Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: How long does a hen need to be broody for before day old chicks? How many chicks  (Read 7260 times)

Steph Hen

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Angus Scotland.
I have a batch of chicks hatching today,  :excited: and brooder is set up and ready to go, but... I also have a broody hen, she started sitting maybe four days ago. She's a year old, light Sussex, not gone broody before, but she's a good hen, not flighty, always foraging.

I used to prefer chicks reared by a hen, and it would be fine to have her look after them, but is this too soon for her biological clock to think its chick?

It'll take a bit of jiggling around but I can sort her a secure broody coop and run.

How many can I put under her? I know for eggs they have to be able to easily cover them so they don't get chilled, but how many day old chicks? I had a maran that disappeared off and returned weeks later with 18 chicks once.


  • Joined Feb 2010
  • Llanidloes; Powys
I am not an expert but I am sure that I read on here once that somebody gave some chicks to a broody hen and she rose to occasion magnificently.

As far as numbers go I have only experienced my hens rearing 8 or 9 at a time and they were fine.

Personally I would go for it and keep a close eye on things. The worst that can happen is that the hen doesn't take to them in which case the chicks just go back to the brooder. How big is the hatch batch?
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  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
My 4 chicks from darkbrowneggs which bloomer brought up to Scotland ( :thumbsup: ) went straight under a broody who had only been doing it for a few days.  I thought it was perhaps a bit early for her but she was delighted - all that boring hanging around over with so quickly  8)  The chicks were not day olds though, so I think you could keep your newly hatched batch until they're well dried off before putting them under.
It depends on the size of your hen, but I have found that 10 eggs/chicks is plenty unless you are prepared to risk some getting cold.
Like you, I so prefer chicks to be raised by a hen, whether it's their own mum or a broody.  I love seeing them being taught to peck and just how life is, what call signs mean and so on.
If you are going to move the broody that could put her off sitting.  Either you could put the chicks under until she's settled with them then move them, or move her and check she stays broody in her coop before putting the chicks under.
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  • Joined Jul 2013
Hello, I always do this when i buy in layers at day old. She has def been broody long enough so get the chicks and try her with a couple first right there were she is sitting. Wait 20 or 30 mins and if all is well add the rest. Leave her there for a little bit longer and then move her to the coop/ rearing area. She will be absolutely fine no doubt :)
As far as numbers, if she is a good sized l/s you can comfortably fit 10 to 12 chicks under her with no issues. I have never once had a problem introducing chicks to a hen in about 30 yrs of doing it! I have used broodies in this way to raise all sorts of fowl... Geese, duck, pheasant, guinea and of course chicks!

Good luck :D i'm sure it will be a huge success!


  • Joined Feb 2010
  • Llanidloes; Powys
There goeth the word of the Oracle  :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
We do the best we can with the information we have

When we know better we do better


  • Joined Nov 2012
I have 2 broody hens this summer that accepted chicks from my incubator, 6 with one hen and 9 with the other.  In a few days when some more hatch in the incubator they will go under my present broody, she has been sitting for 7 days and she did a lovely job last year.  She hatched 4 of her own and accepted 3 others at 3 days old to go with her own.


  • Joined Sep 2012
I've had hens accept chicks after a very short length of time and also some that refused to even contemplate the idea after 21 days as her own eggs were hatching so try it and see.

My semi-bantam uberbroody hen regularly disappeared and returned 21 days later with 12 healthy chicks which she raised beautifully.  Somehow, it seems right that a hen can raise a dozen eggs.  Maybe that's why they were sold in that number originally....

Steph Hen

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Angus Scotland.
Thanks for the replies! 14 have hatched so far, another 5 plus pipping. It's good to hear that they don't have to be just tiny day old as I'm not going to open the incubator till they're all out... I added a few eggs in about 8hours after most of them started, so am expecting it to be a slightly drawn out affair.

I'll take your advise and leave her where she is, the hutch is about 4 x 6 feet and there's only 3 hens that sleep in there, so plenty of room for me to put food and water for the family for a short while. I'll do as advised and slip a couple of chicks under, wait, then if all goes well add more. (Sounds like baking a cake!).

I'll see how it's looking, but will try for 10 or 12. I have a small, movable run that has half wooden sides. when hardening off chicks I surround it with glass in frames (from when we had our windows done) and to cut out any rain or drafts.

Steph Hen

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Angus Scotland.
Family is doing fine. Took your advice and put a couple under for half hour, all ok so added more. Hen liked chicks straight away, got upset if one started chirping loudly and kept them all under her.

I put 12 under her. Was able to sex some cross breeds, so culled a few boys :(
The six left in the brooder seemed a bit lonely, I like batches of 12-20 or so, all mucking about together... Six seemed so quiet compared to normal, So I decided to give her the rest. She has 18, at the moment they are able to all fit under her at once.
Moved them into their small hutch today, all eating, drinking well, hutch is secure and draft proof. Run is covered so she shouldn't have to do so much brooding as if she were wandering around outside with them. Fingers crossed that I'm not expecting too much of her  :-[


  • Joined Jul 2013
Good job mother hen! If they all fit they will be fine! Sounds like a great broodie, she should be able to rear them all with no problems! What a lovely sight to see, a mother hen and so many babies!!

Steph Hen

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Angus Scotland.
 :) thanks for the reminder to take photos! I forgot how much I like to see hen and chicks! With their little heads popping out for amongst her feathers, and how she calls them and breaks up the food for them... Just lovely!


  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder

I had a broody Orpington last year, she was sitting on eggs but none hatched (it wasn't a planned affair). I felt sorry for her so gave her two meat chicks, that were about 5 days old. She took them like a duck to water - she may have been a bit surprised at how advanced (and big) her newborns were. By three weeks, the chicks were almost as big as mum, but she still got one under each wing.

Victorian Farmer

  • Guest
it do sent matter the hen can be a cross breed or a pure breed if she is a good mother ring her and always make a fuss with treats because she is worth her weight in gold .I love good hens that are good mothers i breed copper tops just for this, love you re hens


  • Joined Sep 2011
  • Bala, North Wales
    • Facebook
Ah Ha! Just the thread I needed!  Wish me luck as I have a go slotting 10 inccies, in with 7 natural hatched under my champion mum (no idea what breed she is, but sh is big and fluffs out huge, balck with a green metallic sheen). I'll keep the brooder box warm and watch very carefully.....


  • Joined Dec 2011
  • Gascony, France
Sounds like a black Orpington FiB.


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