Hen Hatching Chicks Naturally

It’s happening! The chicks are hatching!! Sunday night we went out to check on everybody one last time, and Jerry heard the sound of a chick peeping coming from under mama hen. The next morning we went out to see, and sure enough a fuzzy, yellow little chick peaked out from under the hen’s wing.

I was worried that they were still in the chicken coop with all the other chickens. We really should have moved her and the nest before they started hatching. A broody hen needs to be separated from the rest of the flock so that she can have her own food and water supply, and to protect her new chicks from becoming victims of deadly bullying from the other hens.

I’d waited too long to move her, afraid that she might refuse to finish the job once in an unfamiliar place. But now that they were hatching, I was really afraid to move her. I didn’t want to hurt the baby chick, I definitely didn’t want to crack an egg, but I most certainly didn’t want to cause her to stop sitting! Oh, what to do!

We decided to clean out our largest rabbit cage, make a nesting box in there for her with fresh grass clippings, and move her and the nest to the safer brooder. Carefully, we got everything situated. And thankfully, although annoyed, she fluffed herself up and went right back to sitting on the clutch of warm eggs. The little chick buried itself once more into her warmth.

I really, really wanted to let her free range with the chicks, so that she could teach them to scratch and find food. But I just couldn’t find a way to do this safely. We don’t have the materials to make a chicken tractor (a moveable coop), which would have been the perfect solution.

I’ve been doing some reading on what to expect now.

The hen will keep the chicks warm, so no need for a heat lamp. The chicks will be nourished for three days by the yolk sack they’d absorbed, and then they will need food. I’ll have to buy a bag of chick starter feed. I plan on getting the unmedicated kind, and letting the mama hen eat that as well since it’d be hard to have them eat different things separately.

I think after three days the hen will leave the nest and take the hatched chicks to look for food. She’ll cluck to show them where it is, and teach them how to peck and drink.

Since the other hens were laying in the same nest with the broody hen for several days, there are sure to be eggs still waiting to hatch when this hen leaves the nest. If they don’t get continuous warmth, they’ll die. Fortunately, two more of our hens have gone broody! (I’ve been stealing their eggs though, so they aren’t sitting on any.) I expect to have to put another broody hen on the abandoned nest to finish hatching. *Hopefully* this will work. It’s the plan, anyways.

From what I understand, the hen will teach and care for her chicks for six weeks, and then she’ll be ready to return to the flock. The chicks, however, will need to stay separated until they are almost full grown. Otherwise, the older hens will peck them and might even kill them.

If you remember, she was sitting on 17 eggs. I shouldn’t have let her accumulate that many. A dozen probably would have been a much better number. We’ll see though. I’m crossing my fingers that she has a good hatch rate. Only one has hatched since Sunday evening (two days) though… I’m really hoping the others start hatching soon. Like as in tomorrow!!

The kids and I have enjoyed watching the little chick exploring its new world. The poor mama hen probably didn’t find it as humorous as we did when the chick kept pecking her in the eye though. Ouch!

It’ll be fun watching nature take its course. This is definitely much easier than incubating them ourselves!

Any advice or suggestions for me? I’d love to know what your experience has been hatching naturally!

Kendra
About Kendra 1107 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

17 Comments

  1. thanks for the information from all. Our mama has just started hatching her STOLEN eggs, my partner is making a broody hen coop with run. Although the last time she had her chicks, we were given her with the chicks (3), we put her in with the other girls and had no problem, don’t know why all the fuss this time, other people’s ideas. So how many hatched after you moved her. My mama is sitting on about 8 – 10 eggs. I have read today to move them after dark, any way we are giving it a go. will let you know the outcome. Little chick soooo cute.

  2. Youโ€™ve inspired me to put some fertile eggs under my broody hen. After about a week of trying to break her, I figured what the hay. We were planning on getting 2 more hens anyway but now weโ€™ll have 2 or 3 baby chicks, hopefully! Best thing was (since we donโ€™t have a rooster) I got mine from the feed store for free! So excited!

  3. I have a VERY broody hen right now… she sat on her first set of eggs for 30 days and sadly they were duds ๐Ÿ™ So my friend gave me 4 more fertilized eggs and I took out the bad ones and put in the good ones and she is still sitting on them. ๐Ÿ™‚ She will continue until she either gets chicks or these hatch. I left her in the nesting box of the hen house.. letting nature be nature. I added three 8 week old chicks to the hen house and although the bigger hens pecked and chased them from time to time, they have learned where they belong. I am hoping that the broody hen will protect the babies when they hatch, because I don’t plan on moving them.

