It’s great to raise chickens, but if you have chickens that you keep for eggs, you have probably encountered a broody hen before.
When a broody hen’s motherly instincts kick in she will stop laying and start sitting on her eggs with every intention of hatching them. Not only does she not want to give them up, but she will attack you if you come near.
Depending on your objectives, this can be a useful or endearing trait or a big problem. What matters is that you know what to expect when you are picking out chickens to add to your flock.
Some breeds are far more disposed to becoming broody than others, and choosing smart now can help you out down the road.
To help you do that we are bringing you a list of 11 broody hen breeds to watch out for, whether you want them or not!
What is a Broody Hen?
First, let’s make sure we are on the same page about what a broody hen is. A broody hen is simply a chicken that has the urge to hatch eggs. A broody hen is one that has switched from “laying” to “hatching”.
When this happens she will stop laying eggs entirely and instead be obsessed with sitting on her clutch of eggs, turning them regularly, and keeping them warm.
All her energy will go into being the perfect incubator for those eggs, and she will become quite noisy and VERY defensive of her territory.
You may find that it starts attacking you if you try to remove your broody hen from the nest, or even just approach her too closely.
This is all part of her instinct to protect her eggs from any perceived threat and is the same behavior that all hens exhibit when they are hatching.
The 11 Broody Hen Breeds to Look For
The following list of chicken breeds is those that are known to be consistently broody. They might be prolific layers or they might not.
They could be sociable or standoffish, large or small, and any other combination of chicken traits. The one thing they all have in common is that they will likely go broody when laying. Plan accordingly!
Hands down, Silkies are far and away the broodiest of the common domestic chicken breeds.
Silkies are a chicken breed that comes from Southeast Asia and is known for their unusual appearance.
They have black or very dark grey skin, 5 toes instead of the usual 4, and their feathers have a luxuriously silky, furry quality to them- hence the name!
They are not great layers, producing only about 3 eggs per week, but make up for it in their friendliness and docile nature, and make great pets.
They are excellent mother hens and are so broody that they can reliably be used to hatch other species’ eggs. They will even try to hatch golf balls, stones, and other ESOs (egg-shaped objects).
Don’t buy Silkies if you want a big return of eggs!
Also known as Buff Orpingtons, this is yet another British breed named for the town of Orpington in Kent, these chickens were developed in the late 19th century as utility birds.
Coming in many colors including black, white, buff, blue, and partridge, these are large and fluffy cold-hardy birds that have distinctive downy feathers along their underside.
Orpingtons are great layers of large brown eggs, and will usually top out around 175 to 200 a year.
Bred for meat and eggs back in the day, the once phenomenal egg-laying capacity of 300 plus slowly disappeared after breeders started mating them for looks instead of other useful traits; they became very popular as a showbird.
At any capacity, Orpingtons are another popular variety that tends toward brooding their eggs, though not as bad as some others on this list.
If you can manage it, you’ll have a good-producing flock that is healthy and easy to handle otherwise.
Proud, regal, and surprisingly friendly despite their fierce appearance, Cubalayas are a striking addition to any flock.
They are a relatively new chicken breed, developed in Cuba in the 1930s by crosses of Indian game fowl and Spanish buttercups.
This produces a tall bird with long legs, a flowing, low tail, and beautiful plumage in a wide variety of colors including black, white, and more.
Cubalayas are reasonable layers and lay smaller eggs, but they are uniformly good mother hens and will often go broody.
Cubalayas are friendly birds, but keep in mind they were originally bred for fighting in addition to their products, and they will prove that heritage if you mess with a hen that has gone broody!
These birds have many great qualities that commend them, but you should expect marginal egg production if you invest in them.
One of the most quintessential chickens based on appearance alone, Sussex chickens are a dual-purpose breed, meaning they are good for both egg and meat production.
Sussex chickens come in many colors but the most common are light brown, buff, coronation, and speckled white.
They have large combs that make them vulnerable to frostbite, so if you live in a cold climate it is best to protect them or choose another breed.
The Sussex chicken is a reasonably good layer, producing around 170 to 200 eggs per year, though some lines can crank out up to 250. Unfortunately, some lines also seem highly predisposed to going broody and will do so frequently.
So if you are looking for a Sussex chicken that is a good layer but won’t go broody often, be sure to ask your breeder for advice or any information.
Among the most ancient of the true bantams, these tiny, beautiful birds are listed as critical on conservancy status today.
Despite this, they remain popular with specialty breeders and exhibition keepers. They are also lovely little pets.
