Shalom Farm » Organic Sustainable Farming

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Large Broody Breeds

We have tried incubating chicks..and its OK – but we had many losses in the incubation process It was high maintainance and we had to cater to the babies when they are born for several weeks.  This is not as sustainable as I would like.  However, when we have a hen go broody, as long as we had a place to set her a apart and we did it quickly, she was a real treat to have!  She was a devoted momma that sits and turns her eggs so they aree just right.  She takes care of the chicks after they are born, way better than we can, until they were big enough to be on their own…now that’s simple sustainable and smart!  However, we have chosen high egg producers for our dual purpose breed.  These are often not the most broody of bird.  I want to have my quiche and eat it too!!  (Otherwise – what’s the point of having the quiche?  RIGHT?) Instead of getting a better really expensive brooder.  We have decided to encourage chick production the old fashioned way.  We will bring in a self sustaining broody breed to add to our flock, so that we may have the best of both worlds.  It’s low maintainance, it’s sustainable.  It’s good!  Who can argue that?

My requirements:

1.  A large breed – so that she could sit on a large clutch and also used for dual purpose.

2.  A hardy breed with a good temperment.  When you have a broody hen – you want one you can handle.  No cranky mommas aloud!

3.  I don’t just want “good” sitters.  I want renowned “excellant” sitters.  The kind of hens that are annoying if you have them for any other purpose! We don’t want to be limitted in our little homemade hatchery.  We would like our poultry ‘team’ to provide us with replacement layers and meat birds.  Year round.

These are the breeds I found that fit that description:

Cochin Livestock


 Cochin chickens are popular exhibition fowl, but they’re also productive, dual-purpose meat and egg makers. Their impressive size and aristocratic demeanor make them standouts in any crowd, while their fluffy plumage and docile natures help them excel as huggable pet chickens. Cochins come in full and bantam sizes, in a wide range of colors.

Cochin chickens are fair layers of large, light to medium-brown eggs, averaging 150 to 180 eggs per year, and they lay through the cold winter months. Cochins shine as broody hens; they hatch even turkey and duck eggs with ease. They don’t fly, they adapt well to confinement, and they’re comparatively quiet fowl – all qualities that make them an excellent choice for in-town chickens. While they enjoy room to roam, they’re fairly lethargic, so this isn’t a breed that can forage its own diet.

Although they’re hardy, their feathered feet and legs pick up mud and ice, so they should be kept indoors when it’s muddy or snowy outside. Because Cochins can’t fly very well, they require low roosts. Their unique looks, hardiness and lovable dispositions make them a best-bet breed for novice chicken keepers.


Cubalaya Livestock


Cubalay are a dual purpose bird.  Although the Cubalaya chicken breed is mild-mannered in comparison to other gamefowl, it can be somewhat aggressive toward other chickens. Interestingly enough, it tends to develop close relationships with its keepers. Cubalayas do not tolerate confinement and prefer to noisily forage in hot and humid climates. It may take up to three years for this chicken breed to reach full maturity; however, hens are able to reproduce at 6 months of age. The Cubalaya chicken is listed in the Threatened category of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List.  Therefore they are not as easy to find.


Dorking Livestock


The Dorking is an ancient, dual-purpose chicken breed that produces about three to four white eggs per week, even in winter. Dorkings are exemplary setters and mothers, often happily brooding other hens’ chicks. They are sweet, gentle chickens that bear confinement well, but they’re also outstanding foragers that don’t wander far when allowed to free-range. As surprisingly strong fliers, they like to roost in trees. The Dorking is an uncommon but accessible chicken breed listed as Threatened on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List.


Old English Game Livestock

Old English Game Bird

The Old English Game chicken breed comes in a variety of colors and is most commonly used in show. Hens lay well for a game breed and make nice mothers. Due to its hardiness, vigor and longevity, it’s been used to develop a number of chicken breeds. The Old English Game is a lively, flighty and noisy chicken breed that does not tolerate confinement. Males should be separated early, as chicks will begin to squabble at a young age. The Old English Game chicken breed is listed in the Watch category of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List.  These do come in large breeds, but may be more commonly found in bantam, so be clear when ordering, if it is sight unseen.



Since I am thinking these gals will be my brooders, I am thinking they will be know…. the good life with a  (large) closed run and brooder house or sperate brooder pens, depending.  We are in the south, really cold temps really aren’t our issue, but it still could be wet in the winter for a couple days and it could be cold enough to freeze – so I will keep that warning in mind.  It wasn’t a deal breaker for me though.  BTW – they are an heirloom bird as well.  I plan to keep the two breeds seperate I think, at least for now.  This will keep the cochins from interupting the Australorp egg production and if a Austrolorp goes broody, she can quickly join the  Cochins in the nursery!

I’ll let you know how our experiment goes!


Other Standard (large) breeds that are said to be good sitters are:

Buff Orpington

Light Brahmas

Dark Cornish


Thanks to HobbyFarms for the photos and descriptions.

Thanks to Ithaca College for posting Henderson’s Chicken Breeding Chart

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