Having a hen hatch and raise her own chicks is something most of us chicken owners dream of from the day we bring our first chicks home. But what do you do once that broody is here? Identifying that a hen is actually broody and not just hoarding eggs is pretty easy. Normally a hen that is broody will fluff up and screech when you come near. Another sign is when the hen is making a constant cluck-cluck-cluck and walking around all fluffed up.
Once you have identified a broody and she has sat for a few days without getting off the nest or made an exception for food and water once a day. It is time to either leave her where she is or separate her from the flock. I usually move my broody’s to a dog kennel with a 4 inch tall box with bedding in it. I have tried to keep my broody’s in the coop but have had trouble with other hens going and laying eggs in the broody’s nest which is bad and will cause a staggered hatch. Moving a broody doesn’t always go the way u plan. Sometimes the hen will stop sitting and be “broke” from her broodiness.
After you have moved your broody and she has stayed sitting for a day or two it is time to decide if you are going to find someone that is selling hatching eggs or hatch your own eggs (considering you have a rooster). You are likely to have a better hatch with your own eggs than with eggs shipped from another breeder. You will have to decide how many eggs your hen is going to FULLY cover a small bantam such as a Cochin can sit on 2 to 3 standard size eggs and 4 to 5 bantam eggs. A standard hen such as an Orpington or Australorp can cover up to 8 standard eggs and 12 bantam eggs.
After your broody has been sitting for a week or more it is time to candle! Candling eggs is fun but be VERY CAREFUL not to drop eggs in the process. When candling eggs all you have to do is stick a bright flash light on the fat end of the egg and see if there is veining in the egg. If no veins by 12 days the eggs are likely bad and should be tossed out. I candle at days 12 and 17. After day 17 you don’t even have to look at your broody till day 20. On day 20 I always quick lift up my broody and see if anyone has hatched. Many recommend not to do this but if a chick dies after hatching it will start to smell bad in a day or so. Always have a brooder with heat, food and water set up because sometimes hens will kill their babies and you will have to take them right after hatch.
After your broody has hatched her chicks and is getting ready to leave the nest it is time to decide if you are going to keep her separate from the flock or put her back with the flock. Many people keep the broody’s and chicks separate from the rest of the flock but some people will choose to leave the hen and her chicks in with the flock. I choose to let the broody’s stay with the flock after she has hatched her eggs. Some hens from the flock will go nuts when they see a chick and will possibly try to kill it. Usually mom will defend the chicks but it is always a smart idea to be with your broody when she first goes into the coop.
Once your broody has moved to the coop the other flock mates will pick on her and the pecking order will be reestablished which is totally normal. The same will happen when the chicks get older and start to join the flock. When chicks are in the coop their starter will have to be kept where older birds can’t get to it. I simply cut a 5 foot by 4 foot piece of fence with 1x3 inch holes and set it in the corner so the chicks could go in but the hens couldn’t.
As your chicks get older you will notice they will start to stray from mom which means they are starting to wean off of mom. My hens weaned their chicks at around 10 weeks but all hens are different. I have heard of them weaning them off at 4-16 weeks. When the weaning process starts the broody will start to chase her babies away and peck them and this is totally normal and won’t hurt the chicks at all.
I hope I helped some of you out! I want you all to know that this is how I do and many others do it differently but we all should do what we have the best luck with. I probably missed a few things so feel free to PM me if you have any questions!!!
Thanks for reading!!