I Want My Free E-Book On Egg Laying Chickens

How To Hatch Eggs With A Broody Hen

broody hen copy

As springtime rolls around again, we will all doubtless see articles on how to break a broody hen, but why should you need to?

A hen is the ultimate top choice in the incubation and rearing of chicks, so why do many people choose to not have broody hens around?

The motherhood instinct is triggered by the increasing daylight. A hormone shift causes the hen to ‘set a nest’, she will then lay an egg daily – she may even steal from a nearby nest until she believes she has enough to sit on.

Then, she will sit on those eggs for twenty-one days until the chicks emerge.

This article is about my experience with them and some do’s and don’ts of the broody hen.

Introduction to Broody Chickens

Certain breeds have a tendency towards broodiness – Cochins, Orpingtons, Silkies, and Australorps come to mind, but there are several others.

If you are buying for breeds that are not usually broody, be aware that they still can go broody on you.

Rhode Island Reds are not known for their broody ability, but three of mine decided to turn broody this past year!

How To Hatch Eggs With A Broody Hen

Last year was my first year with broodies – a deliberate choice for the bantam Barbu D’Uccles.
What wasn’t planned for was the ‘infectiousness’ of broodiness! Three of my Rhode Island

Reds and one Barnvelder decided they would go broody too.

The only problem was that their eggs weren’t fertile!
Broody Hen With Her ChicksI gave some excess bantam eggs to one of the big girls and she successfully hatched out two chicks.

I also had the good fortune to win some hatching eggs, so they were given to the big girls too and they managed to hatch out six Welsummer chicks.

If you intend to use the broody to hatch your eggs, make sure they are fertile. If you have a rooster handy that’s easy to do, if you don’t, buy some hatching eggs and slip them under the broody.

She may not accept them, so you may have your incubator ready!

Let’s look at what to expect when a hen turns broody and hatches chicks.

Is She a Broody Hen?

First, you need to know if she is a broody, but how do you tell?

There is no mistaking a broody hen!

She will flatten out over her eggs, puff up her feathers to look intimidating, and give you the chicken growl. If you insist on checking her eggs she may peck you, so wear protective gloves if necessary.

If she leaves the nest to eat or drink, she remains ‘bad-tempered’ and fluffed up – the other hens keep their distance from her usually, if they don’t she will growl at them.

All smart hens and roosters will back away from a growling broody.

She may continue to steal other eggs too, try to keep up with how many eggs she is sitting on, more than a dozen is not uncommon. She should be limited to how many she can comfortably cover.

You can also tell if a hen is broody by the size of her droppings. Broody hens often have significantly larger droppings than hens who are not broody.  Broody poo is usually a huge glob.

What’s worse, those big droppings smell pretty intense. The reason they are larger and smellier is that broody hens store up their droppings so they don’t have to leave the nest as often to relieve themselves.

In other words, the hen holds it…for a long time!

So when she does leave the nest to eat, take a dust bath, and relieve herself, she really unloads a lot of waste.

Hens are very good about keeping their nests, and their developing chicks, clean. But in some cases, a new broody hen may make a mess of herself and the nest.

She may also become messy if you have confined her to a small area…so be cognizant before you decide to limit the amount of space she has access to.

If she becomes messy, you can try to help her out and clean up for her but she may not approve of your intrusion. So you may just want to let nature takes its course.

Keeping Track of Broody Hens

Once she is broody you will need to keep track of her.

Dating the eggs is a way to keep track of the ‘due date’ of hatching, it’s also a good way to check whether the eggs are viable or not.
Young Chicks with Mama HenI use a pencil to mark the date on the eggs.

All but one of my broodies’ was tolerant of me checking and dating the eggs under them, I’m very fortunate. Some hens’ will abandon the nest if they are disturbed frequently, so disturb them as little as possible.

I try to candle the eggs once in ten days, but sometimes Mama is not having it. If this is the case with you, try dating and handling after they have gone to bed – it’s a bit easier.

