Two of my laying hens, both old heritage breeds, are in my flock because they lay lovely deep-brown eggs but give me very few eggs because they are broody most of the time. “Broody” is the condition that occurs when the hen is determined to hatch out some chicks and spends all day in the nesting box, ruining eggs for eating purposes and pecking your hand painfully when you try to get her out of there. It happens to many hens at some point, but these two are broody more or less continually from May to October. Finally I decided to put them in small separate coops with their eggs (which are fertile because I keep a rooster) and see what happened.
Both hatched out small broods of chicks, and it is a real pleasure to watch them care for their families. They have a wide array of vocalizations, and can tell the chicks “run to me,” ” freeze,” or “this is delicious!” They will not hesitate to attack me if I get too near their babies. They are complete helicopter mothers, always close and always watching, and in a chicken this is endearing rather than annoying.
If you decide to hatch out chicks, be aware that about half will be males and you have to have some plan for what to do with them. Most city ordinances prohibit more than one rooster if they allow any at all, and roosters are unbelievably noisy. So think ahead. But a mother hen caring for her chicks is a heartwarming sight. Urban homesteading isn’t just about food production. It’s about quality of life, and these little families have added greatly to my QOL.