If you want a sustainable flock, you need one of the best broody hen breeds.
For commercial chicken farmers or the average backyard chicken keeper, a broody hen is annoying. However, if you want a sustainable chicken flock, you need a few of the best broody hen breeds.
Broody hens hatch and raise clutches of chicks throughout the year, so you don’t need to purchase chicks from your local farm and fleet store. That means no need to purchase an incubator or to care for chicks in your home – score!
Unfortunately, not all breeds are meant to be broody hens. Hatcheries and breeders bred out this trait from many hen breeds because, for many chicken owners, broodiness is an undesirable trait. So, you have to pick one of the best broody hen breeds to have a self-sufficient chicken flock.
What is a Broody Hen?
A broody hen is an adult female chicken that has the maternal instinct to want to hatch a clutch of eggs. So, your broody hen wants to become a mother for the next few months.
Her goal is simple: to sit and hatch a clutch of eggs then raise her new family until the chicks are old enough to survive on their own.
Broody hens often will hatch one or two clutches of eggs per year, and picking the best broody hen breeds ensures you always have a hen or two each year ready to hatch your newest chickens.
Why is Broodiness “Undesirable”?
Over time, modern chicken breeds have had broodiness bred out of their lines because broodiness was seen as an undesirable trait. Most farms rely on steady egg production to reap their profits.
When a hen goes broody, she is out of production for however long it takes to hatch her eggs – 21 days on average – and to raise her chicks. Raising her chicks takes several weeks, so you can expect a broody hen to be out of egg-laying commission for 3+ months.
For large farms, broodiness decrease the number of eggs a hen would lay during the course of a year, and that doesn’t make financial sense for farmers.
Broodiness is Good!
I wrote about why you need a broody hen before, but I have to say it again – broodiness is a great trait for homesteaders.
As homesteaders, our goal is to develop a self-sustaining flock, and that means being able to replace our chickens that die or stop laying.
Broodiness gives you the chance to have a self-sustaining flock, providing your family with all the eggs and meat – hopefully – that you need. Without one, you have to order from hatcheries or local farm & fleet stores.
Another benefit to adding a few of the best broody hen breeds is that mom hens are fierce, and they protect their chicks. They keep them warm (not heat lamps!), teach them to find food, and defend them from other flock members.
Use your hen’s natural mothering instinct to make it easier to add new chicks to your flock.
At What Age Do Hens Go Broody?
Broodiness is a natural instinct that happens each year. A hen is able to go broody as early as five to eight months, but most wait until the spring before going broody.
So, if you buy your chicks in the spring, chances are they won’t go broody until the upcoming spring, but it’s possible that they will in the fall.
The 11 Best Broody Hen Breeds
Many breeds have strong maternal instincts, but certain breeds are more likely to produce broody hens. As broodiness becomes more of a desired trait, homesteaders and chicken owners focus on encouraging this trait in these breeds.
Brahmas are a cold and heat hardy breed known for being decent layers. These hens frequently go broody and make fantastic mothers. Brahmas are gentle giants, and one of the first breeds of chickens I owned. Their personalities are darling, calm, and even-tempered.
One thing to consider is that Brahmas have feathered legs and shanks. So, you might not want to keep them in excessively wet or muddy regions. Moisture can stick to these feathers, causing frostbite on their toes.
Despite their size, Brahmas handle confinement well and are less active than other breeds who want to to forage all day. So, they work for those who can’t free-range their chickens.
One of my favorite broody hen breeds that we’ve tried are Sussex hens. Sussex are cold hardy chickens that steadily lay eggs and go broody often. Plus, they make wonderful mothers.
If you want a hen that does well laying a good amount of eggs and raises her chicks well, Sussex fits the bill.
Do you live in a region that reaches extremely cold temperatures? Chantecler is an extreme-cold hardy breed that steadily lays eggs, despite the cold temperatures, and goes broody at least once a year.
