Switching incubator hatchlings to a broody hen... When and how?


In the Brooder
8 Years
Feb 19, 2011
So I should have a number of chicks hatching in a couple days - Wednesday is their ETA. And as luck would have it, I have a hen who's starting to go broody. She's had a couple starts this winter, but this one looks genuine.

So my question's are:

1) is it a viable option to have the hen raise the chicks? (she's a bantam)
2) if so, then how broody does she have to be? Ie, do I have to wait until day 21, or could I 'fool' her into thinking her chicks hatched at, say, day 7?
3) if I were to transfer the chicks, how old can they be? Ie, I'd like to let the broody set for a couple more days - does it work to introduce chicks who are, say, 3-4 days old? Or should the chicks be new hatchlings?
4) I'm assuming I'd try to put the chicks under her at night, when it's dark, and let her get accustomed to them for a while to bond, etc.?

Thanks for the help. If y'all think it's too risky, let me know. I just fancy having a real chicken raise the chicks rather than myself!



Morning Gem Farm
11 Years
Oct 3, 2008
east central Ohio
I have done this twice. I'd say the hen was broody at least two days (long enough for me to fully notice). Both times I gave her eggs that were with a couple days of hatching. I recall the last hatch (back in November) that I rushed out eggs that were already pipped. She was thrilled to have them and didn't seem to mind the quick results.
She cared for those chicks up through January, sleeping on the coop floor with them. They are now in their own coop area without her, and she is going through signs of broodiness again.
She is a Buff Orpington hen and the chicks were bantam naked necks and silkies.

Good luck!


13 Years
Jul 8, 2007
Yuma, Arizona
I would wait until at least day 3 of the hen being in full broody mode to give her the hatchlings. This way, any iffiness will be ruled out and the chance of her abandoning the chicks is way less. You do not have to wait until day 21 to give her the eggs (Chickens have an IQ of 7... They're quite easily fooled.)
Depending on the amount of eggs you have, and your full assurance that she's completely broody, you can give her the eggs a day or two before they hatch. It's a much more fulfilling experience because you witness them in their natural state as they're born. Or if you'd rather hatch them in the incubator, thats fine too. After all the chicks are hatched sneak them under her at night.

Have fun.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom