When do we isolate mother hen and her eggs?


In the Brooder
8 Years
Aug 3, 2011
We've got one broody hen sitting on a clutch of fertilised eggs.
She's in a nesting box in the coop with the other chickens at the moment. We want to put her in a cage in the coop before the babies hatch so they don't get pecked or trodden on. When shall we do it?
We don't want to stress her out or make her not broody.
Any ideas?
If you are going to isolate a broody, the best time is before you give her the eggs you want her to hatch. There is always a risk that a broody will break when you move her. Obviously, it is too late for you to do that.

What I suggest is that you prepare her a place and make the nest as dark as you reaonably can. A dark nest seems to help. Set it up so you can lock her in the area with the nest, food and water and enough room to go poop, where she cannot go back to her old nest. If you don't lock her in there where she cannot go back to her old nest, there is a pretty good chance she will and abandon the eggs. Some people have nests that can be moved easily. If you can, move her entire nest.

Move her at night, with as little light and commotion as possible. If you want, you can even lock her on the nest away from her food and water for a day. A broody is used to going long spells of time without food and water, so I would suggest you keep her penned in the nest, hopefully in the dark, until shortly before dark on the first day. Just let her out maybe an hour before dark so she can eat, drink, and go poo.

There is always the chance that she won't accept the move. If she does not, well, hens have been hatching chicks with the flock for thousands of years. Sometimes bad things happen, but often it works out fine. If she will not accept the move, you can mark the eggs and let her try with the flock. At that point, what have you got to lose? Just check under her daily to remove any unmarked eggs.

Another possible option. If you can isolate the nest she is in by building a shelter out fo wire maybe, giving her just enough room to eat, drink and go poo, she is more likely to not break from being broody. But this depends on your set-up.

Good luck!
I am experiencing the very same problem. I have 3 marked eggs in the nesting box, and have to check for unmarked eggs when she is off(which is not very often). My other two hens like to get in the same nesting box to lay their eggs, I have two boxes but they always lay in the same box. We are at day 13, and I was wondering about moving them also. My problem is I don't have much room, I have a chicken tractor within a dog run, and not much room to move things around. And do you take baby chicks away from Mom at any time, or will she care for them? How do I know when to start feeding chicks? I know toooo many ?????s at one time, but I'm a newbie and still learning!
Thanks for anymore advice!

I have 3 marked eggs in the nesting box, and have to check for unmarked eggs when she is off(which is not very often).

When I was a kid, one of my chores was to gather the eggs every day, including under a broody. Some of those broodies were MEAN! I did not want to check under them, but I sure was not going to tell my father I was afraid of a broody hen, Sometimes you just do what you have to do. By the way, long sleeves and leather gloves cut down on the pain. I had access to neither when I was a kid.

And do you take baby chicks away from Mom at any time, or will she care for them?

Hens have been raising chicks from the time they hatch until she weans them for thousands of years. Sometimes there are problems. You are dealing with living animals so who knows what will happen in any specific case. This post could get real long if I go into detail, but usually a broody hen takes very good care of her chicks.

How do I know when to start feeding chicks?

Depends on your circumstances. If you free range, you really don't have to, though many of us still do. If they are confined, you need to feed them. The way I do it is that after the hen brings them off the nest, I isolate them for a couple of days in their own enclosure and offer feed and water. After a couple of days, once they have learned to eat and drink without interference from the older hens, I let them out for Mama to raise them with the flock. But plenty of other people do it different ways. It does depend a lot on your circumstances, especially how much space they have. Once they are out with the flock in general, I switch them all to either Starter or Grower with oyster shell on the side. That way the ones that need the extra calcium get it and those that don't can avoid it.

One word of warning. If you do isolate the hen and chicks, make very sure the chicks cannot slip out of the enclosure and mingle with the flock without Mama being there to protect them. That is an easy way to have a disaster. I know.

A little more basic. Chicks can survive for three days or more without eating or drinking because they absorb the yolk during hatch. You don't have to feed or water them for three days, but you can offer it earlier. I offer it when she brings them off the nest.
Thanks so much for the advice! The nesting box is a bit off the ground,so I worry a little about her getting the chicks out of the nesting box. Guess I will keep a very keen eye, and help if necessary.
Hopefully all will end well! Again, thanks for all the good advice!

UPDATE.......Well I think if my 3 eggs are going to hatch it will be sometime this weekend! Goldilocks (hen) and the two other hens are still
sitting on the nest. I have not candled any so I guess it will be a surprise. I do have a Rooster (Doc) and is a good guy. He takes care of his girls! Hoping for all 3 but will see, I will be happy if 1 hatches! There are no smelly eggs and I haven't seen any cracks in them so hopefully all is well. I was wondering which of the hens will assume to be Mom if all 3 are sitting. Goldilocks is and always was the dominate hen, so I am thinking she will be the one to take over. What should I do if after a few days no one seems to take responsiblity? I guess that would be the time to bring them out of the pen? Sorry if so many ????, I am so new to all of this and am excited to have baby chicks and want to give them
the best possible chance to survive!

What I do - I have two german shepherd sized dog crates in the coop. When I don't have a broody they serve as additional nestboxes. If my coop was smaller I'd probably remove them when not in use by a broody.

I prepare my broody a nice nest in the back of the crate, reserving an area in the front for a chick-sized feeder and waterer. Once I have a confirmed broody (2 or 3 days setting, wherever) I move her to the broody crate and lock her in. I swear my one broody, a silkie named Jethro, knows she's supposed to use the broody crate for setting because that's where she goes when she's ready to set AGAIN!

I keep the broody locked in the crate for the first couple of days after the move to be sure she's comfortable with that location and plans to continue setting. Then I open the door during the day so she's free to come and go. A couple of days before a hatch is due, I lock her in again. I disturb the hen as little as possible during this time, so close to hatch. Never do more than open the door to refill her food and water.

A couple days after hatch - always before day 3 - my broody lets me know in no uncertain terms that she's ready to bring the chicks out to meet the flock. I stick around for awhile to make sure all goes well, but really there's been enough chicks hatched in that coop that the older birds don't blink an eye at new flock members. All two pounds of Jethro would kick their butts if the bothered her chicks anyhow.

I continue to keep the crate clean with fresh hay and shavings and keep the chick waterer and feeder full for the duration. Once I see the chicks eating out of the regular feeders and getting water from the big waterers I stop offering it to them in the crate.
The dog crate is a good idea! I don't have one that I can use temporarily, but it may be too late to move her since it is do close to hatching.
Would like to build a small little area to keep them in until I know they will be safe from the other hens and rooster though. I haven't had the chickens long enough to know how they will react to a new brood! Just praying all goes well.

You may want to attempt creating a fence that encloses her nestbox with a small yard for mom and chicks to play in. Get creative, look at what you already have on hand and brainstorm. Just be sure the openings in the fence aren't large enough for a chick to slip through. In fact, in the next day or two I will be covering the metal door of my broody's crate with hardware cloth (much smaller diameter holes) because my current broody is setting on tiny bantam eggs. I don't want to take the chance that a chick may slip through the openings on the door and get stuck on the outside without mama hen to protect him/her. Broody hens are usually fierce little creatures. This time around Jethro has attacked some of my very large brahma hens, just for looking at her the wrong way. Heaven help any chicken or other creature that attempts to mess with her babies.

Having said all that I have moved a broody at the very last minute to a crate for hatching. We waited until nighttime, had the crate all ready. We moved her, her nest and eggs and the nestbox she was sitting in to a secure crate. A few hours later I removed the nestbox, really just a large covered kitty litter pan, leaving mom with the eggs in a nest I created in the crate.

I've been fortunate that every roo I've had/have has taken an active part in protecting the chicks and caring for them.

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