Brooding Hens and Hatching Chicks

It is always exciting when your first hen decides she wants to start a family. Chicks hatched and raised by a mother hen are generally hardier, healthier, and smarter than their hatchery or incubator counterparts. They don’t suffer stress as hatchery chicks do in transportation and they learn early to eat and find food.

broodinghens

A Mother Hen and her Brood

Chickens raised by mother hens in your home flock are also generally less aggressive than those you raise yourself.

How Do You Know if your Hen is Ready to Set?

You’ll know your hen is ready to set on eggs, or broody, when she sits on a nest all day, puffs up, and makes a sort of growling sound at you when you bother her.

But should you let her set?

Believe it or not, all hens do not make good mothers. And some breeds are better than others. We’ve found the Speckled Sussex hens we purchased from the hatchery only care for their chicks for a short time. Then the majority of the chicks are gobbled up by predators. We even had a hawk lift a chick following its Speckled Sussex mother hen around the yard.

We keep a small flock of Belgian Bearded D’uccles around. These are bantam, or miniature chickens. They are good, protective mother hens. Generally, bantam hens of all breeds are extremely protective mothers. So it is a good idea to keep a few in your flock if you want to reliably hatch off and raise your own chicks.

We also have a game hen that reliably raises a large brood each year. The chickens from her brood always survive and are smart as adults. We rarely lose them to predators.

What makes a good mother hen?

  • A good mother hen does not decide she doesn’t want to be broody before she hatches the chicks, thereby leaving you with a bunch of rotten eggs.
  • A good mother hen does not peck and kill her chicks as they hatch.
  • A good mother hen takes care of her chicks until they are at least 8 weeks old.
  • A good mother hen trains her chicks to hide from predators within the first few days of life.
  • A good mother hen never allows predators to get her chicks, not any.

Of course, you can’t know all this about a hen before you actually set her. So go ahead and see how she does. But if she doesn’t meet the criteria listed above, you may not want to bother with letting her set the next time she decides it is time. You are better off with the eggs she would have laid for you.

What Should You Do with your Setting Hen?

We prefer to move our broody hens to individual cages. When hens are brooding, they get off their nest once a day to eat and relieve themselves. We’ve found that other hens will hop into the broody hen’s nest and lay fresh eggs. And when the broody hen returns to find her nest occupied, she’ll find another. So the eggs she’s been setting are not kept continuously warm. This is how you end up cracking rotted eggs in your frying pan. To avoid this entire problem, we move the hen to private quarters. Just be certain to provide food and water.

How Do You Manage a Mama Hen & Her Hatched Chicks?

Along about the time a setting hen is expected to hatch, we check the brooding cage multiple times a day. Hatching can take 24 to 48 hours for all viable eggs. If a chick hops out of the nest box, we carefully move it back in with the hen so it stay warm and the mother hen doesn’t have to choose between the hatch chick and those that are still hatching.

After 2 or 3 days, when we are sure no other egg will hatch and the mother and chicks are trying to scratch around, we release the hen with her chicks. Our flock free ranges so there are never issues with more aggressive birds attacking the hen or her chicks. But if you confine your birds, it is best to keep them separate until the chicks are old enough to fend for themselves. Then you must introduce the chicks to the flock at night and keep a close eye on them to prevent fights.

The mother hen knows where food and water can be find and quickly teaches the chicks where to find it. We used to make special Chick Cornbread for our home hatched chicks but find it unnecessary these days.

Hatching your own chicks with a setting hen is generally easy and makes for healthy chicks. And the cost is minimal: just the price of 10 to 12 weeks worth of the hen’s eggs.


59 Responses to “Brooding Hens and Hatching Chicks”

  1. Toni Says:

    My hen is about to hatch her eggs and I need to move her to her own place. She is alone but not in a safe place for her chicks and herself. Can I pick up her nest box and put her in a safer place? Thanks

  2. solarfarmmom Says:

    I would wait until just after the chicks hatch. It really depends on the hen though. It could spook her off the nest. If it is a really broody breed (like a game hen or other bantam variety) then go ahead. But If it is something like a New Hampshire Red or other old fashioned heavy breed you may want to wait.

