really necessary to separate brooding hens?


12 Years
Jan 2, 2008
western mass
I am going to let a couple of my broodies hatch out some special eggs a fellow BYC-er is shipping my way. Question: Is it really necessary to separate the brooding hens from the others?

Can't they all, as Rodney King once said, just get along? Or will cannibalism ensue?

This is my first time letting the girls hatch out the eggs. I'm a nervous mom, okay? I live in town; don't have a big barn or fancy breeding program, and all my birds are together. I separate wounded birds, but have never had to keep anyone separate for more than a few days.

Ideas? Advice? Thanks, all!
Well.. I'm only 4 days in with my broody on eggs.. and I'll tell ya.. I'm beginning to think I'll have to seperate her. Everyone keeps jumping in her nest and literally laying ONTOP of her! Eggs.. yes, laying eggs! Silly chickens!
I was in there earlier checking the eggs, makign sure she didn't have any extras, cuz they keep laying in there and she just takes in the new eggs. and I found a BUFF ORPINGTON!! No seriously! I was expecting an extra egg or two but found a chicken!

So funny! Anyway.. they won't leave her alone, no one is being mean or anything but they just won't stop laying in the box. OH.. not to mention I found a SECOND broody hen in the box WITH her this morning sitting on some OTHER eggs! I gave her the boot promptly, told her there is only room for one broody hen in this house.

So.. I dunno.. maybe so. If she makes it to two weeks on these eggs I will definitely seperate her, and at this point it looks like I'll have to do it sooner if I even expect her to MAKE IT to two weeks!
There are some good reasons to separate broodies. Other hens will lay in the nest with the broody, so you have to remove the new eggs every day. This stresses the broody, which is not good. She's under enough stress already.

The other hens getting in and out could break an egg. You really don't want a broken egg in a broody nest. It does not happen every time, but it can, especially if space is a little tight.

Some people have reported a broody returning to the wrong nest if another hen is on her nest laying an egg when she returns from her constitutional. She won't get confused if she has no other options.

Some people have reported other hens trying to lay eggs while the hatch is underway. A broody will give her chicks room to hatch without crushing them. A hen laying will not.

If the eggs are valuable to you, you might want the added protection.

I'm sure I'm missing a few reasons to separate them.

The main disadvantage to me of separating the broody is that she might cease to be broody when you move her. You always need to wait a couple of days after you move her to give her eggs to make sure she will stay broody.

Editted to add: You also have to have a place to separate them and set up extra feed and water. Make sure this separate area is predator proof.

With all that, in my opinion, you do not absolutely have to separate the broodies from the flock if you are willing to take those risks. I'm sure many others will strongly disagree. You set-up and circumstances come into play also. The tighter you are, the more reason to separate the broody, tight in both the coop and the nest.

People have been hatching eggs for centuries without separating broodies from the flock. Usually, these were people with a large enough flock that the loss of a few chicks in the hatch was not a disaster.

Editted to add: We never separated a broody when I was growing up on the farm. Ours were totally free-range. The coop door was never closed so space was never a problem. The chickens were livestock. Other than supplementing their feed in the winter with homegrown grain, they foraged for almost all of their own food winter and summer. We had a climate they could. If a predator showed up, it was dealt with by us as they are not very good at protecting themselves. Otherwise, they were expected to pretty much take care of themselves. We had enough chickens and eggs that, if a hatch went bad, we just let another broody raise a family to keep the chicken numbers where they needed to be.

I think it is a personal decision where you weigh the risks and decide what you want to do. I am building my coop so I can separate a broody, but that is my decision and I'll take responsibility for what happens. My set-up is different than on the farm.
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I would say,make the broody hen's nest inaccessable to any other chicken. how you accomplish the deed is where your imagination and crcumstances come into play..
I've only had one broody hatch but I had trouble with the other hens laying more eggs on top of her.
Stupid me didn't mark the original eggs so I didn't know what was new or old.
It was funny we had a hatch that took 7 days,.
We didn't want any eggs to be abandon so we took the babies as they hatched and brooded them ourselves.
But she stayed on the eggs to the end and 8 out 9 hatched.
We felt a little guilty taking the babes from her.

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