Nankins were once common as farmyard fowl, but their numbers dwindled in the 20th century as they lost out to larger, more productive birds.
They are good layers of small off-white eggs, and hens will go broody as a rule. These birds develop slowly, so it is no wonder that hens have strong maternal instincts.
If you decide to acquire Nankins, expect them to try and hatch eggs; theirs or other birds’. Their hatching drive is so strong they were used in times past to incubate quail eggs.
Another heritage breed, but one developed right here in the U.S. from Asian stock that has been lost to history.
Javas, like Nankins, are critically endangered today, but they are hanging on with some breeders.
Unlike Nankins, these are huge birds, tipping the scales at 10 pounds plus. Very impressive!
A dual-purpose breed that is a prolific layer, Javas will also go broody frequently. They lay large brown eggs, and are excellent setters and mothers.
If you want a big bird that can provide you with lots of meat and still pull its weight in the egg department, Javas are a good choice.
Though they are docile by nature, be prepared if a hen starts getting defensive; they pack a punch!
7. Modern Game
The result of crosses between Old English game fowl and other breeds, Modern Game chickens are of slight build and generally tame, friendly temperament despite descending from fighting stock.
These interesting birds come in a variety of colors and patterns, including black red, blue, brown red, white, and silver. You will also find partridge and spangled patterns among others.
These are pure showbirds, kept by exhibition breeders and chicken enthusiasts. They do not produce much meat, and are not good layers, producing less than 80 eggs per year on average.
Despite this, Modern Game hens are reliable setters and good mothers if you want chicks.
If you have your heart set on one of these beauties it should be as a pet or companion, not a producer!
8. Old English Game
The Old English Game is the original fighting chicken, and these birds were bred for that purpose for centuries.
They come in a bewildering variety of colors and patterns, including black, blue, brown red, golden duckwing, partridge, pyle, self-blue, silver, and white.
These are not chickens for keepers that are faint of heart; they can be very cantankerous and even aggressive, especially when a hen decides to brood.
And she more than likely will: these birds only lay between 40 and 50 small eggs per year, so she is going to defend them! However, they make surprisingly tender mothers once their chicks hatch.
Like the Modern Game breed above, these birds are usually only kept by enthusiasts.
Another massive English breed, this one suspected to be descended from Roman stock, is a big-bodied stout bird with 5 toes.
There are several recognized color patterns, including “colored”, white, and silver. Dorkings are yet another dual-purpose breed originally kept for meat and egg production.
If you want a big hardy bird that is a good layer and can take care of itself, Dorkings are a good choice.
Just be aware that they tend towards broodiness, and their immense size can make them quite a handful when they start protecting their nest.
Roosters tip the scales are nearly 11 pounds (5 kilograms), and even hens can reach 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) from time to time.
Also known as the Asil, these Indian purebred game chickens are known for their showy, long tails and their long, distinguished history as the ancestors of many other domestic breeds originating from the subcontinent.
Notably, the Aseel is one of the progenitors of the English developed Indian game breed, itself a legendary fighting chicken.
This is a breed that is possessed of too many varieties to count and detail here, but for our purposes what you need to know is that the average Aseel hen is, as a rule, not a very good layer, with females only producing around 65 to 70 eggs a year, and she will likely want to try and hatch many of them.
Never utilized for eggs, aside from fighting these chickens are sometimes raised as meat birds.
The Cochin is an extra large breed of chicken that is mostly raised for the exhibition today. Imported to Western countries from China in the mid-19th century, these instantly recognizable birds are famous for their coloration, posture, and distinctly feathered legs.
Available in black, silver buff, and other colorations, these magnificent birds are often said to be single-handedly responsible for creating a surge of interest in private chicken breeding when they were introduced.
These birds were never developed for production characteristics, but despite this, they do lay a reasonable amount of very large eggs and will even continue to lay them right through the winter if their habitation requirements are met.
Mothers are typically very good sitters and highly protective of their eggs, and the great size of these birds in conjunction with their nurturing behavior often makes them great surrogate mothers for hatching eggs from other birds, including turkeys!
If all you want is a dependable but slow and steady flock of layers and you don’t mind them getting broody, you could do far worse than a Cochin.
Pick the Right Breed of Chicken for You
Knowing what to expect from your hens when the time comes for them to start laying is essential to ensuring your operation goes off without a hitch.
Whether you want a continuous and uninterrupted supply of eggs or some good moms to help raise the next generation, understanding the likelihood of broodiness in a given breed will help you play the odds your way.
The breeds featured on this list are known far and wide for their broody behavior, so keep that in mind before adding them to your flock.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.