Hatching Eggs with a Broody Hen

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Incubating eggs & having newborn chicks around can be a lot of work.  Hatching eggs with a broody hen allows nature and instinct to take over all the work for you.  Letting the hen care for the eggs relieves you of the chore of tending an incubator, turning the eggs, monitoring the humidity & temperature or buying expensive equipment.   Letting the hen mother the chicks means you don’t have to clean a brooder or have chicks in your house.  You can also get a huge variety of breeds when ordering hatching eggs, so it’s a great way to add some rare breeds, and it can be a great educational experience for you & your family!

Great! I can’t wait to hatch my own chicks!

A few quick downsides to consider before we get started.  I have found that the chicks raised by a mother hen tend to be a bit more skittish around humans.  When we brood chicks in our house, we spend lots of time holding the chicks and bonding with them.  When the mother takes over raising the young, human interaction is more limited. 

The second drawback is you don’t have any control over if you get male or female birds.  If your town doesn’t allow roosters, or you don’t want to keep a rooster (or several roosters if you end up hatching all boys!), you will want to come up with a plan for any boys.

Even with these drawbacks, I still feel it’s a great, super easy way to raise chicks.  Ready to get started?

Silkie Hens

Broody Hen

First things first – to get started you need to have a broody hen.  How can you tell if your hen has gone broody?  Click here to read all about broody hens. She will sit on her nest nearly all the time, only getting up a few times per day to eat, drink & relieve herself.  Don’t be alarmed at the change in her poop – they will be much larger, and much smellier – that is completely normal because she is generally only pooping once or twice a day.

When sitting on the nest, she will spread way out, often backed against a wall with her tail up.  Many hens will pull out chest or underside feathers to line the nest and to allow her skin to contact the eggs to help keep them warm.  But I feel like the biggest giveaway is the hen will stay in the nest box all night long and not roost with her fellow flockmates.  

Some hens can get aggressive defending their nest – not letting their flockmates in, or pecking at you if you try to touch them.  We have never had this issue with any of our broody hens, not even ones incubating eggs or raising chicks,  so this is just a individual personality issue.  Wait a couple days to make sure your hen is committed to staying broody for the long haul and then you are good to go!

hatching eggs

Where can I get fertile eggs?

If you have a rooster you’ll have an endless supply of fertile eggs.  But what if you don’t have a rooster?  You can find fertilized eggs very easily online.  Most hatcheries that sell baby chicks also sell fertilized eggs.  You can also try searching sites like Craigslist or eBay.  Pick any breed you are interested in and search that breed + fertile hatching eggs and you will no doubt find several sources.  

If you know other local chicken keepers or farms with roosters, this is the best way to obtain fertilized eggs.  Eggs that have shipped through the mail can have a lower hatch rate than non-shipped eggs. Rough handling during transit or swings in temperature can effect fertility.  The best time to have fertilized eggs shipped is late winter through early summer, when temperatures are neither too hot or too cold, and the chicks will have time to feather out before winter hits.

Where should I let the hen brood?

If you have a broody hen, she has no doubt chosen her favorite nesting spot to raise her chicks.  This can be a problem if it also happens to be the favorite nesting spot of the rest of your flock and she is aggressively defending it.  I have not encountered this problem – my hens all seem to WELCOME friends in the nest box.  The visitors lay their egg in the box and the broody hen will steal it to add to her clutch.  I have also noticed the broody mom will take advantage of having a “babysitter” in the box.  When one of the other hens comes in to lay an egg, the mom can have a chance to get up, stretch her legs and get some food or water.  Most times, the visiting hen will sit on the clutch of eggs to continue keeping them warm.

My preference is to allow the hen to brood where she chooses.  She knows best, and has picked a place she feels safe & comfortable.  To move her, you risk “breaking” her – making her decide against being broody.  It also allows her to stay with the flock, where she can still socialize and eat and drink as normal.  

The benefits of moving her include making it easier to keep track of the eggs (remember the above example where she steals her friend’s eggs?). It allows her peace & quiet without other hens coming in and out of the box, and it minimizes the chance of egg breakage if other hens are bumping around in the nest.  

