Moving broody hens and eggs


7 Years
Mar 20, 2012
Grants Pass, OR
I have been asked if I can arrange hatching chicks for our county fair.

Our fair is held in mid August, this year everyday we broke 100° It is a pole barn structure. We are putting the birds on wood shavings instead of wire, they were much happier but using the big cooling fans presents presents problems. The kids on barn duty don't like chasing flying shavings and feathers much, they will get used to it.

I have the hens that will brood what ever I put them on, but I'm not sure about moving eggs so close to hatching. I don't want to undo the ladies work by moving them if the outcome will be bad. It would not be safe to move them before the fair opens, the barn is not locked and anyone could help themselves to my girls and the soon to be babies. We have someone else who is bringing over her incubator and brood box but I like letting the girls do what comes so natural them them.

Do you think it would work?
Wow, that would be difficult to pull off ... for me, at least.

The timing -- that alone --- would be a tough call.

I think I might try having them hatch the 2-3 days before the fair opens and then transporting my hen and chicks and setting them up at around 10:30pm at the fairgrounds the night before the fair opens, you know, so that the hen doesn't notice the move very much and can settle down in the dark with her chicks for a few hours before it gets light. And then I'd probably sleep in my vehicle and go check on them first thing in the morning to make sure the hen was acting properly. She could get confused and start pecking her chicks. If there's a problem, then you could perform a rescue before the fair opened for the day and scratch the plan before any visitors appeared on the scene.

I mean if they were set to hatch during the fair, the mom won't even take them off the nest until day 2-3, right? That's how mine work. It depends on if the last one hatches during the day or evening hours. So, if you take them to the fair (on its first day) two days after they've all hatched, then they can be viewed by the visitors. Plus there would be less chance of the hen getting distracted or upset.

Will you have a large pen on the ground for them or will it be a cage on a table? I guess the fencing will have to have some small holes. A few of my chicks can get through chicken wire when they're first hatched and the chick and mom get all anxious and squawky and chirpy.

I think I would initially set the broody hen or hens (not sure how many you might take to the fair) with the eggs in portable boxes at home that I could transport all at once to the fairgrounds. That same box would be put in the enclosure for the hen and chicks. That jostling in the vehicle on the way to the fairgrounds, though, might bother the hen. I know I can walk a hen from one coop to another (taking all of 2 minutes) right after she's hatched a batch of chicks and put her in a different coop/run combo pen and have everything be great in the morning, but travelling in a car a few miles might be a little bit too much. But you'll never know until you try.
I've got 4 hatchery stock Partridge Rocks that have the best temperments!!! They let me reach under them without creating a fuss, they settle themselves over my hand if I'm not quick enough getting the eggs out from under them. The one that hatched out my BLRW's would let me get right in there with the chicks to try and sex them the next morning.

We are 9 miles away from the fairgrounds, but most of them have been on various trips for 4-H events that cars don't really bother them much. I'm thinking up on tables would be a better set up for viewing and less stress. 1/2 inch hardware cloth to keep fingers etc. out of the cages. We have someone else bring a broody box or two, they could be removed if problems arise. As superindendent I'm there at least 12 hours each day, it may be longer unless we get the evening shift covered.
It sounds like you have the ideal situation. That would be a real treat for visitors to your fair. I've never seen that at a fair, so you'd get lots of folks stopping by to see the chicks and staying for a while because a momma and her babies are mesmerizing.

Your hens sound so easy to work with. They let you in with the chicks to sex them? That's nice. My broody girls usually see my hand as a threat to their chicks if I get that close. I'm happy with that in my situation because sometimes hatch their eggs outside the coop (unbeknownst to me) and being overprotective is okay in that instance, imo.
I have a few BSL in their coop that go into the alligator death roll with my hand when I try and collect eggs, but not the partridges. One will growl at me but that's it. I was quite surprised when she let me take each one out to check the wing feathers. She watched me closely but she didn't even try to peck me, She is still doing the food cluck and they are almost five months old and bigger than she is.

Putting them in crates to set and moving everything at one time is a great idea though. I was afraid I would mess up hatching trying to get everyone moved. Depending one what eggs I find I may have some OEGB that will be hatching along with their big "sisters".

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