In the Brooder
Nov 3, 2015
Fingers crossed!!! Today is (hopefully) the day I get chicks for my broody! So, I have a few questions. I have heard I should wait until the evening to put the chicks in with the broody hen. Is this necessary? Can I do it mid to late afternoon so I can check on them? I am worried about them getting hurt. Also, should I put food inside the coop? I have the feeder in the run but do the chicks need chick feed and water up by the nest? Is it okay for us to leave our hen in the nesting box? Some one on BYC said to make her another nest but we have 3 boxes, only 2 chickens and no layers right now. Thanks for your help!!!
Ok, I have done this several times, these are the things I have learned. Take what you want.

1st - some might die, however, if you just put them in a brooder, sometimes there is one that fails to thrive, that is just a fact of life.

When you get your chicks, give them all a drink of water. Push their heads down, and dip their beaks, and they will figure it out. Chicks can live 2 days with the remains of the yolk from hatching, but if you are getting day old chicks, they probably will do better with a drink of water. That gives them all time to sort out the broody hen relationship.

Sometimes people blame the broody hen if this does not work, but really it has to be a two way street, the hen has to claim the chicks and defend them, the chicks have to see the broody hen as a safe and warm place to be. So this will not work if your chicks are too old.

Now, this will sound kind of heartless, but chicks can take a range of temperature, but I have had the best results if the chicks are a little chilled. If you have done chicks before, you will notice that the chicks peep loudly when cold, and get quiet when warm. So going down to the coop - and I have done this at all times of the day. Take your peeping chicks and a towel. Cover the head of your broody so she does not peck you, and either drop the chick on her back toward the back of the nest, or slip a chick underneath her. When you first get there, the broody should be growling at you, like she has for weeks, but as those cold chicks burrow into the warm spot of her belly, they will stick like ticks, and that movement under her and the peeping sound are what flip the hormones to stop being broody on eggs, and in a trance, to being very aware and start taking care of the chicks. Within a few moments, her voice will change, and she will be talking to the chicks. It is kind of neat. Now if a chick peeks out, she may peck at them to get them to go back under her. A lot of time people think this means she hates them, and then separate them and then think it did not work.

Now this is going to be the hard part. LEAVE them alone. My grandfather once told me, they know more about being a cow, than I will ever know, let them figure it out. Many times people keep trying to help, and actually break the baby/mother bond.

In my experience, usually the next morning when I go down, the hen has left the broody nest, and the chicks have jumped out of the nest, mine are a few feet off the floor, and created a new nest on the floor. At that time, I will put a chick waterer and a chick feeder a few feet away from that nest. Show this to the hen, she will show it to the chicks.

Then sit back and enjoy the funnest part of a broody hen and chicks.

Mrs K
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Thank you for the reply! I have heard that I need to take away the layer feed. I only have 2 hens and the one is broody. The other is a Polish that has never laid an egg but has been sitting on a nest too. She doesn't seem as broody though and I think she might just be sitting to stay with the other hen. Would you agree that I should take away the layer food? Can they all just eat the chick feed? Thanks again! Your replies are very thorough and I need that! I hadn't expected a broody hen and having lost our third hen right before has made this a little more complicated than I expected!
When I have chicks running with adults, everyone gets a flock grower. No extra, unnecessary calcium for the chicks, no medication in the feed to ruin my eggs. Hens can be offered oyster shell separately if needed.
Yes? We put them under her and then left her. Should I check during the night? Before I go to bed? Or just wait until the morning? Fingers crossed! I have chick feed for them right by the nesting box. I will go out to the coop in the morning and raise the other feeder so they can't reach it.

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