Hatching eggs by having your hen sit on them can be more desirable than using an incubator. The broody hen is a perfect incubator. By nature, the hen provides the correct temperature, correct humidity and turns the eggs periodically using its beak.
Moreover, after the eggs hatch, she acts as the brooder for the chicks. Therefore you will not need electricity or an artificial heat source to keep the chicks warm.
The mother hen provides emotional support and a sense of security to the chicks. It shows them how to fend for themselves and protects them against other members of the flock.
How to encourage broodiness
1. Choose the right breed
The first thing you can do is choose breeds that tend towards being broody. Most of the improved kienyeji breeds do not get broody. They have been created that way since brooding would be bad for egg and meat production. Local breeds become broody and are good mothers. Others breeds that become broody are Brahmas, Silkies, and Orpingtons.
Chickens are less likely to get broody during the cold season. If temperatures during the day are continually falling below 20 degrees, then put the chicken indoors and or provide a heat source.
3. Leave some eggs where it lays
A second way to encourage a hen to go broody is to leave some eggs in the nests. (“Dummy” eggs, such as golf balls or plastic Easter eggs work just as well as real eggs and don’t risk being broken). This can encourage your hen to start sitting on them.
4. Provide enough food and water
The chicken feels ready to mother if the environment has enough food. Also, a well-fed chicken is more likely to go broody because the body temperature is higher plus it spends less time looking for food. You can assist her by leaving feed and water close by. She will begin to pull her breast feathers out, literally “feathering” her nest, and growl and fuss if you try to move her.
5. Provide a conducive environment
Chicken prefer laying eggs in a dark hidden place. The same applies to sitting on eggs. You are more likely to get your chicken to be broody if you provide her with a dark, safe place to sit on the eggs.
Hang a curtain of some kind on the entry of the nesting boxes. This can convince her the nest is secret, safe and secure.
6. Make the nest cosy.
Adding a thick set of litter to the nesting boxes can help the hen to relax and spend more time at the nest. Always make sure that the nest are clean by adding nesting material that is thick enough to cushion the eggs so they don’t break.
If you are successful, you will notice that the hen will spend most of her time in the nest. It may leave briefly to feed drink and defecate. The hen will also produce the telltale noises of a mother hen and growl and fuss if you try to move her. Encourage this by leaving food nearby. If this happens, remove the dummy eggs or the old eggs and slip some fresh fertilised eggs under her.
NB: Provide spacious nesting boxes since the first hen to get broody might induce broodiness in more hens and they start fighting for space. Moving a broody chicken will most likely abort the broodiness.