Please help; I have a broody/egg dilemma here...


Slightly Touched
9 Years
Apr 2, 2010
New Hampshire
I have seven bantams and an adopted RIR. One of my Silkie hens keeps trying to be broody, laying on huge clutches of eggs before I get out there to take them away (I can't collect until the afternoons each day and they are laying like crazy). She somehow gathers them all up, including the RIR eggs and the bantam eggs, and sits on them. Up until now, I gently take them out from under her, apologizing to her and saying "maybe someday Penny, but not right now".

Well, the last three days I've been very ill and bedridden. I've managed to make it out there briefly each day, to take a head count and check feed and water (they have large self feeders, so there's little to do, but I made brief checks to make sure the food was flowing). Then I came back inside because it's very cold and I was ill.

So today I suddenly thought of Penny and her broody tendencies and thought "Crap!" and went out to check. Sure enough, she's on a big bunch of eggs in a nest box, at least one of which is a RIR egg and several bantam eggs.

My dilemma is two-fold:

1. I'm nervous about taking the eggs after it's been 3 days. How formed might the embryos be? It sickens me to think I would be taking (essentially killing) chicks that could be somewhat developed at this point. It's not that I'm afraid of what I'll see if I open them, I can simply throw them away. But for me, it's more of an ethics thing. If the chicks are well on their way of developing, I do not want to "kill" them by taking the eggs away.

2. Secondly, I know nothing about broodiness or hatching my own chicks. If I decide to leave them, what happens? I gave her some scratch in the nest box, which she is eating, but how will she continue to eat and drink if she won't leave the eggs? Also, what's my role in this, if any? Do I just leave her to do her thing and see if they hatch and then she will take care of them?

I really am not prepared for new chicks, especially because I'm afraid of getting more roosters. I already have one and don't want more!

Please let me know if it's too late, development wise, to take these eggs from her, and if it is too late, then what should I do?
You need to make sure she is in an area where the other hens can not get to her or lay their eggs in the nest. You don't have do much she will get off the nest once a day to eat and drink. You can sell any extra rooster or give them away someone will take them for food or you could process them yourself. Silkie's are known for going broody. If you have an area away from the other hens she will raise the chicks herself. good luck.
this video shows how developed they are after 3 days:

I currently have a broody frizzle who has been sitting tight for weeks on six ducks eggs. Those eggs are infertile. i will swap them out with fertile chicken eggs from the incubator.

Basically, mama hen takes care of them. You just need to keep her and them safe from the other birds once she comes off the nest.
pics will make you probably not want to eat the eggs. Maybe you don't want to see them. If you click on the pics it tells you what has developed that day.


I hope you feel better soon.
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Why does she need to be separated?

For one so the other hens do not lay any more eggs in the nest
for two so that when the chicks hatch the other hens could harm the chicks
for three it is better for her to have a nice safe quite place to hatch the eggs.
This really is a dilemma. I can't determine if at this stage of the development if any, is sentient. I am Buddhist, and do not believe in doing harm to sentient beings. So I can see the heart is developing at that stage, but does this mean they can think and feel? I really just want to take the eggs away, but would be guilt ridden if I knew killed the chicks if they can think and feel at this stage.

If I leave them, what kind of setup do I need to separate her? They all sleep in the coop at night for warmth, it's still very cold. Separated her seems dangerous in the cold nights. Any links to setups of mothers-to be?

Oh, and I definitely would not give the roosters away for meat or process them, being a vegetarian. I would have to find them a "forever home", which I was unable to do this year with the one rooster that I ended up keeping because I couldn't find him a kill-free home.
Well not every egg will develop into a chick so these eggs might not even be any good. If you don't want roosters I would take the eggs away I don't think that they are developed enough to be alive at this point. I don't also think they have any brain development at this stage there fore they can not feel pain.

I am sorry to say that most rooster end up as meat. There are just to many roosters born.
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This is a link I could find for you about development:

"At the end of the third day of incubation, the beak begins developing and limb buds for the wings and legs are seen. Torsion and flexion continue through the fourth day. The chick's entire body turns 90o and lies down with its left side on the yolk. The head and tail come close together so the embryo forms a "C" shape. The mouth, tongue, and nasal pits develop as parts of the digestive and respiratory systems. The heart continues to enlarge even though it has not been enclosed within the body. It is seen beating if the egg is opened carefully. The other internal organs continue to develop. By the end of the fourth day of incubation, the embryo has all organs needed to sustain life after hatching, and most of the embryo's parts can be identified. The chick embryo cannot, however, be distinguished from that of mammals."

Right now, i do not have my broody separated at all from the others. They leave her alone. nobody is adding eggs either. Once hatched I will fence her area off inside the coop so that nobody can grab her babies and hurt them.
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Personally, I don't believe that chick embryos are doing much thinking or feeling at day 3 of development. But I wouldn't want to persuade you do anything that might go against your convictions. I would bury the eggs at the drip line of a favorite bush or tree and feel content knowing that they would be contributing to the growth of something else.

If you had difficulty finding a no-kill home for one rooster you probably won't have an easier time finding homes for more. Sometimes you can get lucky and find someone needing a new roo to husband their flock, but the reality of life for roosters is that there are "job openings" for a mere 10% of all roosters ever hatched. You may not want to do much more hatching until you can find more outlets for the extra roos.

Your silkie may continue to want to go broody on a regular basis, as well as some of the other banties. You may want to either swap them for other hens with less broody tendencies, or find others nearby who would like for your hens to incubate eggs for them. You & the hens would have the pleasure of hatching & tending chicks, and have someone willing to take everyone that hatches.

If you want to keep this hen on her clutch, she could stay in a little rabbit cage or dog kennel inside the coop, maybe with blankets or a sleeping bag wrapped over & around for warmth.

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