A broody hen (i.e. a chicken that wants to sit on eggs for three weeks to hatch them) is a God send if you are trying to hatch fertile eggs, but otherwise quite the annoyance. Unless you break her broodiness, she'll hog the nesting box, squawk and squeal and generally disrupt the calm in the coop. So how can you tell if you have a Broodzilla on your hands? Here are the top ten signs of a broody hen.
1. She'll be in the nesting box longer than normal. You might start to suspect you have a broody hen if she seems to be spending a lot more time than usual sitting in a nesting box. I've found a chicken usually takes about twenty minutes in the box to lay her egg - if you notice one of yours in the box for most of the morning, likely she's broody.
2. She'll stop laying eggs. Although she'll lay another few eggs when she first goes broody, once she's sitting hard core, a hen won't lay any more eggs.
3. She'll puff up and fan her tail out when you try to take eggs out from under her.
4. She'll screech and peck at your hand when you try to take the eggs.
5. She'll flatten her back and spread her wings out and crouch on the ground if you take her out of the nesting box, as if she's protecting eggs right there on the ground.
6. She'll start making a deep, low-pitched clucking sound. It might sound almost as if she's "ticking" as she frantically heads back to the nest.
7. She'll pull nesting material out from around her and toss it onto her back. I have never read anything to confirm this, but I think she's instinctively trying to camouflage herself from predators while she sits.
8. She'll poop gigantic piles of stinky poop, usually reserved when she's off the nest for a short break.
9. She'll tuck eggs under her body with her beak, if you set them next to her in the nest.
10. She'll pluck out her breast feathers. Hens literally 'feather their nest' when they're broody. They do this so the eggs are right up against their bare skin for better heat and humidity control through the incubation period.
Whether you want to encourage a hen to go broody, or break her, it's always good to be able to recognize the signs to take early action, which ever way you decide to go.
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