Hatching with Broodies
by Carina Moncrief
What is a broody? I have heard this
question several times from folks who are new to poultry.
A broody hen is a hen that wants to sit on eggs to
hatch them and to brood chicks – basically become
a mother. Silkies are one of the best breeds to use
as a natural incubator. They are great mothers and
determined sitters. Many poultry hobbyist use silkies
to hatch eggs from other breeds instead of using artificial
a bird to go broody they usually have to be laying.
The environment can be a contributor, for example,
a quiet dark sheltered nest, the sound of baby chicks,
or a nest full of eggs. To promote broodiness I usually
take several golf balls and place them in their nest.
Easter eggs and wooden eggs have also proven to be
Broodiness sometimes turns into a community event
where two, three, and even four silkies lay together
and join forces to keep the eggs warm. Many times
they steal eggs from each other, but rest assured
that not one egg will be left uncovered if several
broodies are about.
Broodies will inhibit a different range
of behaviors. Typically a hen will lay a clutch of
eggs. She will not officially sit on the eggs until
the last egg is laid. This usually happens by the
sixth to eighth egg. The reason for this is so that
all the eggs will hatch about the same time. Every
15 minutes she will turn the eggs and move them about.
She will leave the nest for a period of 20 minutes
every day to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom. She
will sit on them for 21 days. After the first chick
hatches, she will sit for a period of 24 more hours.
When I use broody hens to hatch eggs
I collect the eggs I want to hatch from other hens.
I mark the eggs with pencil or a marking pen so I
know which eggs were the ones I placed. Pencil can
rub off so I would recommend using a marking pen.
I place six eggs under each broody at night. After
a week I remove the eggs (half at a time) to candle
them. I return those that are fertile and throw out
those that are not.
Because of their determination to sit,
they tend to lose weight in the process. I like to
place a bowl with food and water so they can reach
over and eat without going very far. I like to use
Chick Starter rather than layer pellets since it has
a higher protein content. Broody hens do not need
the extra calcium, since they aren't laying eggs.
It is also available for the chicks once they hatch.
The essential key is to make sure they remain hydrated.
Due to their great motherly instinct,
silkies will have the tendency to adopt other chicks.
The best time to introduce new chicks is to slip them
under the hen at night and right about the time her
clutch of eggs have hatched. You don’t want
to introduce a chick while she is in the broody process.
After all the chicks hatch she instinctively
will begin raising them and protecting them. She will
teach them to find food and water and keep them warm
by clucking to them. The chicks are usually left with
their mother until they are about 6 weeks of age but
can be taken away at 3 weeks. It is a great experience
observing the hen care for the baby chicks as they