Tell me about a hen raising chicks


10 Years
Jul 10, 2010
southern AL
My Buff Orpington has been broody for a while. I have several local options for day old chicks I can pick up.
I can easily sneak a couple of chicks under her early one morning. I can divide off the chicken coop so she can have half of it and provide a way for her to get the litttles up to the coop (the bigs fly up).

So tell me about hens raising chicks.
How long do they "mother" them?
When should I expect hen raised chicks to be able to hold their own with the other birds.

I have 3 chickens and 4 ducks.
1 duck bothers/chases/is a PITA to 2 of the chickens, but not the broody one - ever
They have a pen, but are only locked up when predators make an appearance, so they free range during the day. We have the back 4 acres fenced. They mostly stay in the close acre to the house and the other 2 chickens visit the unfenced portion of the yard to see the bugs aren't always better before returning back to the safety of the fenced yard.
They are locked up in their coop at night (chickens in the upstairs apartment, ducks in the downstairs apartment) and their pen door is locked as well.

lazy gardener

Crossing the Road
7 Years
Nov 7, 2012
Your ducks may cause major problems for the chicks. Generally, a broody will mother her chicks for around 4 weeks, some a bit more, some a bit less.

Chicks may have a problem with the elevated coop situation. they need to be at floor level for the first week, then can generally fly up about 12" for each week old they are.

Unless your hen is a total wuss, her broody hormones will be strongest within the first 2 weeks. She will be most likely to thrash any one that messes with her babies during that time. So it would be best to integrate her and chicks with the rest of the flock during that window. Not sure how that will go with the ducks being involved.

Generally a broody is most likely to accept chicks after she has been setting for around 3 weeks, and if the chicks are less than 48 hours old. But, the hens don't ever read the books, so YMMV.


Premium Feather Member
6 Years
May 27, 2015
Many many people successfully introduce chicks to broody hens. I tried it and was not successful. It was night, the hen had been broody a while, tho not 3 weeks yet....The chicks were hours old, and slipped right under the hen, but my broody tried to kill them. People said it would have been better to wait the 21 days of broodiness, but that not all hens will accept grafted chicks. They say others are so happy to see babies that they don't even have to be broody to accept them.
Anyway, I had to scramble to get a brooder together and I raised them myself. Next broody, I'm getting hatching eggs! (I still don't have a rooster)


10 Years
Jul 10, 2010
southern AL
She's been sitting for about 3 weeks. By this weekend, I either need to try giving her babies or boot her off and lock her out of the pen.


11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
Colorado Rockies
With broody raised chicks, you don't need to worry about integration because the broody takes care of it. I have a broody right now with one five-week old chick, (a second one died of tragic causes this past week) and the broody has integrated her into the flock so she is fearless and the others don't mess with her.

I wait until the chicks are two weeks old before I let the broody and her chicks mingle with the flock. They're more adept at recognizing danger from the various individuals by that age, and will learn to avoid them. I had to laugh yesterday watching my chick pause cautiously in her trek past the biggest bully of the flock. She watched carefully and as the bully looked away for a split second, she raced past to safety.

LG has given some important specifics. Until chicks get enough wing feathers for lift, you need to make sure they are at ground level so they don't get stranded. By the end of one week, they have no problem using a ramp, especially if you staple a hand towel or other non-skid fabric to the ramp for traction.

Some folks sneak the chicks under their broody at night, but I would do it while you can see her reaction so you can take measures if the graft doesn't take.


Crossing the Road
5 Years
Apr 9, 2016
California's Redwood Coast
Hi, I have 4 broody's all raising adopted feed store chicks. All were not less than 5 days old (my feed store won't release them) and always done shortly after dark. We go in take the eggs, replace with chicks, keeping it dark the whole time and stand around and listen. We make sure they are tucked in as to not get lost and chilled. In this way the broody feels them under her all night. We also go out very early and lift her up to see if all are still strong. I put feed and water close by, with chicks that old I just don't think they can wait until she might be ready which could still be a couple days. Some were broody longer than others but have successfully done it with girls broody less than a week, I don't like them sitting that long. The girls that sat longer were ready to take their young out sooner than the girls who sat way less. This was both a plus and a minus because the smallest chick was very unhappy and wanted to take a nap and warm up but mama wanted everybody to forage. Lost that little one to a predator from lagging behind and the other 2 are thriving, but both boys. :barnie

I do not separate my broody's. All raise their chicks in my coop with the flock. However, I think the flock being big makes it easier. They seem to deal with change a little better in large groups in my experience. Of course the first couple of days I watch for any bullies. They are usually my teenaged pullets. Anybody who is too aggressive to the chicks finds a new home.

3 of my broody's are silkies who are fairly low in the pecking order. But you just wait to see them open up a can of Crazy Mama on anyone who approaches... coop mates, dogs, people... she don't care! :love Oh, and the Silkies are even better at protecting than my Marans hen... :confused:

My girls seem to mother chicks for about 6 weeks on average so far.

I would get her chicks. Call around if you have more than 1 feed store and see what they have if your more interested. My 2 stores carry different breeds from each other and get them in every 2 weeks. To be honest if they had something coming in next week that I wanted more, I might go ahead and let her sit another week. Those are the difficult decisions for me.

In the future, if you don't want chicks.. I would employ the broody breaker at the first signs of broody instead of allowing body condition to deteriorate without reason.

Even though they are sold as day old chicks at the feed stores, it simply isn't true. All those chicks were shipped and not likely less than 2-3 days old when they arive in store. For me age is not just about the mama being accepting but also the chicks bonding to mama.

I would go with not less than 3 chicks personally. But of course you don't wanna give her too many.. then as they age and wanna run a muck it's a lot like the tail wagging the dog and they run mama ragged if they don't all go int the same direction. :p

I absolutely LOVE having broody's but in NO way is it duty free. Still have to tend the nest and be ready to step in and take over if they get rejected or one seems not to thrive you might have to care for it. It hasn't happened to me yet, but it's good to know it's a possibility.

Orpington hens seem fairly confident in my experience. And I would expect them to be even scarier than a silkie. Buff mamas have been refered to as Blondezilla! ;)

My ducklings are yet to be delivered so I don't have any experience in that department yet...

BUT.. I think your getting babies!!:wee

Hope the adoption goes well, it's a truly precious experience. :fl

Some of my chicks ride around on their mamas back WHILE she forages. Reminds me of when you see people riding elephants in it's movement. Has to be one of the cutest thing ever! :love

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