One of our hens was acting a little broody. You can tell when a hen is broody because they won’t just lay their egg and jump off the nest cackling with delight. They lay their egg and hunker down, ready to wait it out.
We generally say around here that the hen has “gone setting” as in, “Oh I’ll never get rid of her, she’s my best settin hen.” Here’s a little video clip of a broody hen. Notice how she’s all fluffed out and laying flat down against the eggs to help keep them all warm.
I’m not sure why it’s not called a sitting hen. Because you know, they are sitting on the eggs? I’ve been assured with all the twang country scorn can muster that no one says it like that.
But back to the point at hand. What do we do with a broody hen? If the eggs are fertile (aka if there is a rooster around) you can let her hatch out the eggs by herself.
Create a broody coop of some kind, we have a couple different cages we have used in the past, where the hen can be in her own area so she doesn’t get picked on by the other hens. It should have a private nest box area, food and water, and enough room for her to get up, stretch her legs and relieve herself. During this time she rarely leaves the nest so it’s not cruel to keep her in a small, closed in space. She wouldn’t use more than three feet or so even if you gave her three hundred so don’t feel bad about it being “too small”…hopefully she won’t be in there too long.
Once you have the brood coop set up you’ll need to move her into the new area. Do so carefully. Do it AT NIGHT.
Go out after dark when all the chickens are asleep and move the eggs out from under her into the new nest. Then lift her up, covering her face with your hand to shield her eyes from any light, and place her the new nest on top of the eggs. Hopefully she’ll settle right in as though nothing changed.
If you have two people you might try having one person lift her up and cover her face, holding her while the other person moves the eggs. Either method works.
If your eggs are fertile you should have baby chicks hatching out in 21 days. If your eggs are not fertile (for example if you live in a city that doesn’t allow roosters) but you would still prefer to let a hen raise baby chicks instead of trying to brood them on your own you can switch chicks out for eggs.
Wait until a hen goes broody (a broody hen will try to hatch eggs whether they are fertile or not) and let her sit on them for about a week. Then go out at night and remove the eggs, while placing the day-old chicks underneath her that you want her to raise. She’ll be so proud of her hard work and teach those baby chicks everything they need to know about being a chicken.
Have you ever let a hen hatch out her own chicks?
this is a great article ang glad you wrote about this so people will know what to do 🙂 i miss chickens cant wait to get our coop built if you have any tips will you send them my way 🙂
Thanks! I definitely want to do more of these little quick tips and just this-is-my-life kind of posts again. I used to do that way back in the livejournal days and am trying to get back to that a little bit more. If you’re signed up for the newsletter you’ll get a once-a-week email with all the latest posts from that past week.
awwww… i wish we could have chickens. our new house is zoned for horses, but no chickens. how ridiculous!
Gail Gardner says
Chickens are a trip. One little hen barely a year old hatched 16 chicks (most of the eggs were not hers). Other times a hen will sit a dozen or more but only hatch 3-4 (plenty of roosters so not that) – usually that may be because another hen sat for a week or two and quit so I moved her eggs under the other hen – but not fast enough. When they get off the nest for a day or so in my experience they’re not going to sit so you may as well move them if you have another hen sitting.
Yes. It’s also been my experience that if they move off the nest and stay off, they are not truly sitting and won’t return to the eggs.
Yup, we always did this – never raised chicks after the first batch.
When we moved the hen to a cage, we also stuck about another dozen eggs under here, all the most recent eggs from the entire flock.
We also “banded” good moms, so as to keep track that they didn’t accidentally end up in the stockpot when doing the annual thinning of the herd.
Good idea to band the good mommas. Saves a lot of time and effort from having to raise chicks yourself. 🙂
My sweet, little white hen has been broody for nearly two weeks now but has no eggs to sit on; we took them away daily. I have introduced 2 sex linked pullets but her behavior is still broody. I have been letting them all go upstairs at night to keep warm (even thought we live in FL) but am thinking I need to keep Ms. Attitude downstairs. Any suggestions?
Do you want to have chicks? If so let her sit on a couple eggs for a few days and then buy day-old chicks and “make the switch” she’ll likely think she hatched her eggs. Otherwise just keep taking them away and as the days shorten she will stop brooding eventually.