Alternatively, it really isn’t compulsory to candle the eggs – you will have a surprise on hatch day!

What Happens During Her Broodiness?

A broody will sit on her eggs for twenty-one days.

She will then nurture and care for her chicks for another four to six weeks after this.
She will likely take over her favorite nest box for brooding. This means some of the other ladies are going to be upset.

There are a couple of ways to deal with this – either move her and her eggs to a special area, or place some new, temporary boxes for the other ladies.

Personally, I leave them where they are in case she abandons the nest – most broodies’ like to stay put apparently, so moving her could prompt her to leave the eggs.

Broody hens are generally very dedicated to their nests. Occasionally you will have a hen abandon her eggs.

If the eggs are still warm and you have another broody on hand, you can try slipping the eggs under her and see if she will accept them.

If she won’t, this is the time for your incubator to be cleaned and fired up. I keep mine ready to go, just in case.
Mama Hen with ChicksIf Mama kicks a single egg out of the nest it’s usually for a good reason – it might be non-fertile, died in a shell, or some other problem.

In this case, Mama really does know best.

During the next twenty-one days Mama will guard that nest, fluffing out her feathers to look fiercer and bigger than she is, she will growl and she can also deliver a mighty peck – so beware!

She will keep those eggs warm, plucking her chest feathers so the eggs can be next to her skin, and turning them as needed.


This can be a very real problem for some broodies’. Once they ‘set’ their nest, they will generally leave it only once a day to eat, drink, poop, and a quick dust bath, then back to work.

Some broodies’ are fanatical and won’t leave the nest to eat and drink.

This happened with Rosie a year old Rhode Island Red. She started to look awful, her feathers were ragged, she lost a lot of weight and it was very hot too. I worried about her dying on the nest.

My solution was to mix a small handful of eighteen percent pellets with some water, add vitamins and electrolytes making a wet mash. I would put this in a small dish and feed her on the nest twice a day.

Apparently, she enjoyed the maid service because she would be looking for me every day for her feed!

After a few days, she decided to go and take a dust bath, take care of business and return to the nest. We kept up the feeding until she hatched her chicks, then gently moved her to a better spot for the chicks.

It has been estimated that a broody hen will decrease her nutritional intake by up to eighty percent! I can well believe it – the ladies look very ragged and tired after brooding.

If it is later in the year, a hen may go into the molt early and replace all of those worn-out feathers

What Happens After The Eggs Have Hatched?

After the 21 days are up your chicks should have hatched.

Most hens are great mothers, but occasionally a hen will kill or severely injure her chicks, no one really knows why.

Perhaps the chicken equivalent of post-partum psychosis, or perhaps something is wrong with the chick.
Broody Hen with ChickBe observant for the first few days, after that she should be just fine with them. In fact, she will likely be fiercely protective of them and the other chickens had better steer clear of her brood!

She will also keep the chicks warm and safe for those first few days until they get to be curious and start exploring their world. Mama Hen will always look out for her chicks and keep them safe from her flock mates and other perceived dangers.

If she does try to attack or kill her chicks, they must be removed for their safety and placed in a brooder unless you have another hen that is willing to take them.

Integration is a breeze when Mama does it! The other hens will give her and the chicks a good deal of respect and space.

Once Mama signs off on them (around ten weeks or so), they have to fend for themselves, but they are large enough and savvy enough to be evasive by then.

Broody Hen Final Thoughts

Would I do anything differently next time? I really don’t think so. The hens’ did a fine job of raising some splendid little chickens that are now producing their own eggs.

On a note of caution – I had one hen who insisted on using a box outside of the coop. She would not be moved and was very aggressive if you went near her.

Her routine was to wait until every other bird had been put to bed and she would then go out to the compost heap for dinner. One morning I went to check on her and she was nowhere to be seen.

I found a pile of feathers by the compost – a fox or raccoon likely killed her.