  3. Nancy Says:

    My hen hatched the chick on a laying nest on the wall about a foot off the ground. Will the chick be able to get down to food and water or should I move hen, chick, and other eggs to a box on the ground.

  4. solarfarmmom Says:

    The chick will have no problem getting down, Nancy. But it likely won’t be able to get back up. The should stay with the chick and may do so below where it was hatched. So you may want to move the hen and chick. The best time is at dusk or right after dark when the hen won’t have time to move back to her original nesting spot.

  5. Kelley Says:

    I have a hen that has 3 babies, all 4 days old. They are in the 10X6 coop with the door to outside blocked. We have another hen who just started laying on her eggs, I think she started a day or two ago. She is in my horses stall in a bad spot. I want to move her into the coop with the mommy and babies. Is this okay to do or a big fat no no?
    Thank you so much….

  6. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hi Kelley. Thanks for commenting. First, I would say it is o.k. to let your mother hen with the 4 day old chicks outside at this point, particularly if they can roam free, outside a run or fenced chicken yard. It is good for them.

    I’m not clear on your other hen. If she just started sitting on her eggs, you can try to move her from your horse stall to a safer nesting area. But I’ll warn you, she may decide she doesn’t want to brood. It is often best to wait 4 or 5 days after they start setting to move them so they are good and “broody”. Also, move her in the evening so she has many hours at night to set on her eggs. She will be more likely to keep setting.

    Let us know how it works for you! And congrats on your new little chicks.

  7. Paula Brown Says:

    I had a broody hen hatch out 9 eggs and then 2 days later my hatchery eggs hatched out only 3. can I put those 3 in with the other chicks or will the hen not accept them?

  8. solarfarmmom Says:

    This depends on the hen. You can try two things: 1) Set the chicks out near her during the day and see how she reacts to them. We did this recently with an orphaned chick and had no problems. If the hen pecks them, get them away from her and try 2) putting the chicks under the hen at night while she is sleeping. Best of luck!

  9. Roseon Says:

    I have two pairs of japanese bantams and 1 pair of bantam chicks which I bought all of them and it’s my first bantam i ever kept.I have no idea about their producing system.They lay 1 egg in difference of 1 day always and now I want those eggs to be hatched by their own hens so what do I do, remove the eggs when they are layed daily or keep them as they lay as it is or what? I am really confused so Please can any one help me to get through this subjects cause I am really new in this stuff.

  10. Roseon Says:

    I just kept the layed eggs in the nest and the eggs were eaten by the male bantams so will that male bantems now often eat those eggs when they are layed? what should I do?

  11. kat williams Says:

    Please tell me the best way to break up a brooding hen. I have about 10 hens trying to brood at once…. help!

  12. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hi Kat! Been there! I suggest you put them in a pen or cage where there is no place for them to nest. It should be bright and open feeling. Put them all in together. Make sure they have plenty of food and water. After a few days, most if not all should be back to normal. It may take them some time, perhaps a week or two, to start laying again as their egg laying cycle ceases while they are setting. I hope this works for you!

  13. Kevin Says:

    I have three hens that are brooding. 2 of them should have hatched chicks by now but nothing has happened. Is it going to hurt the hens to replace the eggs they are on with fertile eggs? These are VERY good brooders and I would like them to raise chicks for me so I don’t have to do quite as much work!!

  14. kat williams Says:

    Solarfarmmom, Some of our hens, are losing feathers around their head & neck area.They also have diarrhea. our chickens are free range during the day and up at night. Please give me some advice. I have use atroban 11% for mites and corid for the diarrhea,but nothing has helped. Other than these problems they all seem to be healthy, they eat fine and the egg production is ok… thanks so much kat

  15. solarfarmmom Says:

    Kat – Do you have a rooster? When roosters mate with hens, they pull on the head & upper neck feathers. Often, as the summer season progresses, the loose (or rather pulled out) feathers become more pronounced. Too many roosters in particular cause problems. You may also see some broken feathers on their backs if this is your problem.