  4. Let me share what I know about chickens. Boneless skinless are on sale for $1.67/lb at IGA and a dozen eggs are one sale for 88 cents at the next store down the street.

    Well, that just about sums it up. Hope I helped!

    Ha ha ha ha ha.

    To all you chicken farmers…You Go Girls!!!!

  5. Oh they are just so cute! It is a beautiful sight to see the mama hen lead the chick to water and food and as the chick gets older the mama then follows the chick around protecting it.
    I agree with the 2 Kim’s post as well. This past hatch was the first time we let them with the flock, including turkeys and guineas and our one chick is doing just fine. In the beginning I watched as some of the others pecked at it, I was concerned. But the chick learned quickly the pecking order and found its place. The chick would even go up to the other broody hens and begin to peck at their eyes! They didn’t do anything back to the little one, surprisingly and that soon stopped too. I can also say this one chick seems to be the most healthy out of all our incubating and finagling with the natural process.
    We have yet again a broody hen…with 48 currently in the incubator we are undecided if we want to let her sit on some more or not. We are in need of more fencing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. We let a hen raise her first chicks last year. Though we did move her to a small separate coop made from an old doghouse while broody, she was free to take her chicks outside during the day (around our other hens and rooster) and did so. She kept them fairly near the coop and was quite protective, but the other chickens really did not pick on them at all. They seemed to know that these were their “sister’s” children. When the babies were just a few weeks old, mama and babies moved back into the big coop. The babies were shown who was boss, but not picked on overly to where they needed to be separate.

  7. It’s funny, yesterday when I got home I found that one of my Rhode Island Reds has gone broody! Too bad we dont have a rooster to fertilize any eggs. Hope she comes out of it soon. I read some pretty bad stories of broody hens. Wishing you the best of luck though!

  8. I agree with Kim ๐Ÿ™‚ I never move our broody hens. Believe you me they won’t let anyone attack their babies! They are insanely protective. The Mama will bring them out, even if they have to JUMP, out of their boxes to go eat. They are raised with the other hens so there’s no issue later when you reintroduce. We have never had any problems leaving them with the flock. I think we humans make things WAY harder than they need to be! Congratulations on your new babies!

  9. I have been raising chickens for 4 years now. I have always left my hens right where they were. Never had a problem with other hens picking on the chicks. In fact there is nothing more protective than a momma hen! When the chicks are 2 to 3 days old I usually put a waterer and some feed on the floor of the coop. Since the chicks are raised with all the other chickens there is no problem later on reintroducing them to the flock. Good luck with your chicks!

  10. That’s so awesome, Kendra! None of our hens have gone broody and this is the third summer for our oldest ones. We do have some Bantams now, and they are known for their tendency to go broody, so we’ll see….I know you can slip regular sized eggs under them to hatch if they go broody, just maybe a half dozen or so at time.
    We have hatched eggs in an incubator this past spring, and it is very easy. The kids especially loved being able to watch the hatching process through the little windows of the incubator. Wet little newborns look so different than they look a few hours later when they are all fluffed up–a great learning process! So glad your hens are going broody!:)

  11. That’s so interesting. You are full of great information, thank you! I have a broody hen that I put some surrogate eggs under last week. She’s still in gen-pop, but I’ll eventually kick all the other chickens out of the coop into the new one so she has it all to herself. Congratulations on the new baby! Here’s hoping that you’ll get a whole bunch more!

  12. I love it! I’ve been wanting to do this with my broody hen but I’m full up on space in our coop. (I’m in the ‘burbs.) I guess I’ll just have to do this vicariously for now.

  13. I separated my broodie from the flock and put her nest box in a large wire dog crate. I should have kept her in the crate when the hatching starts and only opened it a couple times during the day for quick water and poop runs but I left it open to the enclosed “run” and when the chicks got really mobile she would not stay on the remaining eggs and they died. Next time I will not let her chicks go exploring and make her worry, so she can hatch more of them. She is great at teaching them to scratch and eat.

  14. Oh man, that is so exciting! Someday I will have chickens, and by then you’ll be an old pro at it and I’ll be able to glean from your experience! I can’t wait to hear how many hatch!

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