Lesson 637 – Broody hens in the winter – what to do

Chickens, back to the chickens. One of my readers has found herself with a broody bird. She’s got a hen who has decided that she wants to sit on the eggs and is objecting to anyone taking the eggs. As this reader also has a rooster, it’s quite possible that the eggs might be fertile and there might be chicks.

Should she do this? Allow the hen to be a mother (as she clearly wants to be?)  or nip this behavior in the proverbial bud?

First, if the hen sits on fertilized eggs that means that in around 21 days, you are likely to have chicks. That would place the hatching at around mid-November. In New Hampshire. Unless you have a nursery set up for your chicks (and be careful, rescuing chicks mid-winter is how we ended up with a chicken living in our house for 6 months) they are most likely not going to survive our cold winter.

Again, if you have a warm hen house (and I’m talking tropical), you might be able to get away with it, but remember that chicks take at least 5 -6 weeks (depending on the breed) to fully feather and that means you have to have some way of keeping them warm until they can face the cold on their own. As you know temps in NH can easily go below zero. My guess is that you’d either end up having a bunch of chick-cicles or have a slew of chicks living in your family room for most of the winter.

As I said, been there, done that.

Remember also that she will not be laying eggs if she is sitting on a nest. If you are depending on your hens for food, this could make a dent in what you get.

If it were me, I’d go ahead and take the eggs. If she hisses or pecks at you then use gloves. It’s not being mean. Think of it as saving the chicks.

If she continues to be broody, you can either give her some marble eggs to sit on (which will mean she will stop laying) or just hope that the behavior will pass. If you choose to continue the behavior, she will need to be watched. Some broody hens will not eat or get water and in the cold temps, this does not bode well for survival.

If she is still broody in the Spring, I’d say go ahead and let her sit on the eggs. If we had the space (and a rooster) I’d love to try and hatch chicks in our coop.


Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, chicken care

4 responses to “Lesson 637 – Broody hens in the winter – what to do

  1. Jenn

    Well said! Against my better judgement, I let my very spoiled broody EE hatch bantam eggs in January. I figured that eggs shipped via USPS from NC to CT in January probably wouldnt make it anyway. Well, I was wrong. VERY wrong. ALL thirteen eggs hatched and I wound up with chickens on my (enclosed and heated) front porch until mid April.

    I love my bantie-babies, but NEVER AGAIN!!!

  2. Wendy,
    Thank you for taking time to write and reply to my question. Update to the broody hen. That night, my spouse wore gloves and took 2 eggs away from Broody Hen. He placed on the roost and locked the coop down. The next morning, she behaved like a normal chicken when we open the coop up. In the afternoon, when I checked, she once again was in the nesting box. There was a broken egg in the coop floor and another angry hen waiting to use th nesting box. We have 2 but they all use that one. I again shooed her away and took the egg. She clucked cuss words and flapped around and went to join her sisters. This is Day 4 and she is back to being a normal chicken. I am hoping she would turn moody in the spring and we can hatch eggs and wait for chicks.

    Thank you once again.

  3. Jane H

    Ok so I didn’t count my chickens before they hatched and as of 11/5 I have a Buff Orp who has hatched out 15 chicks. What to do now. I don’t have the heart to cull them ….she is down to 14. Any chance she might be able to successfully brood that many chicks ? They are separated from the rest of the flock in a pen. I’m in zone 5 and its going to get very cold very soon.

    • Sheri

      I would give her a chance to raise the chicks. Just be sure to keep fresh water for them. Your hen should be able to keep them warm. Let her have the chance to be a good momma. If she isn’t, then you will have to take the chicks and raise them….but chickens are better at being chickens than we are, so let nature take it’s course. It’s Nov. 20 and I have a buff Orpingtons that just went broody.

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