    What do you feed your hens? Personally, I’ve found that lay mashes (read: highly processed feeds) are as bad for chickens as processed foods are for humans. When I had this problem, I started feeding my chickens buttermilk with added kelp and switched them to scratch grains. You can do this with free range birds as they can get much of their protein from insects & clovers. The buttermilk gives them good bacteria (pro-biotics) and the kelp provides them with many micro nutrients. The whole grains, including cracked corn, give them a wider range of nutrients as well. I found this combination improved the health of my hens dramatically. It cleaned up the messy behinds.

    You can also add powdered garlic to their feed or a clove or two of fresh garlic to their water on a regular basis. This is mildly antibiotic and will help heal their digestive system and boost their immune function.

    Now if the feather loss problem is mites, you should be able to see the mites or egg masses if you look closely. I suggest you thoroughly clean your coop, scrubbing down nest boxes & roosts and replacing all bedding and nesting materials. There are things you can paint the roosts with to kill mites. I can’t recall off hand…..kerosene comes to mind but google around and see what you can find. You can also dust the coop & birds with diatamaceous earth. Be careful as this stuff, while not toxic, can be very irritating to your lungs and the birds as well.

    Let me know if this advice was helpful! Thanks again for asking!

  16. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hi Kevin. Thanks for your question. If your hens have been sitting for a while, long enough for eggs to have hatched, they may not sit another 3 weeks, long enough to hatch your fertile eggs. Then you’ll end up with half developed chicks and wasted eggs. If they are really good brooders, difficult to break, then you might go ahead and try. I would limit the number of eggs (unless you have a lot of free fertile eggs). Now if the original eggs didn’t hatch and the hens were with roosters, you may have a fertility problem.

    As far as hurting the hens, brooding is hard on them. They don’t eat or drink much while sitting. This is why their combs droop. But if they are healthy, and willing to sit, go ahead and try. They’ll quit if they can’t handle it.

    And yes, letting the hens raise the chicks is MUCH easier!

  17. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hi Roseon. Congratulation on your first bantams. Japanese Bantams are beautiful! Normally, a hen will lay roughly one egg every day for 10-14 days then skip a day. Each day, the egg is laid about an hour later. Those 10-14 eggs are called a “clutch”. If a hen is going to brood, she’ll begin after she has a clutch of eggs laid.

    If your hens are all in the same pen or have access to the same nesting box(es), it may be hard to tell who’s eggs are who’s. You can leave the eggs where they are and let the hens set when they are ready. Or, you can collect the eggs for a week or two then put them under the hen. If you do this, keep the eggs at room temperature and do not wash them.

    If your roosters are eating the eggs, collect the eggs often. Check your feed and be sure they are getting enough protein (16-18% would be good). Be sure your chickens have room to move around as they may eat eggs out of boredom. If your nest boxes are too bright or at chicken eye level, chickens will peck at and eat the eggs as well.

    If you have a bird that is a real problem and continues to eat eggs, eat the bird. This usually solved the problem permanently.

  18. kat williams Says:

    To solarfarmmom: I am having trouble finding the kelp to go with the buttermilk for my hens as you adviced me in you’r last answer for the added micro nutrients. Krogers, wal mart does not carrier it. Please if you have any advice it would be a great help.. Thanks so much on the advice you gave me on how to break up the settings hens it worked very well. Thanks again.

  19. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hi Kat. You won’t find kelp at a local grocery store. Try a health food store. You can mail order it as well. Azure standard carries it (www.azurestandard.com) or google around for it. I get mine from a local distributor and buy it by the 50 lb bag. All the animals relish it. But feed the buttermilk by itself, don’t wait until you find kelp. Sprinkle some grain on top of the buttermilk to encourage their eating of it.

    Glad you were able to break your broodies!

