Do White Leghorn Hens Go Broody?
If you’ve ever asked the question, “Do White Leghorns go broody?” here’s some insight from my homestead. I’ve had a number of White Leghorn hens over the years and none of them have gone broody, until now! I definitely have a broody White Leghorn hen in my chicken coop and I must say that I’m rather surprised because this doesn’t happen very often.
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Broodiness vs Egg Production
White Leghorns have been selectively bred over the years to lay a LOT of eggs. Broodiness is not advantageous to productive egg laying.
Hens that go broody stop laying eggs once they have a clutch in their nest. Their instinct is to lay enough eggs in a short period of time so that the chicks will all hatch around the same time. It also allows the hen to set on the nest for 21 days without getting up often to eat and drink. Leaving the nest often chills the embryos and can lead to a low hatch rate.
For these reasons, broodiness isn’t a sought after quality in high production laying hens.
However, each chicken is a unique individual and some revert back to instincts we don’t expect from their breed.
White Leghorns Are Heritage Layers
White Leghorns are one of the best white egg layers and were the industry standard until the California White hybrid was developed. These hybrids lay more eggs and require less feed than the White Leghorn.
However, White Leghorns are still, by far, the best heritage breed of laying hen for producing white eggs. My current flock of 4 White Leghorn hens and 1 rooster produces 4 large eggs almost every day. Every other week or so I will only find 3 eggs in the nest.
This Is All New To Me!
With the unexpected broody hen in my coop, I’ve been wondering what to do? I’ve always wanted a broody hen to raise chicks the old fashioned way. But it’s December! And right now I would rather have more eggs and no chicks.
Each day I go out to the chicken coop and gently move the broody hen off of the nest to collect the eggs. She takes that opportunity to eat, drink and get a bit of exercise…and the next day she is right back on the nest. This has been going on for about 3 weeks.
With the cold weather we’re having, it’s kind of nice to have her setting on the eggs. I haven’t had a single egg freeze and crack, despite the freezing temperatures in the coop!
Better Luck In The Spring…
Maybe if she is still determined to set on a clutch of eggs, I’ll let her try setting and hatching out some chicks in the spring. Since White Leghorns have had brooding and mothering instincts bred out, it seems unlikely that she’ll succeed. But I’m willing to give her a chance when the weather is warmer.
Until then, the broody mama will have to put up with my nest raiding tendencies. 🙂
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In addition to writing for her own websites, Lisa has contributed articles to The Prepper Project and Homestead.org.
The author lives outside of Chicago with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a variety of poultry.