The moral of the story is to try and keep your broodies safe inside the coop if you can. A broody hen is somewhat distracted, so can be easy prey for a hungry predator.

I enjoyed watching the progress of the chicks with their mamas’- they seemed to take everything in their stride and were taught all they needed to know. I think this made them more confident around the other flock members.

In the future, whenever possible I’m going to utilize my broodies and keep the incubator for backup.

I’m already looking forward to this season of little peeps!

Beware! Having little chicks around is addictive!

Have you raised chicks with a broody hen? Let us know your tips and secrets in the comments section below…

Read How To Choose The Perfect Egg Incubator (And Use It Properly)

Want To Share This…

Hatch Eggs With A Broody HenHatch Eggs With A Broody Hen

48 thoughts on “How To Hatch Eggs With A Broody Hen

  1. what a wonderful, reassuring article! I am a first timer and my black australorp went broody 4 weeks ago. After 7 days of trying to move her off the nest I gave up and collected 6 eggs from the flock (we have 1 buff orpington rooster, a buff orpington hen and a cochin hen as well as the australorp) She has been sitting on those eggs in a zen like state and left the nest only once! I noticed then that there were only 5 eggs, so one was bviously not viable and she must’ve eaten it, shell and all! Now she is due to hatch tomorrow! And last week my cochin went broody. I have had 12 cochin eggs shipped to us and tomorrow I will be setting her on those. It’s all so exciting! And the broodies make life so easy – really you can just set the eggs under her and then forget about them. Just remember to leave food and fresh water every day within reach of the nest. I have also put vitamins and electrolyte mix in the water to try to help keep my broodies healthy during their maternity 3 weeks.

  2. I just this past Wed and thurday had one of my same hens hatch out her second clutch! Last year only 2 hatched, this year 6. We have a part of our coop where we keep her and the eggs seperate once I know she’s serious about having chicks. Friday she had them outside already teaching them the ways 🙂 My chickens free range but they also have a fenced in area when I don’t want them out though I have some young ones that jump the fence.
    Yesterday I ordered an incubator but I am afraid to do it myself! hahaha So we will see if it get’s any use. I like letting mama hen do the work. she knows better then me.

  3. Thank you so very much. This article is very helpful as I was so concerned that Gustl (my Broody) would starve. Thank you again for this great information.
    Kind regards,

  4. I’ve had several hens go broody over the years and I get fertile eggs for them. I mark each egg because when the hen goes out to eat, etc., one of the other hens will get in her nest and lay an egg so I have to check daily and remove that egg. A couple times none of the eggs hatched so I had to find day old chicks to put under them. I did this at bedtime and the hens raised the babies. The last ones were five day old bantams and she still raised them.

  5. If the chicks are being raised with the rest of the flock by the broody, what about feed? Is chick starter fed to everyone or is mama like other birds and mouth feeds the little ones?

      1. Thank you. I just put fertilized eggs under 2 broody hens and wondered about food once they hatch. This is my first time hatching eggs and I’m so excited!

  6. wonderful article…!!! very informative, Im hoping to find a great broody hen to hatch some chicks this year , im looking for a white silkie hen for my broody lady and plan to build her a dream home of her very own, she will live like a queen..! any one who has a white silkie very broody hen for sale let me know , I will truly love her..! and she will have a very special loving happy home. cant wait to find my special silkie mama hen..!!

  7. I have a broody Buff. Last year when I put what I candled and thought were fertile under her. She rejected the quail eggs. When I clearly marked eggs I still had several issues. 1) they rubbed off the marking, and sometimes after a rainy day they got muddy too so I couldn’t see the marking.
    2) they kept laying eggs in that nesting box and because of point one I couldn’t tell difference.
    3) eggs would mysteriously disappear.
    So this year I am trying 2 ideas.
    1) putting candled eggs with my broody hen in a dog kennel with lots of hay and sawdust in it and food and water for her.
    2) I live offgrid so trying to see if I can get my incubator to work round the clock to hatch eggs.
    Question: since broody hen is separate from other hens and rooster, when she has her chicks can I just let them loose in the coop? Maybe put the kennel in coop if they need it? Thanks.

