Broody hen/baby chicks


In the Brooder
7 Years
Sep 14, 2012
Our one year old hen, Butterscotch, has been broody and laying on many eggs,14. We marked them after we realized other hens were laying in her box. This morning I witnessed another hen actually scooting her fresh laid egg under Butterscotch.
First question: Once whatever chicks initially hatch, can I remove the unhatched eggs and place them in an incubator?
Second question: she is about four feet up in an oversized nest box built into the wall. Should I wait for the chicks to hatch and move Butterscotch and the chicks down to the ground?
Third question: do I need to remove mama and babies from the rest of the flock?

Sorry for all the questions. This is our first batch off chicks by mama. We have gotten 5 separate flock at days old. Excited but a bit overwhelmed and intimidated. I thought I heard tiny peeps under her this morning, but another hen was in the box with her. I could've mistaken for birds chirping outside. Since the coop door was closed it could've been muffled. I tried stirring them both, but they were growling and Butterscotch probably would've liked to take my hand off!
Any help regarding this is apreciated.
You can actually take several different approaches. There is no guarantee, anyway!

I like to separate a broody before I give her "real" eggs to hatch, so she won't return to the wrong nest, others won't add their eggs to hers or even climb on top of her to lay, or any of the several other things that can happen. On the other hand, when I was new to this, I just left her where she was, marked the eggs, and pur her back on onl her own eggs 2 or 3 times a day, and I had a good hatch. Either way, once there are chicks, I have them in with the rest of the flock.

You could certainly try incubating any leftovers -- though if their incubation period is all the same, there's a food chance any leftovers wont'be food, and might even explode in your incubator.

Chicks will jump/fly down from a nest way higher than 4'. Just have some hay / soft stuff at the bottom, and for them to make their new nest in, because they won't go back up that high for weeks. Many a chick has hatched in an old fashipned hay loft in a barn -- what, 10' above the barn floor? You could move her now but you risk breaking her from being broody. If you do, I'd move her to something like a large dog kennel, with only one nest, and I'd move the nest itself or at least the nesting material along with her and the eggs. At night.

I pick up broodies all the time. I just put both hands on their sides, fairly far back. Or if they're really going for me, I put one hand over their head and neck area and hold the beak away from me. You don't have to hold tightly at all, just make a barrier with your hand. They get used to me and leave me alone after a few times. I do this because I make them get up to eat and exercise every day, because broodies lose so much weight; I hope they stay a little healthier this way.

She will probably keep any hatched chicks hidden under her for the first day or so. Gives them time to dry off, and of course they have the yolk to live off of. And gives other eggs a chance to hatch, of course.

Just don't have any layer feed available when they start eating. Everyone will do fine on chick starter, flock raiser -- most anything but layer. You can still have separate oyster shell in the coop, though. The chicks shouldn't bother it, or not much.
Wow! Thanks! That's a lot of good info! We were not prepared for this and I realize chicken have been raising chickens forever ;)
I'm so proud of her. She's been a good mama the last 24 hrs. My husband put a taller lip on the nest box so mama can get out but babies are secure for another few days.
I really don't want to mess with her. I think I will leave her be and when we start noticing her and the babies up rocking and rolling, I'll reasses and move them all down to the floor.
There are eggs that were added within 7 days if her first constant sit, so in prepared to snag them the instant she is up. We keep close eye every 15-20 minutes. Six eggs have hatched and one was crushed.
We are so very proud of her and excited to witness this!!! Thanks again for the helpful info.
I agree with everything Flockwatcher said, although I do things a little differently. There is no right way or wrong way, just the way we choose to do it based on our unique circumstances and experiences. For some of us one way is better than another. For example one poster said her peahen would eat the chicks as they were hatching under the broody so isolating the broody was the way to go for her. If you don’t have peahens with your flock (or maybe a peahen that does that) it’s not an issue.

The thing about the eggs maybe exploding. When the chicks hatch they can get the other eggs pretty dirty by spreading that slimy gooey stuff they’ve been living in on the other eggs. That can cause bacteria to enter the porous egg shell and contaminate the egg. People do successfully hatch the late eggs.

It’s not that they are guaranteed to get contaminated but the odds do go up. Normally you can handle this by sniffing the eggs. If you notice a rotten egg smell, carefully, gently, and immediately get that egg out of your house. You can pretty well tell which one is going bad by sniffing them. It doesn’t happen real often but if one goes bad you really don’t want that smell in your house or in your incubator.

A caution. I once picked a broody hen up that had brought her chicks off the nest to see how many she had. I grabbed her around the wings and killed a chick. It had crawled up under her wing and I crushed it when I picked her up. I’m very careful now when I mess with a broody that has very young chicks.

I mark the eggs and check under the broody daily to remove any eggs that don’t belong so I don’t have those staggered hatches. These are still good to use. Some broodies are a lot more protective of the nest than others. I’ve had an occasional one that actually drew blood on my hand from her pecking when checking under her but a lot don’t even peck. If you are concerned about that long sleeves or especially gloves might come on handy.

Sounds like you are well on the way to a good hatch. SIx so far is success. With your first hatch you just don’t know what to do and that can be stressful. As Flockwatcher said, there are no guarantees with any of it but most of the time these things are pretty successful. I do wish you good luck!!!
Thanks, Ridgerunner! You always write such thoughtful posts -- and I often leave something out. That's a good point about care when picking up a broody. I haven't had that particular piece of bad luck happen to me -- but then, I think you've had a lot more experience than I. And, it's very true that there is no one right way with chickens.

Simplelife, I'm sure you will make good choices, and I wish you luck!
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