Depending on what breed of chicken you keep depends on the likeliness of whether they'll go through a broody phase each year.
Breeds such as the Welsummer, Leghorn and Ancona's don't usually go broody at all but many other breeds will. Hens can become broody around 2-3 times a year usually in the spring or summer.
Dealing with broody hens pretty much depends on what you want out of keeping hens. If you'd like to breed chickens, have a cockerel or a fellow hen keeper with fertile chicken eggs you can use a broody hen to your advantage. However if you'd like the optimum amount of eggs, it's best to discourage the hen from being broody.
How to spot a broody hen
A broody hen will happily sit and remain in the nest box or wherever they like to go to lay for the majority of the day and night. Each time you go near her she may fluff up her feathers and make an unusual noise and may even attempt to peak as this is her way of protecting her clutch. Broody hens will make a quick dash to the feed and drinker and possibly have a quick dustbath before returning to the nest. Hens will often pluck the feathers from their under carriage to allow the heat from their body to reach the eggs more efficiently so you may spot a few feathers in the nest too.
How to discourage broodiness
To prevent hens becoming broody it's always good practice to remove eggs frequently, at least once a day to prevent the hen from wanting to sit and nest. If you find you have a broody hen the first thing to do is to encourage them out of their nesting site (I often just pick them up and send them out the coop door).
There are many different methods to stop your hens being broody and some I find rather cruel. The one method is where you collect your hen and put her in a wire cage, hang it off the ground and deprive them of food for a day or 2! I personally wouldn't attempt such drastic measures and have found other successful ways of encouraging them out of their broodiness.
Broody hens prefer a dark, warm and draught free nest so if you can remove at least one of these elements you should be able to get your hen out of its broody phase. I had a hen who decided to nest on the floor of the coop so I built a false floor to allow the cool air to circulate underneath her. After a day of attempting to sit and not being comfortable she gave up and snapped out of her broodiness.
Some can be quite stubborn which I have also experienced in the past. I could not get this one particular hen out of being broody and after 3 weeks of sitting she still showed no signs of snapping out of it. She was getting a bit out of condition due to lack of sunlight and a regular pattern of eating, drinking and generally being more active. I decided that each day after the hens had laid their eggs, I'd fill the nest boxes with plant pots and a football to prevent her from being able to sit. After a week of doing this she finally came out of her broodiness.
The Right Way to Keep Chickens
by Virginia Shirt
Diatom - Effective treatment and prevention for Red Mite
When selecting eggs to hard boil, choose eggs which are over 3 days old to avoid the egg white clinging too much to the membrane (which can make peeling more tricky).