    1. Hi Channah,
      Yes, once the eggs have hatched she (and the chicks) can return to the coop 🙂

      1. The incubator failed because I live offgrid and the temperature fluctuated too much.
        The broody hen ate or destroyed all 20 of eggs I put under her.
        I am so frustrated! What other hens make good broody hens? Trying to find another way to incubate eggs since I can’t use incubator right now (need a generator I guess). Any ideas?

        1. From my experience boodines is more of a chicken to chicken basis. Some do tend to be better at it though. I have a salmon florentein that is really good as in she will sit on the eggs and does not peck you when you check on the proccess. But her daughter is agressive when you try to check . Eyther way I now purpously keep the good brooder hens as it reducess my work and all I do is just let the mom take care of the chicks . I also had a white leghorn and a copper maran that were boody all did fine but some were more protective than others.

          1. This is true, chicken to chicken broodiness is something I have seen as well.

  8. Hello and thank you very much or all of the fantastic information on this site! We have relied heavily on this site since the very beginning of our adventure into owning chickens!

  9. I have a hen that has been laying on her eggs for 10days now. Couple of problems. 1) all the other hen insist on laying eggs in her nest where she has been laying. 2) our laying hen and another hen got into a conflict , when I went to check the naughty hen pecked into the embryo egg. Sadly. It was badly broken and embryo was visible and cold. Problem now, is the naughty hen has been caged but is doing all she can to go disturb the other hen and her nest. I need help suggestions….

  10. Baby chicks are DEFINITELY ADDICTIVE!! I now have 15 (ranging from 1.5 yrs to 4 months) I think one of my older hens is going broody. I want her to have babies if that is her desire, so I am going to order 12 fertile eggs for her. I don’t have an incubator and I don’t really want to go that route. So it is going to be whatever it is. If she accepts the eggs and hatches them, then I’ll have more babies. And if not, then it just wasn’t meant to be. I just want my girl to be happy!!

  11. I have been around chickens all my life, but have just started with my own, about 1 year ago. Random chickens, given, bought, etc. Several fell victim to possum, so I have 1 HUGE white chicken (been told she is a “meat chicken”, but was supposed to be a leghorn). She is so big, she cannot walk. Literally, she takes 2 steps and props down, but seems to be happy and otherwise healthy. She is Henrietta. I have 1 black bantam, Claire. Beautiful! Has a blue/green sheen to her, in the sun. 2 D’Uccle. Tot and Ram, hen and rooster. Adorable! My heart belongs to them all, but 2 Serama hold a little bigger piece! Billy and Susie. Billy tries to breed with everything! He thinks he is breeding Henrietta, but only sits on the base of her neck! Too cure. Heart of an eagle! 4 weeks ago, Susie disappeared. I was heartbroken, just knowing a hawk had made her a snack! She showed back up and disappeared several times that 1st week. I finally realized, she is setting! Once I found where, I tried really hard to leave her be. The 1st time I looked at her, she was fluffed up, perfectly still, and pecked me when I rubbed her head. I have been concerned. Why are there no chicks yet? I know she was bread, I saw it several times. Today, I couldn’t take it any longer. While she was out eating, I took a peek. 8 EGGS!!!! My worry is how long have they been there? She isn’t physically able to sit on them all. So, are they bad by now? The 1st time I looked in on them, I didn’t see anything, and now, 8? I have no way of knowing how old any of them are. How long should I leave them? Should I retrieve them and try to incubate? Should I move her somewhere where I can see her better? Or should I just leave her alone and let nature take its course? If they go bad, will she naturally destroy them or abandon them? I have a friend that said if the eggs have stayed cool, you can hold onto them for about a month and then incubate them all at once. Is that true? Will I ruin her if I take her eggs? It is still early spring for us, no days over 60 degrees, and maybe only 2-3 of them. Average has been more like 40-50. I want serama babies so bad! What do I do!? My gut tells me they are bad, but I’m not willing to give up on them totally, yet. Thank you in advance!