If you decide to move her to a private brooding pen, get everything set up in advance.  Have an enclosed nest area and an outdoor area where she can stretch her legs and relieve herself, along with plenty of fresh water & food.  Gently place the eggs in the nest.  Wait until dark to move her, when she is sleepy and less likely to protest.


Giving the hen her eggs

When you get your eggs in the mail, carefully unwrap them.  The shipper has no doubt wrapped each egg in layers of bubble wrap to keep them safe!  Check each egg over to ensure it survived the journey and they aren’t cracked.  If they are a little dirty, that is not a problem.  You DO NOT want to wash them.  Egg shells might seem solid, but they are actually covered in pores (this is how the developing chick inside gets oxygen!).  The shell is covered in an invisible layer, called a bloom, which keeps bacteria out.  You don’t want to wash the bloom away. click here to read more interesting facts about how chicks develop inside the egg

Before bringing the eggs to the hen, mark each egg with a pencil.  You want to mark each egg because hens will steal other hen’s eggs to add to their clutch and you don’t want her adding too many unfertilized eggs and not having room to incubate the fertilized ones.  It’s also helpful to mark each egg if you will be candling them to monitor the progress (more on that later).  I number my eggs to easily keep track of them.

Now it’s time to give the eggs to the hen!  If your hen is being aggressive, it might be best to wait until she leaves the nest to eat.  Then you can position the eggs without getting pecked at.  If your hen is letting you touch her, you can just take the eggs and very gently lift her up and place the eggs underneath.


And now…..you wait

Generally speaking, the eggs should hatch about 21 days after incubation has begun.  Circle it on your calendar so you can be on the lookout, but it could be a few days earlier or later.  Beyond this, there is not much else you need to do.  Keep an eye on your hen’s health.  Make sure she is getting up to eat and drink.  Some hens are so devoted to mothering their eggs they forget to take care of themselves.  If you notice your hen is not getting up, try removing her from the nest and setting her in the run with a tasty treat (mealworms are a great source of protein!).  It is fine for her to be off the nest for 20-30 minutes, this will not hurt the eggs.

When you see your hen is off the nest, it is a good time to check the eggs yourself.  Make sure that the mom hasn’t taken in extra unfertilized eggs, and check to see none of the eggs have cracked.  If an egg has cracked, there is not much you can do but remove the egg.  It will not continue to develop and will start to smell rotten, and worse could spread bacteria to the other eggs.  

Unfortunately, not all fertilized eggs will develop properly.  There are many reasons, it could be uneven heating (if the hen is off the nest too often, or has too many eggs to properly keep them all covered) or genetic issues.  Somehow, hens instinctively can tell if an egg is not developing properly and will kick it out of the nest.  If you notice an egg outside of the nest, I would recommend putting it back.  If you notice the egg is outside the nest again later there may be something wrong and it’s time to candle the egg.


Candling eggs

Candling an egg is sort of like getting an ultrasound – it gives you a glimpse of what is going on inside that shell.  Warning – it can be addictive!  It’s tempting to want to candle them everyday to check and make sure everything is ok.  It’s the same kind of feeling I remember having when I was pregnant, I remember constantly wishing I had an ultrasound machine in my house to check on the baby!  But really, it’s best to leave the embryo to develop without too much interference.

The only time I candle eggs are at 10 days to see which ones are developing, and if I suspect something is wrong.  “Candling” is the process of shining a light through an egg to see inside of it.  It got it’s name because farmers used to do this with – you guessed it – a candle.  They would hold the egg over the flame of a candle in a darkened room.  Thankfully, we have better options now, as holding an egg over an open flame too long could cook it!  For $40-$50 you can purchase a commercially made candler called an ovascope, for about half that you can buy a special candling flashlight.  Unless you are planning on candling lots of eggs in the future this is not necessary at all.  You can get good results using any bright flashlight – or even your cell phone.

Wait until it’s dark or take the eggs into a dark room.  Make a fist and place the egg on top.  BE CAREFUL NOT TO DROP THE EGG!  Shine the flashlight directly under the egg until it illuminates the contents.  An undeveloped egg will be clear and possibly will smell a bit rotten if it’s been a week or two in the nest.  Inside a developing egg you will see a network of blood vessels coming out of the center of the embryo.  You should also see a clear area where the air sac is.  There is not much to see before day 7.  I usually wait until day 10 before I candle for the first time.

