broody hen....Should I take her out of the pen

Country Living Farm

10 Years
Apr 18, 2009
Should I take a broody hen out ot the pen and away from the others? I have 7 hens and she was sitting on 1 yesterday and now 3. It appears the others are climbing in with her and laying then leaving. Will this hurt?


Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
I don't know your goals for chickens or your set-up. I'll try to give you some basic information so you can decide what to do that is best for you. What you do might be totally different than what I or someone else would do.

I see two options for you, either move her to an isolated pen where the other hens cannot get to her nest to lay or leave her where she is.

If you leave her where she is, you need to decide what eggs you want her to hatch and mark them clearly. A black magic marker works great. After you have collected and marked all the eggs you want her to hatch, you put them under her at the same time and remove any eggs that are already there. If you wish, you can put fake eggs, like golf balls, ping pong balls, plastic eggs, whatever, in the nest for her to brood while you are collecting the eggs you want. Then, at least once a day and I consider the late afternoon the best time, you need to check under the hen and remove any eggs that are not marked. Chicken eggs take about 21 days to hatch, some a bit less, some a bit more. When a chick hatches, it has absorbed the yolk and can go about three days without food or water. This allows the early chicks to stay on the nest until the late chicks hatch. If all the eggs are not started at the same time, the hen has to decide if she will let the chicks that have hatched die of thirst and starvation or leave the nest before all the chicks have hatched. She'll take the living chicks and leave the unhatched eggs.

The other hens will continue to lay eggs in the nest with the broody hen. You have to remove these daily. If you don't, bad things happen. The other hens can lay so many eggs that the broody hen cannot cover them all. When that happens, an egg that was developing is not covered, it cools off, and the chick inside dies. Then, that egg gets moved back under the hen, another developing egg gets moved out, it cools and dies. You will not get a good hatch when the hen has too many eggs. You also get the staggered hatch, which gets real complicated and often does not end well.

If you mark the eggs and remove the new ones daily, you will normally get a good hatch. However, some things can go wrong. Other hens can break eggs if they are crowding onto the nest to lay eggs. It does not happen a lot, but it does happen. The broody will normally leave the nest once a day to eat, drink, and go poop. If she comes back and another hen is on the nest laying, she may get confused and go sit on a different nest. Her eggs then cool off and the chicks inside die. Again, it does not happen a lot, but it does happen.

The other option is to move the broody to an isolated pen. This needs to be an area that is big enough for you to give her food and water and she can leave the nest to poop but the other hens cannot get to her nest to lay. Obviously, all the eggs need to be started at the same time for the same reasons as stated above.

There are some drawbacks to this method.

The hen may break from being broody when you move her. I'd suggest putting fake eggs in the nest for a couple of days before you give her the eggs you want her to hatch to assure she will stay broody.

You have to alter your routine to separately feed and water her daily. For most people this is not a big deal, but I don't know your normal practices.

A broody holds her poop all day and when it comes, it is big, messy and stinky. You'll need to keep her pen clean. This can discourage some people.

The pen obviously needs to be predator proof. Not always as easy as it sounds, especially if you do not have room in the coop.

I like to keep the pen in the coop or run with the other chickens so she stays a part of the flock. Otherwise, when she rejoins the flock, you wind up having to reintegrate a new hen. Often this is not a big problem if you put her with the flock with her chicks. Mama has such a bad attitude and will defend her chicks vigorously so the other chickens tend to leave her alone after a skirmish or two, but it can be a problem.

As I said, these are the basics as I see them. Others may have different opinions and experiences which I hope they share so you have a better chance of making an informed decision. There are strategies to overcome some of the problems I've mentioned but I'm trying to keep this simple.

Good luck and welcome to future godmotherhood! It's an interesting journey.
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Where did the time go???
Aug 14, 2009
Sonoma County, CA
What's the 'best' way to use a hen as an incubator for purchased eggs?

I am buying some hatching eggs and would like to put them under a broody hen. (I'm new to the list so am still working on the terminology).

We have three+ broodies: one sitting on cross bred eggs for about 2 weeks, and one with six ~3 week old chicks, also cross bred. (these two are stealthy at starting to sit, and I hate to kill the eggs once they start), plus 3 older hens who seem broody and are sharing duty but no results yet.

