Natural brooding


In the Brooder
6 Years
Jun 6, 2013
Hi folks

I see there are some long threads about this but I needed some quicker answers and so I thought I would just start a new Thread.

I have two broodies setting right now and the first chick hatched today.

These are eggs that were Layed on my farm.
Way back when these hens started getting broody, I tried to put one of them out into a different house by herself, but she quit setting And just left the eggs.

She prefers to set in the nest boxes that all my birds use, so I just let her do it.

Now the chicks are coming and I'm not sure what to do. Do I leave them in the chicken house and let her feed them, etc. or do I try to move her out into a separate chicken house? The best boxes I use are sort of up high and they are the bucket type. They don't seem like the best place to raise chicks.

My whole point in doing this was to have hens raise the chicks themselves, so I don't want to just remove them all to the brooder.

I've heard that you can come back at night and move them all and it will be less stressful, I'm just afraid that she will abandon them if i do that.
I would love your experiences on this.
I have very little success moving broody hens but once the chicks are hatched I can always move them to a nursery pen. The place they choose is often not an appropriate place to raise chicks so if I let them hatch in that place, as soon as the chicks start to hatch, I move them. At that point the hen will tolerate moving quite well, and I don't even wait until night time - as soon as I see the first chick, I move the hen, chick and any remaining eggs. Good luck!
Thank you for your support.

I moved her out into the tractor today and you were right, she has stayed with her chick.

But she also moved two of the other eggs she was sitting on to the neighboring nest box.

I'm not sure if she was just taking a break or if she's given up on those two.

ALso, I brought a little feeder of starter up to this nest box for her. I know the chick doesn't need to eat or drink for three days, but should I bring some water up to them also, or will she jump down to the waterer I have out there, fill her crop and take it back to the chick?

This is the tractor from Harvey Ussery's book, which has an elevated nesting area in the rear and a trap door for access.
She won't be able to take water back to the chick so the chick will have to be able to get down to get it by itself. Does it have a way to get back up? If not, it would be better to have everything on one level so the chick can't get stranded below (if it goes down for water or simply falls out of the nest box). Unfortunately, if it falls and doesn't have a way to get back up, the mother hen won't go down to get it. They don't have any way to pick up and carry their chicks like mother cats and dogs do. Once the mother hen has given up on sitting on eggs, she will probably lead the chick down and at that point will stay at ground level until the chick is big enough to get up to the next level.
Thanks again

I put her on the ground with the chick and they both are doing fine. The other setting hen had three hatch last night and they are all now in the tractor.

I put the chicks mouth in the waterer like I do when they come in the mail and she drank.

But the first hen will not set on the remaining three eggs.

If I go out there and she is not on them, I'm thinking of just sticking them in the incubator, then putting them with the hens when and if they hatch.
It sounds like it is all going very well

When the chicks start to hatch the hen will often continue to sit on the eggs/nest for up to 48 hours after the first chick hatches. Mother Nature tells her she needs to keep sitting to allow any other eggs time to hatch. And, the first chicks to hatch can go that long without food and water so there is no detriment to her continuing to sit. However after that time has passed, she knows it is time to give up on unborn chicks and start to care for the living. So she will get off the nest and lead the chick(s) to food and water. From that time on, she won't return to the nest. My mother hens usually do not even return to the nest to sleep at night but instead will bed down anywhere that seems comfortable and the chicks will crawl under her to sleep.

This is why if I'm letting a hen sit on her own eggs, I don't let her actually collect the clutch herself as inevitably the eggs will be at different stages of development. The first eggs will reach hatch date while any laid in the days following will not be ready to hatch by the time the hen has determined it is time to get off the nest. So I give her eggs to sit on after she has proved she is truly broody (sitting for several days, night and day). That way all the eggs are incubated at the same rate and all of the chicks will hatch within hours of one another.

Regarding putting chicks from the incubator with the have a very brief window where this will work. Mother hens will accept new chicks for up to 48-72 hours after their chicks have hatched. After that period of time, any new chicks you try to add will be regarded as intruders - a threat to the chicks she has been tasked with protecting - and she will kill them. The best way to be successful is to slip them under her at night. Hens can't count but they do have the ability to recognize "their" chicks and tell them apart from chicks belonging to another hen. If she is still within that first few days she may accept them as "late hatches". However whenever I do this, I try to get down there at day break to check how things are going because some hens, on seeing an unfamiliar chick emerge from beneath them, will turn on them.
All the other eggs were duds. I couldn't wait and I broke them open. They didn't take for whatever reason.

Thank for the info on how to introduce new chicks.

I hear you on the timing of the eggs, but I thought they didn't start to actually embryonate until the hen was sitting. For instance, I had read that a hen can wait up to a week for eggs to be layed (afterall, she can only do I per day, if that) and then she will start to incubate them, thus making them all begin the incubation at the same time? Do I have this wrong?
Your understanding is correct. However after the hen starts sitting, any eggs added after that time will be a day, two, three behind the ones that were in the clutch at the time she started sitting. And the problem is that just because the hen starts sitting, that doesn't mean that other hens won't continue to lay their eggs in her nest. So - if there were 10 eggs when she started sitting, the next day there might be 12 and the following day 15 and so on. Eventually there get to be so many that the ones she started with get pushed out of the next partway through development. That is the issue I was referring to when I said I don't let the hens collect their own clutch. Instead I pull all eggs every day and when a hen goes broody *I* collect her a clutch. Usually I incubate them and give her the pipped eggs or chicks but if she is in a location where it is safe and clean enough for her to incubate, I'll collect her a clutch, then mark the eggs. Every day I pull her off the nest and pull any unmarked eggs. That way I know that the only eggs she is actually incubating were all started at the same time and will therefore hatch at the same time.
Oh - and even the hen herself will sometimes add to the clutch in the first couple of days after she starts to sit. A couple of years ago my Sultan went broody. After a few days I decided she was serious so I put a little rabbit pen over her, right where she was in the coop. Since she was protected and no other hens could add to her clutch each day, I didn't check her nest the entire three weeks she sat on the two eggs I gave her. All I did each day was to check her feeder and waterer. Imagine my astonishment when hatch day came and out from under her popped the two little Barred Rock chicks I was expecting - and a little Sultan mix as well. After I had given her two eggs to hatch, she had added a third to the clutch and because I hadn't checked, I had no clue
(Incidentally, that Sultan mix chick is now an adult herself and one of my broodiest birds. She raised numerous clutches last year and is already raising her first clutch of this year as I type this.)
This is so cool.

I actually left my broody birds in the nest boxes in the chicken house. Being my (and their) first experience with setting, I wasn't sure if moving her would break the cycle. It really upset the other birds that now couldn't lay in those boxes, but they figured it out and I added some new boxes. SOme of them would just get in there with them and lay right in front of her, some used a goat stall.

My first broody to start setting was actually a Bantam. I am not trying to raise Bantams here. I want giant white/freedom ranger crosses. But none of them want to do the dirty work, so...Bantam gets to raise the flock! It'll look funny watching her mothering chicks bigger than her!

The second one to go broody was a Cornish hen. I actually bought the Cornish just for this purpose, hoping it was an "old world" breed that could go broody and she did.

But I also learned my lesson. I had a staff member here collecting eggs for me and she didn't understand what I was trying to do with those two birds. Yup, you guessed it, I found the chicks one morning right before breakfast!

So after that I began marking them and we just take out whatever eggs are not marked.

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