Your eggs should all be numbered to help you keep track of which ones are developing.  Take a notepad.   I like to rate each egg as I candle it on a scale of 1-5.  Five is an egg that has an excellent blood vessel network and a defined air sac, down to a one which looks to be clear or has very little development.  

Any of the eggs that are rated one-three I will candle again in six days to see if they have any change.  If by day 16, you can not see any development you should remove the egg from the nest (if the hen hasn’t already kicked it out).  I only recheck the eggs rated four or five if I suspect there is a problem.  After day 17 you should NOT candle the eggs.  They should be moved as little as possible in the final days of incubation.

candled egg
Egg Candled at 10 Days

Hatch Day!

Hatch day is such an exciting time!  It’s tempting to get involved, but it’s best to let the mom handle things.  The eggs should not be removed from the nest, they need to stay with their mom where she can keep them warm.  It can be hard to hear the chicks struggle to get out of the egg and it can sometimes take hours.  You aren’t helping them by picking at the shell or removing them.  They need the struggle to build their strength.  If your hen has not been aggressive during her brood, she may let you watch as the chicks are hatching, but if she seems nervous or upset by your presence, it’s best to leave her alone.  Lucky for us, our hens are very patient!


Raising the Chicks

The last decision is what to do with the chicks.  You can remove the chicks and raise them in a brooder yourself.  You can leave them with their mom and the flock, or you can remove mom & babies and put them in a private brooding pen.

 I have always left the mom & babies with the rest of the flock.  The mom will defend them if anyone looks at them funny, and then you don’t need to worry about integrating them into the flock later.  It’s less disruptive to everyone.  If you remove mom, eventually you have to go through the integration process again when you reintroduce her to her flockmates.

The new family will not leave the nest for the first couple days.  You should provide chick starter food & water for the new family right in the box.  As long as the babies are in with the flock, the entire flock needs to be switched over to chick starter feed.  Layer feed can damage the kidneys of chicks.  You will need to provide a dish of crushed oyster shells to help supplement the laying hen’s diet.  The mother hen will take care of keeping them warm & entertained so there is no need to provide additional warmth through a heat lamp.

Leaving the nest

When the hen feels the chicks are old enough to live on their own (usually around 7-9 weeks), she will abandon the chicks and start roosting with her flockmates.  She may even peck at the chicks if they keep trying to stay underfoot.  The first time we hatched eggs with a broody, the baby we kept continued to have a special relationship with her momma hen.  The baby would lay in the nest as momma hen laid eggs well into adulthood.  When the “baby” got sick at around 2 years old, the mother hen would stand over her, even bringing her treats. I think it was her mother’s love that helped her get better.  Buff Orpingtons are well known as being great mommies, and she certainly was.  It was a very special bond.  🙂

Hatching eggs with a broody hen
Here is the “baby” nesting with her momma.  She was about 15 weeks old here (just about full grown!)
Momma comforting her 2 year old “baby” when the baby wasn’t feeling well
Hatching Eggs with a Broody Hen

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  1. Susan gavigan says:

    Blonde kept flying out of yard. Discovered why this morn.she has three eggs secreted and is setting. Can I move her inside to my brooder with other young?

    1. If you have other chicks in there, I wouldn’t move her in. She is going to be defensive of her nest and her young when they hatch and would likely attack any other chicks that pose a threat. If possible move her and her nest to a private brooder area or move her & her eggs back in with the adult flock.

  2. What if you have ordered fertilized eggs and you get them and you don’t have a broody hen at that time? What then?

    1. Hopefully you have an incubator as a backup! If you don’t have an incubator, I would suggest you not order until you have a broody that has been sitting for at least a couple days. You can leave her a few regular eggs (or ceramic ones) to sit on to encourage her to stay broody while you are waiting for your fertilized eggs to arrive.

  3. I have two Batman . they are a couple Rages and Lace. well Lace has laid 14 tiney eggs now sitting them . do I have to take little Rages out of the coop. They have never been separated. Do you think it will be safe for the chicks when they hatch. And should I let her sit the whole 14 eggs. there are no other chickens in the coop with them.