When the eggs arrive, should I take the 3 week (~4 by then) old chicks to the feed store and set their hen up with the new eggs, or slip them under the hen already sitting? It sounds like she'll leave the nest ~3 days after the first ones hatch, but maybe the others will take the developing eggs. She is in the best site, for these treasured eggs. I can't just toss the others but I can slip them under the other broodies. These girls are all from an outgrown 4H project, so they started out nice & pure.

So I guess my main question is; Will a sitting hen leave the nest after 21 days if nothing has hatched? Or does she sit til something hatches? I expect it varies a bit.

And... will a broody girl take a new set of eggs if I take her chicks? The two hens in question are flighty sisters, from a LaFleche/ Blue Bantam Cochin/ Silky mix, with a possible dose of Red (gold?) Hamburg.

Thanks in advance!

wife, mom, nurse, 10 Nubian Dairy goats, 10 chickens, 2 cats, one dog.
(I do have an old brooder I inherited, sanitized and in storage)


In the Brooder
10 Years
Jul 26, 2009
Bristol, UK
I currently have 5 fertile eggs under my broody, due to hatch on around Friday.
I left her in the coop with the others and so far so good. At first the other 2 girlies would squeeze into the same nest to lay, but they soon got fed up and started using the other one.
I intend to keep the chicks in the run (I'll put a barrier that the adult chickens can jump over but the babies cant) until they're big enough to free range safely - hopefully that will work out. I'm also going to put in somewhere where the chicks can run to for cover if the other chickens bully them (I found an old toaster box which I think should do the job) although hopefully mum will protect them from this.
My only queries are:
1) will they be able to make the ramp up & down from the coop? Should I put something there to stop them falling down and not being to get back up when they're very young?
2) how high can they jump in the first few days? I dont want them to be able to escape from the run and be had by a crow or a magpie or something.

I'll let you know how it goes:fl


11 Years
Jun 28, 2008
Northern Kentucky
I am glad I found this topic, I have had the same questions. This is my 2nd year with chickens and the first time I am attempting to hatch my own eggs using a hen.

I have a 7 month old Buff Orpington (Nancy) who has gone broody and after the 2nd day of arguing with her I decided to let her do her thing, I selected a few EE eggs and a few others to total 10. Then I noticed more eggs under her and I thought "Hey!!!"

Today is her third day. SO today I took out all but one dozen eggs and marked them all. The 4 eggs I took out, I scrambled and gave back to the chickens.
This way I can remove all new eggs when I gather eggs every evening.

How long should I wait to candle eggs for fertility?

Should I be concerned letting them hatch this late in the year? They should hatch around the 26th of September and I am in Northern Ky. Typically we don't get freezing temps until October, but this has been an unseasonably cool and wet summer. I am thinking they would be all feathered out by the end of October first of November. I really don't want to brood in the house if I don't have to.

I currently have 36 hens and 2 roo's living in the coop that is 10' x 20' . They alternate between ranging on their fenced in pasture and free ranging (under supervision) on the rest of the acreage around the farmhouse.

Some of these chicks will be spending the winter months in freezer camp and some will replace the older hens who should stop laying when the molt.

Does anyone foresee any concerns hatching 12 fuzzy butts with the flock size I have?

Should I be putting anything different in their feed to insure Nancy gets a little extra somethin' somethin? They currently are on a mix of cracked corn and 16% layer crumbles, some oats and whatever veggies they can steal from the garden, in addition to their treats.


9 Years
Mar 17, 2010
Rochester, IL
Ok, I will go mark the 7 eggs under her soon! Black magic marker in hand. I cannot isolate the hen....she is one of 18 hens and the only broody. She is in a nest box ( one of 9 holes) that is never used by the other hens. They all use the top three holes. Some use the middle three holes once in a while. She is in a bottom hole. PBR = Plymouth Barred Rock
All eggs were either hatched by her on grabbed from another hen while still warm and put under her. All eggs were from Jan 1st, 2nd or 3rd. This is my first time with a broody.

Thanks so much for all the help.


9 Years
Sep 30, 2010
If a hen is broody, does it matter if she's inside or out? Can I lock her into the nesting box area w/food & water? That way the rooster can stay in the secured pen outside. I only have a chicken tractor.


9 Years
Apr 26, 2010
I've been looking for this thread.I am in the process of building another coop for layers and brooders.I will read this thread later.

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