Broody hen hatched Chicks, now what?


In the Brooder
6 Years
Aug 20, 2013
North Georgia
Ok, so my broody hen hatched two of 3 eggs I slipped under her yesterday. I have a couple of questions.

The nesting boxes are up off the ground about 2 or 3 feet. I attempted to isolate her and the eggs one night but she freaked out, so I moved them back (about two weeks ago).

There is a platform outside of the nesting boxes so I have been pouring chick feed on it. I also got a small watering thing and put it on the end of the platform (1x3ft).

Will they come out and fall off the edge? I have a ramp for them to get back up on, or go up or down with the hen but there is nothing keeping them from wondering off and falling..

Will they come out and get water or do I need to show them how? I don't think they will have trouble finding the feed, but the water is about a foot away... Should I cram it in the nesting box with them? The nesting box is 1 foot square (not much room).

I thought they were supposed to hatch today, but they hatched yesterday. One egg as of this morning still has not hatched. When should I remove it?

Anything else I need to do or know?

Thanks a lot!!!

I’ve seen a hen get chicks out of a ten foot high hayloft. She said jump and they did. When they landed they ran to her. Don’t worry about the height. The hen can handle it. The chicks can handle it.

The chicks absorbed the yolk before they hatched. They can go three days without food and water if they need to. You don’t need to mess up the nest with food and water. When the hen decides the chicks that have hatched needs food and water, she will bring them off the nest.

The hen seems to know when the hatch is over, whether there are eggs left or not. The chick in the egg will chirp after internal pip. The hen can hear it. She knows. Sometimes I’ve had hens bring the chicks off in less than 24 hours. Sometimes it has been well into the third day. I always open the unhatched eggs. They practically never leave unhatched viable eggs behind.

What you need to have set up on the ground where they can get to it is food and water. There are lots of different ways to do this. For food, I normally feed in a plastic bucket with holes cut in the side for the chicken’s heads, maybe 2-1/2” diameter. I just lower that to the ground. You can use a dog bowl or about anything else. Just try to use something in a way that it won’t flip over if an adult chicken stands on it.

You need a container of water on the floor. I use a fairly small black rubber tub, like a dog bowl. To keep them from turning it over, I cut a hole in a piece of plywood and raised that a bit so the bowl sets down in it. That forms a platform the chicks can stand on to reach the water. To keep the chicks from drowning if they get in the water bowl and can’t get out, I put a few rocks in there. They can walk on the rocks while wading in the water and drinking. It does not hurt them to get their feet wet.

With it on the ground like that, I had a problem with chickens scratching bedding in the water. I spread an old piece of carpet under the water dish to help with that. You could fix a small raised platform with a ramp to get it up where it doesn’t get as messy.

In the past I used those quart waterers often used in brooders, the ones with the red screw-on part. I built a small platform to get it up above the bedding and rigged a wire to the wall to keep them from turning it over. There are lots of ways to do this. By the time the chicks need to eat or drink, they can jump a few inches, but make it fairly easy for them to get to the food and drink.

You don’t have to show the chicks how to do anything. The broody will do that.

Each broody is different. Mine tend to keep the chicks in the coop for one to four days before taking them outside. I let her decide that.

At night, most of my broodies go to a corner of the coop and keep them on the floor with her. They hardly ever take them to a nest. She can handle it.

The 21 day thing on when the eggs hatch is just a target. It’s not at all unusual for eggs under a broody to hatch a day or two early or a day or two late. Occasionally a hatch under a broody will stretch out for a couple of days but most of mine are over within 24 hours. The broody knows better than I do when it is over.

Two out of three is not bad. Congratulations. And while she is on the nest, there is still hope for the third. But even with just the two, it has been a success.
Thanks so much!!

I got one of those quart jar things you mentioned. So I will move it to the ground and off the platform where the nesting boxes are.

I have chick crumbs and laying pellets. If I mix the two in the hanging feeder, they get it all over the ground. Do you think that the chicks will avoid the pellets and eat only the crumbs? Would this leftover be enough for the chicks or should I still make a dish for them?

I have to say that this chick raising by broody hen is so awesome! My girls (I should clarify Children:) like it too, but maybe not as excited as I am. :)
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The chicks will eat the Layer pellets. If the pellets are too big for them the broody will break it up for them, but there are usually plenty of small bits even with pellets.

You probably know the chicks should not eat the Layer pellets because of the extra calcium. But the hens that are laying need the extra calcium for egg shells. The traditional way around this problem is to feed them all Starter, Grower, Flock Raiser, something than has lower calcium than Layer. Then offer oyster shell on the side. The hens that need the extra calcium for the egg shells seem to know instinctively to eat the oyster shell. The ones that don’t need it won’t eat enough to harm themselves.
Ridgerunner gave you perfect advice above. We just went thru the same thing 7 weeks ago and had the same nubie fears. Turns out our hen Bea is a good Momma and has been taking good care of her brood of two. We assumed there was a chance Bea might be a bad Momma (it happens) and we prepared to bring the chicks in for hand raising if that was the case. In our case Bea's DNA training kicked in and she has been a superlative Momma doing all the right things at all the right times. Once you can verify this is the case, you can stop worrying and enjoy the experience. It's just been wondrous, frankly, and very inspiring to see a broody hen raise up her chicks.
The only thing that I'd add to ridgerunner's advice is that Mama can eat chick starter quite happily. The extra protein won't hurt her, and she doesn't need the calcium until she starts laying again, which will be after she weans the chicks.

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