Monday, July 12, 2010

Hatching Chicks with Broody Hens

Check out my First Hatch of 2011 and the same hen's second hatch of 2011.
Also check out Raising Day Old Chicks

red jungle hen
Red Jungle Fowl Female from The North East India Travelog

"The Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) is a tropical member of the Pheasant family. While the domestic chicken was previously believed to be a descendant of the Red Junglefowl, recent research done by Eriksson et al. suggests possible hybridisation with the Grey Junglefowl.[2]"                     Wikipedia

Jungle fowl of the Phasianidae (Grouse, pheasants and partridges) family "differ from other members of the pheasant family in having, in the male, a fleshy comb, lobed wattles hanging below the bill, and high-arched tail."                  Britannica Online Encyclopedia

Grey jungle fowl

Why am I telling you this? Because I absolutely love research observations of the most primitive ways in which animals have survived and procreated and my dear chickens are descendants of these here.


An interesting study I found by a Robert A Johnson suggests a preferred breeding habitat of undomesticated jungle fowl in Thailand. Studying these fowl during 1955 and 1956 R. Johnson observed needs of breeding jungle fowl that many homesteaders today know: adequate protection, shelter, water, and limited disturbance.

Speaking of the eastern slopes of the Tenasserim range in Thiland, which reaches a height of 6,801 feet, Johnson states:

"Here, a bamboo forest area interspersed with patches of small deciduous trees and shrubs was the most favorable breeding habitat for jungle fowl I found in southern and central Thailand. Bamboo growing in scattered but tangled clumps, in a rocky soil which has been repeatedly burned over, seems to offer ideal roosting and nesting cover.  And, I believe, an abundant supply of fresh water, with a minimum of human disturbance, is an important factor in sustaining a favorable breeding population."1

What Does This Mean for You?

You will need a coop or densely tangled wad of bushes, delicious clean water, a hen that just loves to lay eggs, a Rooster to help and a routine that keeps you out of their way.

Let me add a little about whom roosters are: caretakers and protectors, bait and distraction, fighters of rank, lovers and flaunters. A beautiful representation of their dutiful spirits...

Each dominant male led his little group of hens to the riverlet to drink, usually soon after they left the roost in the morning. They remained at the water supply only a very few minutes, and the male often watched from a perch aboveground while the hens drank. After that, he took one or two gulps of water and hurriedly led the group back into its territory by a different trail.1

RedJungle FowlBreedingPairBreeding pair by Ujjal Ghosh

What Goes Wrong?

Obandoned nests, wrotten and unhatched eggs, predators. The good news:

The breeding season appears to be of sufficient length that a given bird may make several attempts to nest. The presence of scattered eggs suggests a high rate of nest disturbance.”1

So if you're like me, forget your duties some-days, forget to close the chicken coop windows and a sneaky raccoon climbs in at night and scares your hen off her nest; immediately place back on nest or if all seems ruined, try, try again.

Here’s how it happened for me:

I got a little relaxed on collecting eggs and close to a dozen remained in two nest boxes for nearly a week in June. (help your hen go broody by leaving real or fake eggs in nests)

Two hens simultaneously decided they would cover these nests and hatched 6 chicks each 21-22 days later. (the required incubation period for domestic chickens) Nest boxes were on the coop floor at this time.


Keeping a feeding routine was very important to me and my hens. Morning and night feedings were a good time to check nests without disturbing broody hens on them.

Some popular opinions online imply that broody hens don't get off their nests more than once a day and for not more than an hour. Also that it is necessary to move them into a cage or keep them away from other chickens so they don't get distracted. I say let the chicken tell you if the setting is correct.

Check out this hatch on their first outing, at 2 weeks, their first dust bath and trying to determine their sex.

Check out these two sites for some more advice. Or ask me anything!
Tips for Incubating and Raising Chicks with a Mother Hen from the creater of the ICYouSee Handy Dandy Chicken Chart

Working with Broody Hens: Let Mama Do It from

Before the summary of his article Johnson warns

"Firearms are scarce, at present, among these people. But the opening of roads to travel by jeeps and trucks is greatly increasing the amount of hunting and disturbance throughout the year. It seems unlikely, due to the rapidly changing frontier in a country which has no precedent for conservation concepts, that such examples of breeding populations can long endure."1 ...

1. Habitat Preference And Behavior Of Breeding Jungle Fowl In Central Western Thailand by Robert A. Johnson (1962) Indiana University                Electronic Version PDF (3pgs)


Lauren Scheuer said...

New to this blog, and very pleased to have found you. I was looking for images of gallus gallus, and am intrigued to learn that our chickens may have originated from grey jungle fowl instead. I'm fascinated by my hens' behavior, and I love that there is always more to learn. Thank you ! I'll be back!

Kaija said...

Thank you Lauren! I am also very intrigued by my feathered friends and love to research! If there's ever anything you're particularly interesting in or would like me to look into, let me know.