  12. Disappearing eggs under a broody may be due to a snake taking up residence under the bedding in the nest box. I had this happen!

  13. I have had chickens fr over 30 years. I have had several broody hens over that time I have one now and I have decided to let her sit on her eggs. She seems to be doing well. My question is after the chicks are hatched, will the roosters kill them (I have 2) or try to have sex with them? Should I put them all (mama and babies) in a separate chicken coop? I have a small one that I use when I get new chicks. Thank you for the information in this forum. I have learned several new things..

    1. Sometimes roosters can be aggressive depending on breed. I would separate them until chicks are older and bigger.

  14. I’ve had this hen ever since she wander into my yard and never left, so we named her Delilah. Then I got a rooster for free from this gal. He was only 4 months old, so not quite old enough to fertilize Delilah yet. We named him Samson, of course.
    Anyway, eventually he started mounting Delilah but I wasn’t sure if he was really effective yet. She went broody for a while and then stopped, with my help. Then after about 3 months Samson disappeared, just vanished! There wasn’t even a feather left behind! I think the huge owl on the property got him.
    Anyway, getting to the meat of the story. Delilah layed 4 eggs after Samson disappeared and was already being brood again, so I let her keep the eggs and ta-da we now have 4 baby chick!
    What I haven’t mentioned is, Delilah decided long ago to make a box that was sitting on the big swamp cooler on the porch her home. Now that she has babies I don’t think they should be on the cooler. It’s too high for the chicks to get up and down.
    What should I do? Don’t the chicks need to be down where they can eat?

  15. My silkie hen is expected to hatch the 11th. This is my first time with chickens and I tried to get her eggs but she would not let me so I decided to go ahead and let her have them in the winter months. We will see how it goes. I did clean the cage yesterday and now it seems like she is not interested in your eggs even though she has two days left to hatch. And I do not have a incubator what should I do? And all her age you can see all the babies so they are all fertile. She does kick some of them out every once in awhile.

  16. Hi Claire: A wonderful article. I have a Brahma broody raising two broody chicks(almost a month old). They are not in with the 4 RIR & 1 Brahma hen(Blackie).who has the same surrogate mama. I put them together last night because I think Blackie gets lonesome & thot they might get along.
    No Way. Big fight until I took Blackie out of Daisy Mae’s enclosure which is really big with outdoor access. The 2 chicks are very active. When can I turn the chicks in with the others. They have had eye contact all along. The chicks are light Brahma (I wanted RIR eggs but living out of the country I take what I can get). Daisy Mae is a great mama. Thanks for all your great information.
    Is it OK when Daisy Mae is setting on eggs to have the flock around her & also after the chicks hatch? We have 4 RIR & Blackie. No Roo.
    I did not do this as I was afraid the new chicks would get stepped on. Blackie has big feet with lots of feathers. She is 5 mos old.
    Thanks again for your wonderful information.

  17. Buff Orpingtons are a breed known for their broodiness. The photo above is a Buff Orpington mama hen with several of her chicks. She will not only hatch all her chicks, but she will also care for them through cold nights, meaning there will be no need for her owner to fuss with a heat lamp. The chicks shown above are a mix of Speckled Sussex and Buff Orpingtons.

  18. Hello. I have five hens and a rooster. Four hens have laid eggs totalling to 44 so far. One went broody yesterday. I normally collect the eggs daily and keep them safe. Yesterday i forgot to collect an egg and today i checked she was in her nest box with six eggs and she was all riled up just checking her. The other hens also use her nest to lay their eggs. So i moved her to a seperate cage with straw bedding. The issue is with the change she didnt sit on the eggs until i checked this late evening and one of the six eggs was broken . In the meanwhile she ran out. I gently put her back in that seperate cage and then she sat on the eggs at once. Im worried that she may abandon . Also i have the older eggs. The oldest dating the 1st of march. Can i still use those for hatching? Are those still viable? Thank you in advance.

