is this normal behavior for a broody hen?


Oct 6, 2021
SW Pennsylvania
We have a pullet (hatched last September; black copper Marans from a hatchery) who went broody last week. After nearly two days of her sitting on a nest in one coop we moved her to a nest in the identical location in our second coop and put fertile eggs under her. The two coops are identical, are situated next to each other, and both open into the run. The flock usually only roosts in the first coop, since that is where they were brooded, and we sometimes don't bother opening the second coop, so they're not as familiar with it.

We are going on vacation one week after the eggs are due to hatch, so I want the hen to remain integrated in the flock and be able to take her chicks into the run if she wants to while we are gone. In order to accomplish that, I have been opening the door from the "broody coop" into the run every morning when the other hens are let out. This leads to drama, because several of them come over and try to push the broody hen out so they can lay eggs in the nest, since the box she chose is the one they all like to lay in, and the silly chickens can't tell the difference between the two coops. The broody hen goes out in the run to stretch her legs, and then seems confused about how to get back to her nest. Sometimes she goes to the primary coop and looks at where her nest should be.

So my question is: how long is it normal for a broody hen to spend off the nest? How long can she be off the eggs before I get worried about them? So far every day after 10 or 15 minutes of her wandering around the run, we have picked her up and put her back on her nest, and then she stays there for the rest of the day with no problem.
It depends. Most will leave their eggs from ten minutes to an hour, occasionally longer. I think that the weather also plays a part on how long they're off. When my broodies sit in the fall-winter, they only get off the nest for maybe 10 minutes. In the spring and summer, they'll be off the nest for a lot longer, and may get off the nest more then once a day. I'll also note I use the same broodies every time I hatch.
It depends on the nest temperature and humidity and to a certain extent the knowledge in the hen.
Most know how long they can spend off the nest; nobody knows quite how they know but they do.
One hour is okay in my experience. The longest I've witnessed was three hours but it was hot and humid.
As long as she goes back to the nest things should go okay:fl
Having other hens make donations can be a problem and lead to egg breakages. I think you are absolutely right to let the hen come and go as she pleases but as you've found out there are distinct disadvantages.:D
Make sure you mark the eggs you want her to hatch is the first thing and remove those the other hens lay.
If you can, make sure she eats away from the nest and can dust bath. The bathing and eating are really important.
You can keep water at the nest site.
Marans are usually fairly large and fiesty girls so she should be able to defend her nest if she feels it necessary.
Finally, if it all goes wrong you have a hen that has shown she can and will go broody so there should be a next time.
Thank you for all the answers! We're in SW PA, so pretty warm (highs around 80, except yesterday a lot cooler). The eggs were certainly still very warm whenever we checked on them. She has food and water available in her coop, and room to move around, though no dust bath inside. She is young, and the first of our hens to go broody, so I was concerned that she wouldn't really know how long she could safely stay off. I guess tomorrow we'll let her stay off for longer than 10-15 minutes before guiding her back; I'm really curious to see if she'll figure it out for herself.

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