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Encouraging broodiness.....

 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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I have a small flock of 6 hens and 1 rooster (4 hens and the rooster are Buff Orpington, plus 2 Ameraucana hens, all less than 3 years old) Last year one or two of the Buff hens went broody if I let eggs accumulate in the nest boxes (which are two old large mailboxes set on the ground in the yard) and they hatched out a large fraction of those eggs without problem so I had two batches of young birds to eat later in the year. This year, with just about everything set up the same, nobody wants to sit on the eggs, even though I've been letting them pile up to a dozen. What to do?
 
Jay Green
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I've yet to figure out just what causes that phenomenon. It seems I got at least one broody clear up to the age of 3 on most breeds but rarely got a bird older than that to go broody. I'd say it depends on the breed(some heritage line breeds are broody til they die!), the age, the hormone fluctuations, the ambient temps, and opportunity(which you have provided).

I did the same thing this year at the general time that I would normally get a broody but my old reliable broody didn't take the bait...seems her mothering days are over.
 
Mel Miller
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Follow-up question, only about turkeys. I have two hens and one tom. I want my hens to hatch their eggs - how do I know if the eggs have been fertilized? (The hens & tom have only been together for a few days, and the tom is an old bird.) Do I need to let her accumulate a few eggs in the nesting box? How many? And how long will it take before she starts brooding?
 
Jay Green
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That is entirely individual to the bird...they may or may not go broody in any given year. You can crack an egg and look for the bull's-eye on the yolk to see if your boy's doing his job and can still cut the mustard. They will look like this if fertilized...



Or this....just in a different, further stage of fertility:




This is how an infertile egg will appear:



Birds lay all their eggs for a clutch before they actually sit the nest, so if you are gathering each day, you usually won't catch the bird going broody until she has laid her preferred number...and she is usually sitting on that last egg...you will know she is broody if she fluffs up, flattens, cries out and refuses to leave the nest when you go to get her egg.

If you collect eggs each day, keep them on the counter(they will not go bad, spoil or start to develop embryos when this is done, so have no fear) for up to ten days in case she goes broody and then you can just fill her nest back up with some fertile eggs and let her proceed.
 
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