustainable
Being more self sustainable means that you don’t rely on others for your needs. Being able to raise your own chicks would be a great way to achieve that goal for your farm, or homestead. If you are new to the chicken world, you might not know that chickens only are productive layers for a few years.
Then they begin to lay fewer and fewer eggs. This is why people purchase new chicks every year or every other year. So they can keep their flock in high production. Raising your own chicks will help you skip the need to rely on hatcheries or feed stores to get your chicks each year.
First you will need to have broody chicken breeds (check out list below) Some chickens outside this list can become broody as well, but this list suggests chicken breeds that are more likely to become broody. The other thing you will need is a rooster of that breed.
You will NOT have fertilized eggs unless you have a rooster! Eventually you will notice that you have a broody hen because they will be sitting in a nest without leaving. If this happens, you can add more fertilized eggs under her.
Chickens have been known to hatch duck or turkey eggs as well. They don’t know the difference. Some people have been known to put fake eggs or golf balls in a nesting box in hopes to trigger a hen to become broody.
Another benefit of a mother hen hatching the chicks is that she will then take care of them and protect them from the rest of the flock. If you have ever bought chicks and raised them up in a brooder, you know the work and attention that goes into that.
Do all hens become broody?
No, they don’t. As I mentioned before, broody tendencies have been selectively bread out of chicken breeds today. So it is less common to see a broody hen.
That being said there are breeds of chickens that still have natural tendencies to become broody more often. They are usually good layers as well as excellent mothers.
Sometimes when a hen is broody for the first time, she may not stick it out with laying on the eggs or may not be great mothers. Check out the list below for my top 5 broody chicken breeds.
What are the cons to broody chickens?
So one major con to a broody chicken is that they wont lay more eggs when they are in the broody phase. After they lay a clutch of eggs they stop laying more so that they can put their energy into incubating the eggs they are laying on.
This takes up space in your nest boxes and the broody chicken can often times become aggressive making it a little scary for you to reach under and collect the eggs. So if you aren’t interested in your broody chicken hatching out chicks, and you simply want more eggs, then this can pose a problem.
Also, if you don’t have a rooster and your chicken is broody, the eggs will never hatch and she is wasting time and energy, following her natural instincts, but the eggs will never hatch.
How to break a broody chicken
- Sometimes it is as simple as removing her from her nest box
- Remove the nesting material and eggs (if she still persists)
- Add a cold water bottle to the nest box
- Block off access to the nest box entirely
- Keep her in broody chicken “jail” (put her in a different location where they will have access to food and water. Make sure they are safe too)
The best way to do this really depends on the chicken. Some hens are more determined than others and you will have to test her and see what works best.
5 best broody chicken breeds
If you are looking to get yourself one of the best broody hens out there then picking one from this list will be your best bet. Interesting fact: broody chicken breeds often have feathered legs!
The silkie chicken is a good broody hen, probably my top choice if you are buying for broodiness and for good mothers.
If you don’t want to own a bunch of silkie chickens then you can slip other fertilized chicken breeds under the silkie chicken.
Silkie chickens aren’t like your “normal” chicken. They have an extra toe and their feathers are more fluffy looking.
The have a fluffy head as well. Their legs are feathered and their feathers are more separated which means that they can’t fly.
This makes containing them a little easier. Silkies are a beginner friendly breed. They aren’t as cold tolerant as other chicken breeds. They are good egg layers and lay about 3-4 eggs per week.
A more hardy bird with thicker feathers, the chochin would be a good choice if you live in a cold climate. They are a large breed and compare to the silkie in broodiness, though some of them may have a tendency to ween their chicks early.
The breed is so broody that the roosters have even been known to hatch eggs. They aren’t a high egg producing chicken and will only lay 2-3 eggs per week.
These chickens also have feathered legs and have feathers covering most of their toes. Because they are a large heavy bird, they don’t fly well.
The most common orpington would be the buff orpingtons. This bird is a good choice for beginners as well. They have been known to be called the “golden retriever” of chickens because of their friendliness. They are excellent layers, laying 3-5 eggs per week.
This English breed is also known for their ability to being good mothers as well. They lay brown eggs and do well in cold climates.
Brahamas have been known to be called a “gentle giant.” Because they are a very large bread and also docile and gentle. These hens are okay layers but great mothers.
They will only lay 2-3 eggs per week. Because of their large size, you may be able to get away with putting larger fertile eggs or more of them.
Because they are large, a brahama chicken may not be able to keep track of very small fertile eggs, so be mindful of that.
Sussex is an old English name. It is also a heritage breed and a dual purpose breed. Many people find this broody breed to be a great addition to their backyard flock for self sustainability.
They can be meat birds if you want, they lay a good amount of eggs at 4-5 eggs per week. This is an overall great bread of chicken. They have been known to have been bread for show as well.
How long will a broody chicken sit on their eggs?
It usually takes about three weeks for a chicken egg to hatch. But the hen will go a little longer if the eggs haven’t hatched yet.
For example if you place a duck egg (requires more than three weeks of incubation) under a broody chicken, it will sit longer until the eggs hatch.
That being said, the chicken won’t wait around forever. Eventually the broody “spell” will break and the chicken will give up on laying on eggs that don’t hatch after a while.
How many eggs do broody chickens lay on?
The average number of eggs that a chicken will sit on is 6-12 eggs. The larger breads may be able to do more chicken eggs or a mixture of chicken, duck, or turkey.
How to care for broody chickens
You will want to provide your broody chicken to a safe place away from the rest of the flock. The mama hen may become aggressive during the broody phase and her chicks will need protection when they hatch.
This is best done at night where you are less likely to break the broodiness. Some people have made brooding stations where the hen as her own safe nest and little run for her and her future chicks to live in until the chicks get older and warm weather arrives.
When you are transferring your chicken you will want to disturb her as little as possible. Bring her old nesting material and the eggs.
It helps if you have two people to do the job. Make sure that wherever your broody hen is staying that she has close access to food and water as she is less likely to travel far to eat.
How can you tell if your chicken is broody?
If your hen won’t leave the nesting box, especially at night when the other chickens choose roost in a higher place. She will sometimes be more agressive towards you if you are trying to take her eggs.