    1. Keep on eye on them, but they should be fine. Every time I have hatched eggs with a broody I left her and her chicks in with all the other chickens. Every chicken is different, but as long as Rages isn’t trying to hurt the babies once they hatch I say leave them together. I once had two Silkies incubate a clutch of eggs together, they shared sitting duty and once the babies hatched they shared mother duty. 14 eggs is a lot, but as long as she can cover them all, I would let her have them. Good luck!

  4. Amber says:

    We are first time chicken owners and we have our first broody hen. We got her some fertilized eggs and she is sitting like a pro. We didn’t want to separate her completely but did split the bottom part of the coop in 1/2 so she could stay on her nest box and the others could get to the other 2. Plus this gives her private space – but they can all still see each other. Should that be ok?

    1. That sounds perfect – she can have her space but can still “talk” to her friends. Just make sure she has fresh water & feed on her side, when the chicks hatch you can switch it out for chick starter feed. Good luck! I love watching momma hens hatch and raise chicks!

  5. Diane says:

    My nesting boxes are about a foot above the coop floor with a “roosting bar” right in front of em…should I move a brooding hen’s box down to the coop floor before the chicks hatch? Or will they be able to get up and down to/from the nesting box when they want food/water?

    Will the chicks poop in the nesting box? Or will the mommy teach them to poop out in the main coop(or outsiide)?

    Also, how young can chicks learn to use a nipple waterer? My flock has used these since I moved them outside to the coop at about 11 weeks old, but I didn’t have anything other than the (very messy) upside-down-mason- jar-on-a-plastic-dish waterer. I hate to set one of those up in the coop cuz I remember how they used to tip it over and splash water out of it and worst of all…poop in it, and my coop is so nice and “clean/dry” so I was hoping to start baby chicks off right away on the nipple waterers…do you have any experience with that?

    I am so eager to try letting my momma-wanna-be Buff Orp, “Bertha” raise a brood…she’s gone broody twice this year already, but I broke her of it both times, cuz I’m not quite ready for babies yet…I was thinking NEXT spring(If I can put up with “Gregory Peck” that long…he’s getting a bit aggressive with me!) :-\ I really want to let him(an Ameraucana) breed with my other Am, “Gertrude”…they’ve both got such beautiful coloring, and Gertrude is such an awesome green egg layer!)

    Thank you in advance for any help you might be able to give me! I really enjoyed reading your article! I feel so much better about trying it! 🙂

    1. I’m glad I could help! Letting the broody do the work is really the easiest way to go! The chicks will have a hard time getting up and down from a box a foot high. You could try adding a ramp, or when it’s time, try adding a box for the broody on the floor of the coop. The mom and babies will spend the first couple days in the box & immediate area before venturing out, so you should try to provide feed & the chick waterer in the box or very close by. Unfortunately, chicks will poop wherever they are, so at least for those first few days it will be in the box. I have found after that, they do spend a lot of time outside so it’s not a huge chore. Unfortunately, I don’t have much experience with chicken nipple waterers. I tried to teach my girls to use them a couple years ago but it just never took. I have definitely seen people online using them with young chicks though. lol I love your roosters name!! Good luck 🙂

      1. Diane says:

        ok, I think it’s easiest if I move the nesting box she chooses down to the coop floor into a “sheltering” cardboard box to give her a little more privacy from the rest of the flock, and to free up the laying box for the other girls, cuz it sounds like the broody and chicks will sleep in their nest for a while? How long will it be before she teaches them to perch at night like the others? My nesting boxes have a removable tray-like box in them for easy cleaning, so I can just move the whole kaboodle down to the coop floor with eggs and broody. I’m guessing I should do this close to the time when I’m expecting the chicks to pip, so they come out in the box where they’ll be for a while, right? …and after the broody has gotten used to sitting, so she doesn’t abandon the nest when I move it? Or should I move it dowon after they’ve all pipped?

        Will a rooster tend to leave the chickies alone? Or do I have to separate him? He’s getting pretty agressive, and I’m considering “rehoming” him anyway once I’ve got a broody going…if not for the babies safety, then for the other hens(who he’s getting pretty rough with…most of em have a bald spot on their backs :-\)

        1. If I were you, I would have the nest in place right from the start of brooding on the ground. If you suddenly move the nest, it could upset or confuse the hen. You don’t want her to abandon the nest or trying to move the eggs somewhere she deems “safe” in the last days. A good way to encourage your hen to see the new nest area as a good place to raise a family is to put a few golf balls or ceramic eggs in the nest on the ground as a fake nest. Once you have one committed to sitting there you can swap out the fake eggs for real ones.

          We have hatched eggs several times using fertile eggs we purchased. Strangely enough in the year we had a rooster we decided not to hatch eggs. We had a rooster for a year and then had to rehome him – he was chasing my kids and attacking me and my husband and we finally had enough of him. I would definitely keep an eye on him. In theory he shouldn’t hurt his own offspring, but I would keep a eye out and separate him if needed

  6. Carissa Ojeda says:

    One (of 3) of my hens is on her 3rd day of refusing to leave her box. Even after I shoo her off to collect her egg, the next day she’s back at it. So I’ve decided to let her be a mama and will be picking up some fertilized eggs from a chicken keeping friend who has a rooster tomorrow. I’m planning on leaving her egg alone and simply marking the fertilized eggs before trying to slip them under her. Now … She grumbled and pecked when I shoo’d her from the box and never returned so I’m afraid to try and slip the eggs in with her because she may think I’m just taking her egg again. Can I wait until dark to quietly lift the nesting box lid and slip the eggs in with her ?

    Our coop is about 4 feet long and 4 nesting boxes wide and they’re the same level as the floor of the coop, but we have the coop off the ground with a ramp leading to the run. Will this ramp be an issue for the chicks ? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. You can definitely slip those fertile eggs in there at night when she is calmer. Be sure they are marked, because she will often continue to steal eggs from her flockmates and her clutch could end up too big for her to sit on (plus you don’t want infertile eggs sitting there for weeks!). You’ll want to check her nest every few days to be sure she isn’t still accumulating eggs.

      Our coop is raised off the ground too. The momma will keep them inside for a couple days, then start leading the family out on excursions. The chicks never had a hard time getting down our ramp safely, it was getting back up that gave them some trouble. For the most part, the mom would help nudge them back up the ramp or at least stand at the top encouraging them to keep trying. We did have a Silkie once that was not the greatest mother and she would just come in and out of the coop never keeping track of the babies. There were several times I would hear the chick crying from inside my house and I’d run out there and help it up. Make sure your ramp has plenty of grips or traction to help them navigate it. After the first week or so they should all be doing it no problem though!

  7. Marian Labuschagne says:

    We have a young Orpington who started brooding for the first time. We got her three fertilised eggs and she sat on them fine at first but as time passed she kicked them all out. One broke when she did and it had a almost fully developed embryo inside. She sat on the last egg but we took it away when it started rotting. She’s back to normal now but we would like to try again. What should i do?

    1. awww that is too bad. My guess is once she kicked them out they went too long without heat and died. Hopefully it was just a first timer mistake and she will do better next time. Orpingtons are usually excellent mothers so I would give her another chance. It’s best to wait until she becomes broody again on her own, there are ways you can trick her into being broody but it might not stick. To encourage broodiness you can leave a few eggs in the nest box (or buy ceramic eggs). Seeing the eggs there might be enough to kick up the broodiness hormones. Good luck!

  8. Stephanie says:

    Hi! We have 9 hens (different breeds) and 1 rooster. I do have a broody hen and is laying on fertilized eggs. She has decided to use the first box (next to the coop door) and the favorite nesting box. I am concerned the other hens will try to use the box and that she won’t have enough room for chicks. Should I move her to a much smaller coop until chicks are hatched and ready to be around the other hens? Also, I read that the flock should all use chick starter food with oyster shells as a supplement, my girls will not touch the stuff. Any suggestions would be appreciated. This will be my first hatching, a little nervous.

    1. Congrats on your first hatching! I would see how the other hens act. It’s easier if the new family is part of the flock from day one because then you don’t have to go through the introduction phase. But sometimes the other flock members make that impossible. If the other hens are constantly pushing in and out of the box, the eggs could get broken or the chicks trampled. Keep an eye on it. Hopefully momma hen will warn them and keep them out of the nest box. I’ve never had to move a mother hen though. If you do need to, get it all set up and make the move quickly at night to disrupt the mom as little as possible. Anytime you have chicks in the flock, the whole flock will need to be on chick starter. Layer feed has way too much calcium and could really hurt the chicks. Your laying hens will be fine on the starter though. Offering oyster shells or crushed egg shells is important so that your girls can still get enough calcium. They might not touch it now because they are getting enough in their current feed. Once on a starter feed their bodies will want the calcium and they will be more likely to eat it

  9. Hi, my hen has been sitting 14 days on fertilized eggs and has not left the nest. She has not pooped once. I’ve started giving her worms inside the nest, which she eats. She has water in the nest. Should I leave her and hope she poops at the end of the 21 days?

    1. She has definitely pooped, you are probably just missing it. Broody hens usually store it up and just go once a day (maybe they might go once every couple days but unlikely if they are eating regularly). Sounds like she is a dedicated momma! Keep making sure she has enough food & water, she will get up only as often as needed

  10. Stacy says:

    This was very helpful! My hens eggs should be hatching next week and after talking to a few people I have decided to set up an area in our basement ( even though I don’t want to) for momma and babies. Our ramp to get out of coop is quite high so people told me that it’s a disaster waiting to happen to keep them in the coop. I just really am not looking forward to re introducing. Just asking how big your ramp is, I’m kind of second guessing removing her!

    1. Stacy says:

      I should also mention it’s dark in our coop. And small ( I have only 7 chickens) they are getting upgraded to a large coop in a month or so. The ramp is about a foot off the ground maybe a little more

      1. They should be able to navigate a ramp a foot off the ground. Mine is about 2 feet off the ground and about 1.5 feet wide. For the first few days they will all stay in the nest with mom, but then she is going to start taking them out. I’ve never had one wander outside on their own. BUT I will say the bigger problem is when the family returns to the nest either at dusk or just for a mid day nap. Getting back INTO the coop seems to be an issue for many chicks. I have had mother hens that were excellent at making sure all the babies get up, nudging them, or repeatedly going in and out trying them to show it how it’s done. But I have also had mother hens that simply go in the coop and settle down with whatever babies followed her. Some babies get it from day one and follow her in, but there are always a few that take more time. Those chicks get left outside the coop screaming at the bottom of the ramp. The mom is usually inside clucking her support but they just can’t figure it out on their own. Luckily I work from home so I’m always here and the sound of a screaming chick is surprisingly loud and I run out and help them in. I haven’t ever had a chick take more than two weeks to figure it out and almost all of them usually get it within a few days. But if you aren’t home to monitor that it could be a disaster. You definitely want to check on the family often and make sure you do head counts before you close up the coop at night. I have had hens hatch out several clutches of chicks, they free range in the yard all day, and I’ve never had one get lost. So if you are home a lot to monitor it I would give it a shot! You could always move them inside if it becomes an issue

  11. Kristen says:

    I have my first set of broody hens. We have 31 laying hens in our flock, 10 newbies that Are in a separate gated area in the coop right now.
    My broody hens are laying in the 3 popular nesting boxes which sit over 5 feet up (very large set up as we farm to make a living)
    My question is, should I let them sit until eggs are ready to hatch and move them to the enclosed fenced in part of the coop once I move the newbies to the main coop with the flock? Also, Can 2 or 3 moms be in the same enclosed area at once? It’s about a 10’x3′ run that is fenced off with a wood top.

    They are all very friendly and don’t peck at us when we remove eggs that I didn’t mark. They each have 10 fertile eggs that are marked.

    1. It really depends on your bird’s personalities. If you have the space in the newbie area you might want to consider moving them now if that is where you plan to have them raise the babies. You could also try setting them up a nest box (even a cardboard box with shavings) on the ground of the coop. This way they don’t have the big drop off and they won’t have other girls in there jostling the eggs in the popular boxes. It’s nice to let mom stay in the flock dynamics when possible. But if your plan is to separate the new families from the flock you may as well just move them once. You don’t want to move or touch the eggs in the final week of incubation. The mom won’t lead them out of the box for the first 24 hours, but you don’t want any adventurous babies to jump out on their own! I’ve had Mothers raising their babies together, and I always keep them in with the general flock and they all do fine. Just keep an eye on roosters if you do that. But keeping 2-3 moms together with their babies should be fine

      1. Thank you! I don’t want to separate them so I’m thinking maybe giving them nesting boxes on the ground in the coop so they can stay intergrated with the flock but still be safe not so high up, as og right now I need to move her daily to check for new eggs (we don’t have a rooster so I bought fertile eggs and marked them)

  12. Should add they all free range on our property during the day where ever they want and they pit themselves to bed at night.
    I’m not sure if that makes a difference in moving them or let them naturally learn.

    1. I am all for letting the moms do their thing. We let them stay in the nest box and don’t move them. The babies hatch and live in the flock from day one. Mom takes them out to free range in the yard and brings them back at the end of the day. I keep an eye on my rooster and any grouchy hens but honestly no one has ever tried anything and mom protects them. The chicks usually need my help for a day or two navigating the ramp up to the coop at the end of the day but other than that I don’t interfere much

  13. Will a broody hen stop laying eggs, once the fertile period is over, or do you have to continue to check for eggs everyday after that?

    1. She will continue to lay eggs while she is assembling her clutch. Once she is content her clutch size (usually 8-12 eggs) she will start incubating them. This way they all develop at the same time. Once she starts incubation she will only leave the nest once or twice a day and she will stop laying eggs. If you have other chickens in with her, they could be leaving eggs with her or she could steal them from other nest boxes. I like to mark the fertile, incubating eggs and then check the nest every couple of days for eggs that don’t belong

  14. Anastasia says:

    Our hen just had two hatchlings; however, there are about seven other eggs in the nest. The nest is in the coop area and they (mama and babies) are now on the first floor (think 1.5 story chicken coop with ramp). We closed up the coop because the chicks got out, but Mama did not want to leave the coop was frantically trying to get them inside safely. The chicks tried, but could not make that 2.5 in jump. We put them back in and the three seem very content; however, the other eggs are not being kept warm. We placed hay over them while I research answers. Our chickens, about 18 are free range beyond the coop, but they love their coop for roosting and sleeping. Do we move Mama, babies, and eggs?

    1. Mama should definitely not be leaving the nest with viable eggs still in it. They need that warmth right up until the end. Mother hens are pretty good at sensing when eggs are not viable, they can feel the movements of the babies inside the eggs and can hear them peeping as they get ready to hatch. Have you candled the eggs to see if they were developing normally? If she is not sitting on them at all anymore it could be that she gave up on them. If it’s been several hours, unfortunately they might have passed away. Definitely try to encourage her to stay on the nest – can you wire off the nest box area so she has less space to roam? If you don’t have an incubator and the mama won’t stay on the nest, there is not much that can be done. As a last resort you could try keeping them under a heat lamp, but they really do best with steady temperature and humidity levels which will be hard to achieve with just a heat lamp

  15. Haylee says:

    My hen (first time mother) has been sitting on eggs for nearly 25 days now and no sign of any pipping. She hasn’t thrown any out and we carefully candled 2 the other night and the eggs are full of chick. What should I do? Are they late? Or do they need extra help pipping? I have heard that temperature decrease makes them hatch later and was wondering if maybe every time she gets up to eat, drink, and poop if that decrease in temp. is what’s causing them to hatch later. And this is our first time using a broody hen

    1. Is it possible you are just off on your dates? That is pretty late for viable eggs to be going. Temperature and humidity definitely play a large role, but it’s normal that the mother should be getting up a couple times per day to take care of her needs. Hopefully you get some chicks soon!

  16. I have a mama hen and her 3 chicks in a separate area in the coop. They can’t get out but I want to know when I can let them out to free range outside of their space and the coop with the rest of the flock.

    1. I have always just let momma hen decide that – it usually happens around day two. By then the family has bonded, the chicks will stay very close to mom and mom will defend them in anyone looks at them sideways. But if the rest of your flock is very aggressive you might want to keep them separate until the chicks are much bigger (4-6 weeks at least)

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