  20. Susan Peterson Says:

    I had a broody hen sit on eggs which never hatched. Some never developed at all, some seem to have developed and died. I think maybe bacterial contamination as I made the mistake of feeding her in the nest. After sitting 5 weeks on those eggs, one hot day she got up, took a drink, and went and sat down on another bunch of newly laid eggs. Someone told me she might not sit long enough to hatch those, so I ordered some chicks (which turned out to be VERY expensive, to ship only 12) to give to her.
    But I have never done this and would like a step by step how to do it. Should I put them in the brooder when they come in the middle of the day, and then wait until night to slip them under her? She’ll peck me…do I hold her head away with a stick while I do it, or will that upset her too much. How will I know if she accepts them vs rejecting them? How long do I have to sit in the henhouse in the dark to gauge her reaction? If she does accept them, when do I move them to the separate place I made for them? ( A dog house enclosed by a run with the smaller, 1″ , chicken wire around it.) How do I move them? Get them all in a big box together?
    I’d love to see a hen raise chicks. But I am scared to lose these, and do know how to raise them myself.
    Thanks!
    Susan Peterson

  21. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hi Susan. Thanks for visiting! All first time commentators must go through moderation so it can take me a few days to get to a new comment.

    I’m not sure what happened with your eggs. It happens to us sometimes too. Often, later in the season when it is hot and the hen may not be sitting as consistently as she should. I also think the hens are not as fertile when it is hot. But bacterial contamination is possible although, I think, not likely.

    Yes, get your chicks under a heat lamp to keep them warm when the arrive. If it is very warm (in the 90s) where you are, you won’t need a lamp as it is likely warm enough. Just keep an eye on them. When it is dark, take them all out in a box and set them under your hen, wherever it is that she is nesting. Remove the eggs that are there, if you can. I know brooding hens can peck! It should be o.k. to pick her right up. Hold her with her head behind you so she can’t peck. I think this is better than holding her head back with a stick as the chicks are less likely to get pecked as you put them under her. It sounds like she is a very persistent brooder and I don’t think you will upset her, particularly not at night as chickens are not likely to move around at that time.

    Watch her for 10 minutes or so to make sure she is not pecking at the chicks. Then leave her for the night. Check her again at first light to see that she is still not pecking at them.

    Be certain the chicks can’t fall out of the nest. If a few do and the others stay in the nest, the hen won’t be able to keep them all warm and you could lose some. If you notice her pecking at any of them, remove those chicks and watch to see what she does with the others.

    If she accepts them, wait until she is getting out of the nest and working to take the babes out too. Then you can move them all. This may be the very next day as your mail order chicks are a few days old, not newly hatched, when they arrive. If you can, have a helper to hold the hen while you gather the chicks in a box or bucket. Carry them all over to your prepared pen and put the chicks in first, then the hen. If you do it the other way, you may get pecked. Don’t worry if the chicks tumble. They are generally very resilient! Assuming they are not too stressed from the trip to you.

    Let us know how it turns out! A best of luck!

  22. Jaclynne Says:

    HI (beautiful site!)

    I have 3 Buff Orpington hens and 1 rooster. We have them for the eggs only and they have also become loved pets. About a week ago, two of the hens, between them, have hatched 8 eggs. One hen (Alice) has 3 chicks, and the other (Marilyn) has 5 chicks. Marilyn’s 5th egg was slow to hatch and by the time it did she was already taking the other 4 chicks out to forage. I suspect also that she might have stepped on the egg causing the chick to be exposed not fully developed – so she abandoned it. I found this chick alone in the nest peeping pitifully. She couldn’t raise her head, or stand up and her eyes weren’t open yet. She had some raw bare skin areas and lacerations on her head and body. I didn’t think she would survive and would probably be pushed out or pecked to death so I took her in to help her get a start. By her feather configuration I think she’s a pullet. Being an orphan, Annie seemed an appropriate name. I covered her wounds and scrapes with antibiotic ointment and she settled down. I made a little towel cave on a heating pad for her and after a day of quiet warm rest I started getting her to eat and drink.

    At about 4 or 5 days old she was small, but very active, alert, and strong. I tried to re-introduce her to the family. As soon as I put her down among the other chickens she began to peep shrilly in alarm and kept running back to me no matter how far away I moved. I realized then that she has bonded to me! When I hid she continued to call for me in a shrill panicked chirps. Then, her mother, Marilyn, approached her and pecked her hard on the head, causing Annie to run away peeping more shrilly, catching the attention of the other mother hen, Alice, who then joined in the chasing her and pecking!