  19. So I have a mixed flock of bantam hens & regular sized hens & 1 bantam rooster & I have two questions. 1) Can my bantam rooster breed my big chickens? He keeps trying but how do I know if it’s effective? 2) I know he has been effectively breeding my bantam hens because they have gone broody but can I leave the little girls with the rest of the flock to hatch their chicks or will my big chickens kill the babies?

  20. I have had my bantam eggs hatch as late as 25 or 26 days but on average they take 21 to 23 days i think everyone should be aware that the 21 days suggested are for perfect conditions. They may hatch in 19 days in an incubator or even with an older more experienced hen with youngsters it can be a bit more hit and miss.

  21. I am allowing my broody Buff Orp. To sit on her 1st ever round of new chicks. I have a mixed flock of Wyandotte’s, silkies, & polish hens. I have a Rhode Island Red rooster.
    My Buff is sitting on eggs from each hen.
    When the chicks come, will they be the same breed characteristics from the hens? Or mixed with RI rooster?

    1. They will be a mix of breeds. Whatever hen laid the egg and the rooster that mated with her. The hen that sits on the eggs is only the incubator.

  22. I have a broody sitting on 5 eggs but one of the eggs is day 16 and the other 4 are day 13. If the first egg hatches 3 days earlier than the others will the mother neglect the remaining 4 eggs? Should I take one egg out so they all the eggs hatch on the same day?

    1. I’m new at this as well. I do know that the chicks can hatch on multiple days. There is no need to separate them from the nest. The mom will still care for them as the others hatch. I just had a chick hatch yesterday morning and two more today. There are still more in the nest so I’m anxious to see how many we get total!
      Good luck!!

      1. I forgot to mention that the chicken born yesterday fell out of the nest and a couple of the other hens started pecking at her. Luckily we saw it happening and were able to separate the baby from the flock. She is recovering well in a brooder box we have set up. I’m really hoping to re-introduce her to her mom once her wounds are healed. So if your hen is with others, keep an eye on them!

  23. This is my first time using my broody Cochin hen for hatching chicks, so wish me luck! Most are from other hens… She’s sitting on a dozen. Often the odd one slips out and cools off. Should I pull that egg and check for life? Or just tuck it back under. She’s docile now(was sooooo cranky, pecking and such during days 1-5). I think I’ll try the nutritional slew you talked about. Any advice would be muchly appreciated! I really enjoyed this read, so thank you.

  24. I have a light Sussex who was constantly going broody, and i constantly had to try and break her as i have no rooster, however, because of the pandora this year, and the need to replace some hens with none available…I have given her some Fertile eggs. She is extremely dedicated so i am physically having to remove her from her nest to eat, drink and poop. She does this and goes straight back on. I have candled her eggs and think 6 out of the 9 i gave her are fertile so watch this space!

  25. I have two golden hybrids that are broody and are on day 16 I’m so excited to see what they hatch out, the rooster I have is a Americana, so IM very curious to see what they turn out looking like

  26. I have had a flock for about three years and had a hen go Broody. She ended up hatching two chicks, but sat on one, killing it. Which I heard is common the first time they hatch their own. I decided to let her stay with the flock and raise her baby Beep Beep, like on a farm. She has done a great job raising her. They all actually accepted Beep Beep right away. All the hens would protect Beep Beep. Even had one walk the yard with her more then mom, as she got older. She is almost the size of mom now. So far, she hasn’t done it again. However, I was told she may continue the broody behavior. Now, IF Beep Beep goes broody, do I need to worry about inbreeding? Anyone know about broody chickens and can answer that?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *