As winter rolls into spring, you may notice a change in mood for your hens. Their instinct for motherhood is typically triggered by an increase in daylight as the egg-laying season approaches.
They may become noticeably irritable and remain in their nest for long periods. That could mean a hen who is preparing to get broody and incubate her eggs.
As the days get longer, a shift in hormones means that the hen should lay an egg daily and ‘set a nest’. With little time spent eating, drinking, or pooping, after 21 days of sitting, the chicks will emerge.
But how many eggs can a broody hen sit on?
Today, let’s find out! Keep reading to know how many eggs a broody hen can sit on and everything you need to know about them!
How Do You Know That Your Hen Is Broody?
There are certain signs you can look out for that indicate when your hen is broody. Some are quite obvious while you may only spot others when you approach her.
Visible indicators include larger, smellier droppings than usual and the way she will puff up her feathers.
Broody hens sculpt their bodies to better manage the hatching details including humidity and temperature.
You can expect the broody hen to remain in its ideal, somewhat private space, for most, if not the entirety, of the day. They may seem reclusive and remain where they feel most comfortable away from the rest of the hens.
If they do leave their nest they will not go far and only when they need to. They may eat, drink and poop just once a day while becoming intimidating in their demeanor.
You may note that your broody hen has a particularly dark, undisturbed spot where she may roll a clutch of her eggs. From there she can ‘set a nest’ and start brooding.
She will then flatten out above her set of eggs and pluck feathers from her breast to expose the warm skin that will keep her eggs warm.
The remaining feathers will be used to insulate the nest as she effectively shields her eggs from the outside world.
If you do get closer to check your broody hen she may seem bad-tempered, territorial, and even hiss or peck at you if you try to inspect her eggs.
When Can A Hen Go Broody?
Certain breeds are not renowned for getting broody very often. Though the regularity of their broodiness may depend on the individual hen and their personality, you can choose a chicken breed that is less likely to hatch chicks.
These breeds include Ameraucanas, Anconas, Lakenvelders, Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Wyandotte. Hens can begin to lay eggs after just five months though typically this occurs after around eight months.
Breeds that are more inclined to become broody include Brahmas, Cochins, Dorkings, and Silkies.
The peak egg-laying sessions for a chicken are during spring and summer when they are exposed to more daylight. During the winter months, you can expect less broodiness and, subsequently, less egg-laying.
Perhaps understandably, such a change in behavior can mean that the process of becoming broody will take a physical and mental toll on the hen. There are even hens that will not become broody at all in their lifetimes.
How To Ensure That Your Broody Hen Sits On Their Eggs
Occasionally, you may need to encourage your broody hen to remain in their nest sitting on their eggs. They need to remain in place for 21 days to ensure a successful incubation period for their chicks yet they may need a little help.
You can try moving their nesting box to somewhere increasingly secluded than the rest of the busy coop. Perhaps even an empty dog cage with its water and food supply in easy reach.
Try leaving her eggs alone and not removing them so she has a bigger clutch to nest over. That should mean you can still carefully check her nest and date each egg so you know when to expect them to hatch.
You could even place some fake eggs, such as golf balls, to let her believe she has a larger clutch than she does. There are also herbs such as chamomile and lavender that you can leave in her nest that act as stimulants for her broodiness.
How Many Eggs Can A Broody Hen Sit On?
Generally, a broody hen will attempt to sit on as many eggs as its feathers can cover. Depending on the breed, that typically means between eight and twelve eggs with some comfort.
To successfully hatch the eggs, the hen has to keep the whole clutch constantly warm and their body can only cover so much space.
For a small hen, that should mean fewer eggs than a larger one.
The number of eggs can also vary depending on the hen themselves and when they think that their nest feels full. Some hens can prefer a limited clutch of eggs which may mean just three.
Other hens can sit on much more eggs than they are perhaps capable of successfully hatching.
When a hen becomes broody, their behavior changes as they become protective over their nest of eggs. There are certain ways to look out for them yet you are likely advised to leave them to it.
How many eggs a broody hen can sit on largely depends on its size and the amount of space it can cover. Smaller hens will have smaller nests and fewer eggs compared to larger ones.
Certain breeds are also more likely to become broody hens while some hens will never become broody in their lifetime.
If this is your first time dealing with a broody hen then you can let nature take its course and observe how she behaves. Count the number of eggs that she lays and perhaps number each one with the date on it.
Should she leave her nest a few times during the day there are steps to take to persuade her to remain with her clutch of eggs.
Hens can be temperamental creatures and their personalities can also have a say in how many eggs they can comfortably sit on.