    The next day I tried staying with Annie around the mothers and other chicks while they were out grazing. I was keeping my hand near Annie, mimicking the hen’s scratching etc. until the they were all comfortable with me amongst them and Annie was calmed and started relaxing and making little normal happy chick sounds. But.. the minute she went over towards the “mummies dearest” they started the chasing her and pecking her brutally again.

    After another day I tried again. This time little Annie started to follow the rooster (Nester) around, no problem, and then another one of the non mother hens, (Martha) and seemed quite happy and ready to join the others. I thought that this time it might take, but as soon as she got near the mothers they attacked her again.

    Now Annie’s completely traumatized and terrified of chickens! The poor little thing is so lonesome and frightened. I’m afraid to expose her to the bullying again, and trying not to encourage her bonding to me by leaving her alone (for as long as I can stand to ignore her incessant and pitiful calling for me!)

    I’d so love to see her back in her family under her mother’s wings.Can you give me any suggestions to help make this work?

    Jaclynne

  23. Jaclynne Says:

    Please disregard my former posting, the problem has been solved.

  24. solarfarmmom Says:

    Oh Jaclynne! What a story! It sounds like you did a great job trying to reintroduce the chick to its mother. It is not easy. We’ve had similar situations. In some, when there is more than one chick, we raised them together. But with one chick, it is hard. They do get lonely. Know that you did the best job you could!

  25. Jaclynne Says:

    A couple of days later, I did finally get Annie back with her family. Now she’s a month old and doing very well. Actually I can’t distinguish her from the others now. She has (thankfully) forgotten about me and now is one of the “gang”. It was very heart warming to see her get accepted by the others.

    Thanks for your response. It’s so encouraging to know that there are people like you out there!

  26. Jaclynne Says:

    Hi,
    I have another problem now. One of the hens, (Martha) seems to be getting pecked on her back. It’s starting to get quite severe and she has large bald patches!
    Do you know of a remedy to stop this?

  27. solarfarmmom Says:

    So glad to help, Jaclynne! And I’m thrilled your little Annie is alive and thriving! They do forget you!

    Now about Martha, is she bloody? Or just bald? Roosters mating with her will, over the course of the season, break off and pull out feathers making her back bald. If she’s lower in the pecking order, she likely squats more readily for mating and therefore gets more action along with the associated feather breaking. The feathers will grow back when she molts in the next few months.

    If the hens are pecking her on her back and she’s actually bloody, you’ll want to separate her until she’s well healed.

    Let me know how it turns out!

  28. Angie Says:

    I have a question. My daughter and I are first time chicken owners and have a hen who is sitting on her eggs, the only problem is that she is with the other hens and rooster and the eggs have started to hatch. How and should we get them out into their own area and if so when should we try and reintroduce. Thank you for your help.

  29. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hi Angie! Thanks for commenting. Let her hatch all the chicks and make certain they are completely dry. Then go ahead and move them if you feel it is necessary. I say “necessary” as the hen should defend her chicks from the other chickens but not all breeds are good at this. And if she is lower in the pecking order, she and her chicks may get pecked.

    You can reintroduce them when the chicks are 6-8 weeks old but watch them closely. While the chicks will be strong at that age, depending on the size of your run/coop, they may get picked on to such a degree that they won’t leave the nesting/roosting area during the day. If this happens, you may need to keep them somewhere else. When you reintroduce all the birds to the main flock, do it after dark so they settle in well at night.

    Let me know how it works out.

  30. Ann Marie Says:

    I have a hen sitting on eggs ready to hatch. One baby hatched and it appears she pecked it to death. It was dry, but it could have been dead shortly after hatching. It was hatched during the day and the rest of the eggs look like they will hatch overnight. Does this ever turn out good?
    thanks

  31. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hi Ann Marie. We’ve had this happen. No, it isn’t necessarily a big problem. We’ve had hens hatch off and kill the first one for some odd reason (perhaps the hen knew there was something wrong) and the rest do just fine. I’d wait, see, and watch closely. If she does kill a second, remove all the eggs, bring them inside, and put them in a small box on a heating pad and nestle them in towels. They may not all survive but you will likely be able to hand raise the ones that do. Thanks for visiting!

