ala natural is not working.


In the Brooder
11 Years
Jul 15, 2008
Weatherford, TX

A few weeks ago I posted a couple questions regarding letting my hens lay and hatch natural. Something went wrong.

First...there were usually at least 2 and often times 3 hens on the one nest. I initially thought...ok...this will be a community effort.

Well, this past weekend I thought it funny that nothing seemed to be happening. They had been sitting for quite a while. So, we took the hens off the pile to see 4 eggs. At one point in time, there were probably a DOZEN.

So, what happened to the eggs? I went fishing in the nesting material and found dried clumps of stuff. I threw it all out into the coop. Then we saw egg shell and a formed chick. Dead of course.

My guess is that one of the hens on the pile was destroying the eggs? But why?

If I separate them then that should take care of the problem, but I'd rather have them there and the chicks be accepted by the others than having to keep separate coops and introduce them after they become full grown.

I did put the remaing eggs under one hen. The eggs for the past couple days have gone to the other 2 that were also laying in the nesting box. We'll see what it looks like when I get home tonight...if they stayed on their own nests.

Any insight would be appreciated.

You should seperate or block off you broodies( each one alone) because other hens will keep laying with them or keep knocking them off of the eggs. Also, your other chickens will more than likely kill your newly hatched chicks. Chickens are omnivores and will cannibilize each other.
How long were they sitting or how far along was the dead chick? Some hens make good broodies but bad mothers and will kill the chicks as they hatch. You will need one of the others to hatch them and protect the chicks from that hen. Sometimes first time sitting hens will get curious about the noise when the chicks get close to hatching and break the eggs early. If you sort out who is being the problem broody the others may be able to hatch and then protect their chicks from that one. You'll just have to keep the troublemaker from being broody and getting to the nest until the chicks are done hatching.
It's not unusual for eggs to get broken when hens are pushing each other around to get on the nest. It's seldom a deliberate destruction of the eggs. Just everybody wants the same nest, struggles ensue, eggs are fragile and get broken.

Separate the broodies. When the chicks are a few days old, you can let Mom take them back out with the rest of the flock. Mom will normally protect the chicks. If a hen goes broody and seems pretty good at keeping other hens out of the nest, sometimes I leave her there, but I mark the eggs when I set them, so they all start at the same time (this is very important! You want those eggs to hatch as close together as possible, not spread out over days or weeks!) and check under the hen daily for new eggs, and remove them.
Heck, it's not unusual for a first time broody to break her own eggs or smother a chick or three.

They don't start out good at it, they make mistakes, they learn, they get used to it.

I don't separate mine, period. That's a choice, I do lose chicks to mistakes, to other flock members. Chicks that range too far from momma are likely to get burned. Mine are all free range, smart, strong birds live. THAT's nature.

If your broodies pile up, then yeah, you have to separate them and find out which is the problem. Keeping every possible chick alive is not what nature does.

It's a matter of weighing the choices.
I had a couple of eggs get broken before I separated out my broody. After that, all 10 survived and are currently peeping in the backyard. I would be fine with not separating a broody if I had enough nest boxes and a space where she could avoid the others, however I have a small backyard flock with a smallish henhouse, so this is not possible. You need to evaluate your own situation and see what works well for you. Because you lost so many, I would totally separate her out next time.

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