Chantecler hens are a dual-purpose breed. So, you can raise them for meat and egg production, plus they’ll hatch and raise chicks for you. They’re self-sufficient and great for free-ranging.
Another cold hardy breed is called Cochins, but they aren’t known for being great egg producers. They’re better as broody hens and mothers than laying you a whole bunch of eggs! I put these as a pick for the best overall broody hen breeds.
Cochins are a Chinese breed of chickens with really fluffy butts. They’re known or being docile, so if you have kids, Cochins are a safe choice. Cochins are available in a variety of colors and feather patterns, including Frizzled.
Silkies are very popular right now. They’re a docile breed, making them a favorite for chicken owners with kids. Everyone loves how adorable these chickens are! They’re like a chicken lapdog – an ornamental chicken lapdog sounds great!
Plus, they’re more likely to go broody than most other breeds. Silkies are one of the overall best choices for a broody hen. Some chicken owners call Silkies the Broody Queens!
For those who live in warmer weather, Cubalaya may be a better choice as a broody hen. They’re an aggressive breed, so keep them away from children, but they don’t lay as many eggs as other breeds. They do go broody often!
If you want a flock that is free-ranging and raises their own chickens, Cubalaya is a fantastic fit. Just remember they don’t lay as many eggs.
Buff Orpingtons are excellent mothers, docile, and great for backyard chicken owners with small spaces. If you’re a new chicken owner, Orpingtons are one breed you need to try. They’re cold hardy, decent layers, and frequently go broody.
Orpingtons are a dual-purpose breed, so they make decent egg-layers, meat birds, and raise chicks as well.
You might never have heard of Dorking chickens, but they’re known for their decent laying capabilities as well as their tendency to go broody. Plus, they’re affectionate mothers.
You can expect your Dorking chicken to lay around 150 eggs per year, which is considered average. Age matters when it comes to a broody Dorking. It’s best for the hens to be at least two years old before they incubate eggs.
If you want a decent layer and a cold-hardy breed, you need to try Dominique chickens. These hens go broody often and make fantastic mothers.
Marans come in many colors, producing a range of egg colors as well. They’re a decent laying breed that goes broody often enough. They aren’t cold or heat hardy.
Icelandic chickens are a specialty breed, so they’re not easy to find nor are they cheap. Your best bet is to find a group online selling Icelandic hatching eggs and hatch those yourself because the hens are expensive.
That being said, Icelandics, as you might have guessed, are extremely cold hardy. The hens go broody quite often, and they make fantastic mothers. So, if they’re what you want, just be prepared to pay the bill for them.
Common Questions about Broody Hens
Having a broody hen brings about all kinds of questions. Here are some of the most popular.
Do All Hens Go Broody?
Yes, all hens have the possibility of going broody, but that doesn’t mean that they will. Egg production hybrids and white egg laying breeds rarely go broody.
The hens that are most likely to follow their natural instincts are the standard, heavy breed chickens that backyard chicken owners like you and I raise.
Do Old Hens Go Broody?
Yes! Older hens go broody. Actually, old hens are more likely to go broody than young pullets. Brown egg laying breeds are more likely to have a mothering instinct than white egg-laying chickens.
How Many Eggs Can a Broody Hen Sit On?
Larger chicken breeds sit on as many as 15 eggs at a time, assuming that the eggs are the same size that she lays. If she’s laying on bantam eggs, then a hen can sit on more than 15.
Can You Force a Hen to Go Broody?
Unfortunately, no, you can’t “force” or “make” a chicken sit on eggs or go broody. That’s why we are lucky we have incubators and hatcheries that ship chicks.
Modern breeds try to breed out the broodiness gene, even though there has been an increase in interest of having broody hens. Most chickens never listen to their mothering instincts, but some do; those are the ones you want to have.
Keep a Few of the Best Broody Hens Breeds
Your entire flock doesn’t need to be made up of broody hen breeds, especially if you do rely on making some income from the eggs. Keep 2-4 of the best broody hen breeds, and you can replace chicks each year.