First timer: Letting my hen hatch eggs


7 Years
Feb 25, 2014
Templeton, CA
I have an old hen that keeps going broody. I have tried to break her out of it several times and she keeps doing it. So I came home today, after traveling for a week, to find her sitting on 3 warm eggs. I decided I may as well let her try to hatch them. I have searched the threads here and have not found a good "beginners guide to hen's hatching eggs" so I thought I would start one and ask ask all of you a few basic questions:

- should I move her to a different nest box? She is one of the nest boxes, but it is on the top row. I was reading and thought it might make sense to make on out of a bucket for her. Does that seem right? I know to move her after dark. Should I just put the bucket on the ground in the coop? I also have a small second run where I could put her in a bucket nest in a little dog house. Is that better?

- can I add eggs? This group of eggs were laid in the last 24 hours (my farm helper picked them all out last night.) if I grab some eggs from the other hen's over the next couple of days, can I add them to the eggs she is sitting on?

- should I isolate her? If I move her to the other run, I can close it off or leave it open to the other hen's (I have 12 hen's and a rooster) so she can socialize with them as well.

- should I switch her to chick starter now?

- do I need to weigh the eggs? I saw a thread somewhere that had new, 7day, 14 day, 17 day weights. Is that necessary? What should the profile look like?

- how do I clean her nest box? I can remove her and the eggs, clean it out and put them back in. Does that work? How long can she be off the nest?

- anything else I need to worry about?

Thanks in advance for your help!



12 Years
Jan 13, 2008
Sun City, California
Are you saying you have two separate runs? If possible it would be the easiest and simplest to move all of the other chickens to the other run, leaving only the broody hen.

If not, isolating her either by moving(has some risk of rejection) or putting a barrier over her nest is recommended but not required. If you do a barrier over her nest like blocking off the front with a wire, you will need to lift her off the nest daily for bathroom breaks.

Broody hens do not need to socialize, naturally they are much more secretive and aloof while broody. It will be fine if she is unable to see any other chickens during this period. So do not worry about the socializing part.

do NOT add eggs! The eggs have to be set ALL at the same time, period. Because the eggs have a specific incubation period and the mother will leave the nest 12-20 hours after the first chick hatches, she will not wait for the other eggs to hatch, even if they are peeping loudly.

You can leave her with the current three, collect and store fresh eggs from the other hens until you have enough THEN remove the three 'old' eggs and put in all of the fresh eggs. Any other way, you are asking for a headache and losses.

Leave the nest as is, unless it is almost bare... add a little bit of nesting material while she is still on, let her arrange it by herself- do not feel like you need to make the nest better for her.. as long as there is a rim of anything around her body, she is fine.

The only thing I would worry about is if the chickens have mites or lice, they can really infest a broody hen because she has to stick tight and not move too much- it is a natural predator defense.. I would dust her with poultry powder while she is off the nest or give her a wormer that also takes care of mites like ivermectin etc. If the birds don't have mites or lice, this is not something to worry about.

No need to weigh the eggs. that is for artifical incubating. At most you only need to candle the eggs at one week of age, to make sure the eggs are actually fertile.... replace with a fresh batch of eggs if they are not or remove the infertiles if there are not too many.

Your other option is to let her sit on whatever eggs for more than two weeks, then buy a bunch of day-old chicks and tuck them under at night, she will accept them as hers. Two weeks or more because it is a hormonal cycle they need to go through before hitting 'mother mode'.

Chick starter is for chicks really, she will readily eat it with the new chicks if you don't give this to her until then.

If all goes well and the eggs are fertile at one week of age, all you need to worry about is making sure there is clean fresh water and fresh feed daily... that's it.

Good luck, hope you get a bunch of chicks under her!

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