Have a broody hen? Take these steps to get baby chicks

We have a broody hen–Lucy. She’s not our first. We had a broody hen last summer, but we had no rooster, which means there’s no point in having a broody hen. If you have a broody hen who really wants to be mama but you have no rooster and no plans to raise baby chicks, there are some strategies you can try to help “break” your hen from being broody. I’ll write more about that soon.

For now, my goal is to write a series of blog posts chronicling my experiences caring for a broody hen who has the potential to really be a mama. I’m super excited!

I’ve loved being a chicken mama, and the thought of being a chicken grandma makes me nervous but happy, especially when you consider my oldest son never wants to have children and my next son is only seven. I have a long way to go to be a real grandma, but these baby chicks might just hold me over.

Since this is our first time to try to help a broody hen hatch some babies from eggs, there has been a lot of research I’ve had to do. I worry a lot, and I’m still not sure how many babies we might be able to expect. All I know is that I’ve candled a few eggs and know we have life and that we’re on day 14 of the 21 days it takes to get babies. But, as I said, I’ve done my research and learned a lot along the way.

image of hen with eggs

Public domain photo, Pixabay

I plan to write a series of three posts: one on the beginning of the process, one on the end, and one about how the babies are doing, if we get any.

In this first post, I’ll talk about the signs of a broody hen and steps to take if you want her to hatch some chicks.

  1. First, you should watch for signs that a hen is going broody.

We had two hens go broody last year but no rooster, so I was hopeful this year when I saw some of the same behaviors from Lucy. It happens in the summer. You’ll see she just doesn’t want to leave the eggs. Then, in a day or two, if it’s serious, she really won’t leave the eggs and is growling at you with a crazy look in her eye like, “if you touch my babies, I’ll peck your eyes out.” Yep, that’s how you know for sure you have a broody mama.

  1. Next, she should be separated from the rest of your flock.

We didn’t do this at first, and she kept losing her clutch. I think someone else would get on her eggs while she was up eating or drinking or pooping, so she would move over to a new clutch of eggs, which would mean starting all over. After that happened once, I researched and found she needed to be separated, so we separated her into a place in the garage.

When you separate her, she needs a quiet, comfortable place where she can still get up and walk around when she needs to. She needs easy access to her food and water as well. We put her water container just about six inches away from where she sits, and I’ve seen our Lucy lean way over and get a drink.

Make sure you find a place that is safe from predators. We used our dog’s giant crate as her nesting place and then put the crate in the garage, so she can be safely closed up at night.

  1. Make sure she has a space that allows her to get up, walk around, get drink, grab a bite, and most importantly, poop.

Broody hens really do seem to know what they’re doing. In my inexperience, I didn’t trust our Lucy at first. The second day she was in the garage, she got up in the morning and left her eggs. I thought, “oh no, she’s abandoning the eggs.” After about 30 minutes, I found her dust bathing in the flower bed, so I picked her up and put her back on her eggs.

“I need some babies,” I told her.

But I shouldn’t have worried. After that, I did some research. Broody hens do need a little time to eat, drink, poop, and stretch their legs, but as long as they come back within an hour, the eggs should be fine.

Now, I see our Lucy out and about every morning, and I time her just to be safe. She’s always back on those eggs in just a little over 30 minutes. She’s awesome, but she does need time to think about her own health.

That’s probably a good lesson for all mamas.

  1. Candle your eggs, but not too much.

You can candle your eggs to see if they are fertile, but I read you shouldn’t do this too much. You just don’t want to disturb the eggs more than you have to, and when I did our candling, I was terrified I was going to drop an egg.

Candling an egg can be done with a flashlight, so you don’t have to buy anything. Here are some directions for candling eggs. I just used the flashlight method.

If you see an egg is, for sure, not fertilized, it’s best to remove it. A rotten egg is stinky beyond all reason.

  1. Keep her hydrated and watch to make sure she’s in good health.

It’s so important to make sure that your little chicken mama is healthy. You can watch her comb to gauge how she’s doing. We have Rhode Island Reds with large combs, and it’s easy to tell when one of them doesn’t feel well. If the comb gets pale, you know something is up. I’ve been watching Lucy’s comb, and it’s good so far. However, I bring her treats every day and, as I already noted, keep her water super close to her.

So far, our broody Lucy mostly growls at me when I feed her healthy snacks, but she’ll still take them.

  1. Wait for babies.

It takes 21 days. Right now, we’re on Day 14, so I still have time to research what to do when the babies come. Maybe I don’t have to do anything. Maybe Nature knows best. But I’ll do my research and write about, just to make sure we’re prepared.

Crystal Sands

About Crystal Sands

I am a former academic and award winning writing teacher turned hobby farmer/homeschooling mom/freelancer. In 2015, after too many years of working too many hours, I decided to change my life. This blog shares my stories related to making the change and simplifying my life–a process that began when we finally got our first chickens. In this blog, I will share my experiences learning how to hobby farm on a small place in Maine, become more self-sufficient, live frugally, live peacefully, and have more time for love. I hope you will join me on this journey by following my blog and following me on Twitter @CrystalDSands.