  32. Bronwyn Says:

    Hi, I have a Pekin Bantam Hen sitting on 11 eggs, I was away for a few day when she started sitting but have worked out that they should have started hatching yesterday at the latest, one of the eggs did have a crack in it as I moved her to have a look ( i know BAD me, I think i have learnt not to touch now) today i had a look without moving her and I could just see a chick but it was still wet and looked lifeless, i checked a few hours later and it was the same. What do you think I should do? this is my first hatch. Thanks heaps

  33. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hi Bronwyn. Thanks for asking! It is fine to peak under her if she allows it. I would give her another day or two to hatch them all. Like humans, chicks don’t always take exactly 21 days to hatch. It is possible that the chick you mention is dead. This can happen and may be no ones fault (not your peaking or the hen). If in 3 or 4 days, no more eggs hatch, I would lift her up and look carefully at each egg. If the eggs are hatching (in case you calculated incorrectly), you’ll see a tiny pecked hole and perhaps a little beak. The chick(s) will cheap and breath. You will see this. If, however, no more eggs hatch, my guess is they are not viable. Let me know how it works out!

  34. jessica Says:

    hi there, just a question similar to ‘Toni’. i have a hen with a clutch is almost due to hatch. i have closed off an area inside the original chook pen ( enough room for her and the clutch). the nest is a cleaned lawn mover catcher with shelver and feeders provided. i was just wondering if i can move her possible at night as her nest she is in is roughly 3 feet high and with 14 other hens ( 2 of them also broody) and the rooster. just not sure if i should wait or get her in the pen to be safe than sorry????

  35. kat williams Says:

    Help i have a hen that i just got. about 1 week ago at first she seemed ok them she stoped eatting and i do not see her drinking much she has trouble standing and her poop is running and white.

  36. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hey Kat,

    Sorry this is late. It may be too late for your hen! All animals get sick at times, just like people. When this happens, they often do not want to eat. Fasting If she has recovered, wonderful. It is likely that she had this before you got her. Or, her immune system hadn’t met this little bug that your chickens are used to. If she is a strong, well fed bird, she may survive. If her immune system was weak, then she may not. If you can feed all your chickens some sort of probiotic (like buttermilk or yogurt), they will all be healthier. Adding a garlic clove (chopped) to their water or the yogurt/buttermilk will also help boost their immune systems.

    Another thought: when you get a new animal, it is best to keep them isolated for a time (a week or two) to watch and make certain they do not have any disease or parasite that can be passed on to your other animals.

  37. solarfarmmom Says:

    Sorry for the delayed response, Jessica. Moving them just before hatch is always tricky. I’d have left her and let her care for her chicks and then try letting her in with the other hens. It is important to watch closely so the other birds don’t peck the chicks. A good hen will protect them well. But in a small confined coop, there can be trouble. It really depends on your birds. Let me know how it went.

  38. kat williams Says:

    Thanks for the input, i do use the garlic, and yogurt, the hen did not make it, but the other one, i got to in time, she is fine now, i always keep new chickens, to there self for a while. You are a blessing to all of us out here when we do not know what to do. God bless you, and may you,r 2011 be a bless year as well.KAT

  39. kat williams Says:

    Hi, i just got a rhode island red rooster that has frost bite on his comb, what can i put on it to help it get better, i put vaseline on the comb, to help keep it for getting frostbite but i did not get this one in time.

  40. Judy Lovett Says:

    Question, I have a Black Ausptrlorp that is setting & due to hatch out the 2 or 3 of February. The barn cat got the last chicks that hatched out. Can I move her to a coop now or should I wait? The cat gets the chick when they are a couple days old when they start to leave the nest with Mom.

  41. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hi Judy. Thanks for commenting. You may be able to move your hen. It just depends on how broody she is. I’d get rid of the cat. And a good mother hen will protect her chicks aggressively. I’ve had tiny bantam hens fly at our cats stalking the chicks. The cats learn pretty quickly to stay away. If you can get a bantam variety, you may have more luck with the chicks making it to adulthood.

  42. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hey Kat! Nice to see you again! We always used Vaseline when I was a kid in NY. Here in TN it usually isn’t needed…not this winter! Unfortunately, once they get frost bit, there’s not much you can do. The tissue actually dies and will scab up and fall off. The rooster should be otherwise fine.

  43. Judy Lovett Says:

    Thank you so much for your answer to the question of moving a brooding hen. The cat is the best barn cat. She is a rescue street cat & catches everything. I’ll try to get som banty’s in the spring. I’ve had them before & they are fierce Momma’s

  44. Erin Says:

    Wow, I think I found the right place for my question! We have a Silky Bantam named Timmy (purchased as a rooster). He was raised initially by hand, due to extenuating circumstances, and became a little, well… different. He integrated with the other Chickens fine but really just keeps to himself. Recently Timmy started laying on the hen’s eggs. We thought he was doing it to stay warm this winter, as he’s so much smaller, but are now wondering if he is really a brooding hen (we do have another rooster). He doesn’t get upset when you move him, or take his eggs, he just goes right back. He also stays there when one of the big girls lays, he just gets kind of squished to the side. How can we find out if he’s a she, and if he’s a he is it okay for him to stay on the eggs? (By the way s/he has what seem to be spurs).

    Also, if we do move Timmy to a private brooding area and the next day our other chickens lay more eggs, can we add those eggs to his/her nest. Right now s/he’s been sitting on about 6-9 eggs a day.

    Lastly, I’m not sure how to word this… Does a chicken need to be ‘fertilized’ by the rooster each time before she lays for the egg to be fertile? Or, can he do his business and she will be fertile for a while?

  45. Erin Says:

    I forgot to mention we have about a dozen nesting boxes but the girls all lay on the floor and they all use the same nest. This is the spot Timmy has lovingly made home.

  46. Diane Saxon Says:

    My hen has been setting for a while now and her eggs are hatching. The first 2 died but now she has 7 that seem quite well. My question is that she had other eggs in the nest that don’t appear to be going to hatch as she is already bringing her chicks out to eat and drink. Do I just remove the remaining eggs and dispose of them?

  47. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hi Erin. Thanks for commenting. So sorry for the delay. I don’t do much in the way of blogging these days and so don’t check here often.

    I must say, I’ve never had a rooster that acted like a hen before! Sometimes a rooster will get in a good nesting area and try and encourage a hen to get in with him so she knows where to lay.

    Does Timmy crow? What do the feathers on his saddle (his back near the tail) look like? Are they long and thin ending in a point? If so, he is a rooster. Of course, you are talking Silkies here. I’ve never raised them and they do look different. Spurs is an indication that he is a rooster. Does he ever try and dance for or mount other birds? If Timmy is hanging out on the hens’ nest, perhaps he is getting picked on a trying to hide from the other rooster.

    If you decide to move Timmy to a private brooding area along with the existing eggs, I would not add any new eggs to his/her nest.

    I was not sure of the answer to your question re: duration of fertilization. So I googled a bit and found this great explanation:

    http://www.chickenkeepingsecrets.com/keeping-chickens/hen-reproduction-sperm-eggs/

    Hope this help!

  48. solarfarmmom Says:

    Be sure your nesting boxes are dark and private. In addition, you may want to be sure and remove all eggs from their floor nest daily and put some fake eggs in the nest boxes to encourage them to lay there.

  49. solarfarmmom Says:

    Sorry for the delayed response, Diane! Yes, those eggs will likely not hatch for any number of reasons:

    1) They were not fertile.
    2) Something went wrong and the chick died in the egg.
    3) They chicks needed more time to hatch. This is why it is best to let the hen choose the eggs she sits on. But we’ve had this happen. Sometimes you can keep the eggs warm & humid for a time and get them to hatch out. But once the other chicks are dried off, the hen knows she needs to find food and water for them soon. Her instinct is to preserve the chicks that are alive.

    Let me know how your mama hen & chicks are doing!

  50. Lisa Says:

    I was given 8 fertile eggs from a friend of mine to put under my brooding hens. Everyday another egg was gone. I did not know what happened to them. Then (I thought) too much time went by and I thought rest of the three eggs were no good so I stopped checking everyday. Then after a few days, my son says we have two babies in the coop. I was so excited…. I facebooked everybody that would listen. I felt like a grandmom. The chicks were dry and very healthy. One egg never hatched. i decided to let the hen keep the chicks with her and two days later my little girl found one of the other hens eating her chick. that one was dead. I managed to save the other chick (but it was very beat up.) but unfortunately it died the next day. My question is…. I have another hen that has been sitting on 10 fertile eggs for almost two weeks now. I also had a guiene hen in the pen that I have since taken out. Should I move this brooding hen to another cage or let her hatch them and just watch. I also have been putting food in her box with her and water right at her head level. Is this ok?

  51. Lisa Says:

    also, I am not moving this brooder hen at all to see eggs. Should I lift her and check under her?

  52. kat Says:

    I have a older han that is losing all her feathers she has lost all on her back and her lower belly. She is still laying and eating. Please help…………..Kat WE have had really hot weather here in tn, 99 and above.

  53. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hey Kat. I’m in TN too with no A/C and I know it is hot!! It is possibly that she has a bad case of lice. If she’s acting o.k., I’d dust her with some Diatomaceous earth and leave her. She will likely molt and regrow all her feathers this fall.

  54. solarfarmmom Says:

    Hey Lisa. So sorry for the delay. Likely, you have some chicks already! But yes, if your birds are confined, I would move the hen & eggs to a safe place. In a chicken coop or pen, the adult birds often will pick the chicks to death, particularly if the mother hen is lower on the pecking order and/or not a great mother. I find most of the large breed mail order birds are not great moms. The best are game birds or bantams.

    You can put food by the hen but she will only come off the nest once a day to dust, eat, poop, and drink. So it is not necessary to put the food right next to her as she likely won’t eat it.

    And you can usually check the eggs under the hen. Some hens won’t stay broody if you move them, btw.

  55. kat Says:

    Hey this is kat again, i have a hen about 4 years old. she is a good layer but she has started to crow! Can you help me understand why. She still lays good.

  56. Aimee Says:

    I have a hen who was broody so I got some fertilized eggs for her to hatch (I have no roosters). I lost one of the eggs but she has been faithful about the other 3 . The person I bought them from said two were farther along in development than the other two and I lost one of the more developed eggs. One of them just hatched and it’s a beautiful healthy chick. She is still sitting on the other two eggs so far and caring for her new baby but I am not sure how much longer the other two eggs have. If she does hatch these last two will there be problems because of the difference in their ages? I also have two chicks about a week old in the house that I bought. Is there any way I can get this mother to accept them as her own?

  57. Charlotte Says:

    Hi, I have a hen who successfully hatched all 10 eggs she was setting on. They are 3 days old and all look healthy. Presently they are in our lower barn in a horse stall. I moved them from the hen house where she hatched them and they have transitioned well. My chickens are free range on 2 acres. My question is, that if I open the doors and let mommy and chicks out to foriage, will she know to bring them back to the horse stall, or might she get confused and try to bring them back to the coop. She is also on the small side, not a bantum, but in between that and your average size Rhode Island Red, and I worry that the other hens might threaten her chicks. Any thoughts?
    Thanks, Charlotte

  58. Virginia Says:

    Hello and thank you for your lovely site!

    We have a broody hen. We first noticed about a week ago, then decided 5 days ago to just let her do her thing and see what happens. She is currently in a nesting box in the coop. Our chickens are free range and come in at night and periodically during the day. Since the hen became broody, several have started to lay outside of the coop, though one was in her box today. I chased the intruder out, then set up another laying box in the coop. Do we need to seclude the brooder from the rest of the flock? She leaves 1 time/day to take a dust bath, eat and defecate, and I would hate to remove this option for her. Thank you for your thoughts!
    -Virginia

  59. kat Says:

    Hey, hows it going in you’r part? Hot here got a guestion maybe you can answer when you get a few minutes. i have got a few new hens and had to take one to my vet the next day for an infection but i have notice that all of them have eat each others poop……..Why? and what can i do ?

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