Choosing a good hen to incubate her eggs naturally can be harder than it sounds. There isn’t any foolproof way to know whether a hen will go the distance and sit on her eggs to full term, or whether she may abandon them halfway through. The only way to know whether a hen is a good brooder and mother, is to have them sit on a batch of eggs and see what happens!
Fortunately, there are a few breeds that are generally more reliable at being mothers than others - so if you’re thinking about breeding the natural way, try some of these notably broody types. They’ve been proven to be both reliable brooders, and egg-cellent mothers once the little ones hatch.
The Silkie is one of the most sweet natured chickens one can have in their backyard flock - they are also one of the broodiest. The hens aren’t productive egg layers, averaging around 90 per year, but once they’re broody they really are one of the most reliable.
You can even often set eggs that are from other chickens under the Silkie for them to hatch and raise as their own, such is their aptitude for being mothers. Would you like to know more? Have a sticky beak at our 5 reasons to love Silkies here.
The Dorking is another hen that has a natural aptitude for motherhood, and lay an average amount of eggs (around 150 per year). The thing to remember with Dorkings is that age is very important - wait until the hens are at least two years old before trying to get them to incubate eggs themselves.
Old English Game
This breed is regarded as being one of the broodiest of all hens! The Old English Game hens are more so for experienced chicken keepers, as the breed can have aggressive tendencies (due to it being a game breed previously used for cock-fighting). However, they are definitely one of the most reliable for raising and hatching.
Cochins are not only beautiful to look at, but love to brood and take care of their chicks. They will even hatch multiple lots of chickens during the year if that’s what you want, but keep in mind - during the colder months, they may stop caring for their young earlier than usual.
What’s even better is that Cochins are renown for their gentle, calm temperament - as well as their beautiful feathers. Curious about Cochins? Have a look at our 5 reasons to love Cochins here!
The Frizzle is a very broody, delightfully feathered breed that will reliably sit on the eggs until they hatch. They are highly regarded by breeders for their broodiness, and also their unique, fine feathers are an asset - as baby chicks will not become tangled or hooked as they can with others! Frazzled about Frizzles? Check out our 5 reasons to love Frizzle chickens here!
So if you’re looking at potentially hatching chickens au natural, then your best bet for hens that sit the full term and look after the babies are the broody breeds above. It’s important to make sure before you embark on your breeding journey, that you’ve got enough room for your impending arrivals by having a spacious coop for your flock at the ready!
Alternatively, you can always look after the incubation process yourself with a fully equipped incubator (link) - which you know will definitely look after your chickens for the full 21 days rather than up and leaving halfway through!