With spring comes a change in mood for some hens along with the weather. Don’t be surprised if you have a broody hen on your hands looking to incubate eggs.
How many eggs can a broody hen sit on? A broody hen will try to sit on as many eggs as they can cover. For most breeds, this is usually 10-12 eggs comfortably. I’ve had hens attempt to incubate 14-16 though.
What Are the Signs of a Broody Hen?
When a hen goes broody she’ll start to display some differences in behavior. The most common signs to look out for are:
- Feathers missing from their underbelly. Broody hens pull out feathers to allow their skin to come into contact with their eggs.
- She’s eating and drinking less.
- You notice her squatting, especially when you approach.
- She’s being defensive over her nesting box when you approach, she might even have a peck at you.
- She is sitting or squatting in her nesting box, even though there are no eggs in the nest.
- You notice nesting areas being set up in quiet spots within or outside of their coop.
- Her poop is more smelly than usual!
How Many Times a Year Will a Hen Go Broody?
The answer to this depends on the breed and also the individual hen. Some breeds are just not known to get broody very often.
If you’re interested in non-broody breeds so you don’t have to worry about dealing with a broody hen or chicks hatching, I recommend looking into some of the following breeds:
- Ameraucanas (An interesting looking chicken! You can check prices here.)
- Black Star / Black Sex-Link
- Rhode Island Red
Conversely, if you want a breed known for being broody and hatching eggs, I recommend looking into any of these breeds:
- Silkie (These are the cutest)
How Do You Get a Hen to Sit on Eggs?
Sometimes a hen will need a little encouragement to sit on her eggs and successfully incubate them.
There are a few ways you can do this, and it might come down to trying a few things to see what works for your hen.
Try one or more of the following things:
- Placing some fake eggs in her nesting box to give her the impression that she has a clutch of eggs to sit on. Swap them for real eggs once she’s brooding.
- Moving her nesting box/area somewhere quieter and more secluded than in a busy coop. Some backyard chicken owners put a broody hen in a dog cage with her own food and water.
- Allowing her to gather a large clutch of eggs. You can date them as they collect so you’ll know which have been there too long to successfully hatch.
- Add herbs to her nest that are known to be stimulants. Chamomile and lavender are believed to be two of the best herbs to stimulate broodiness.
- Set up a new nesting box. Give your hen a nice new, clean, nesting box. Combine this with fake eggs, a lot of owners swear golf balls are more effective than life-like eggs.
Related content - Can male chickens lay eggs? (Yup, people ask this.)
How Long Will a Broody Hen Sit on Infertile Eggs?
A broody hen will sit on infertile eggs for weeks longer than it would take to hatch fertile eggs, and this is potentially very bad for her health.
It takes around 21 days for a fertile egg to hatch once the incubating process starts. While incubating eggs, a hen will sit on her eggs all day and night only popping off to drink, eat, and poop.
During these three weeks, she will lose some weight and you’ll notice the process is taking a toll on her.
So, when eggs don’t hatch and a hen continues to sit on them for weeks, it can be bad for their health. I’ve heard of some hens sitting on infertile eggs for as long as six weeks before.
Therefore, if you know you have a broody hen sitting on infertile eggs it’s important that you intervene. You’ll have to go and grab the eggs, ideally at night when she’s sleeping.
It’s also a good idea to separate her from the rest of the flock and her nesting box too for a few days to see if she will “snap out” of being broody.
It’s a tough thing to do because when a hen is broody she’s being led by her hormones. I’ve seen them do some crazy things that didn’t make sense, such as sitting on the floor as they’re still incubating eggs when none are even there.
I’ve read that some owners simply gave a broody hen a chick or two and this snapped them out of being broody. But, obviously, that’s not always possible.
If you have a breed that’s known to be broody and you don’t want them going broody you’ll have to keep on top of collecting eggs and breaking the cycle if it happens.
In Summary - How Many Eggs Can a Broody Hen Sit On?
The answer to this question is often as many as she can physically sit on and cover.
The most common number of eggs being incubated by one hen it 10-12. Which is no mean feat, and quite the experience to be involved in (from a distance).
You should be able to let nature take its course. If one or more egg is clearly not being adequately covered, however, you should pull it earlier rather than later.