Moving a Broody Hen…

“My neighbors Barred Rock hen has taken up to laying her eggs in my barn. My neighbor has given me the hen and this week she has started sitting on her clutch of twelve eggs. My questions is should I move her and the eggs to my coupe or just let her be for now in the barn and move them after the chicks are hatched? What kind of protection can I give her in the barn? My other girls are Buff Orphingtons about 6 months old. Any suggestions, please. Thank you,” ~ Dan Duffy, Cottage Grove, Oregon.

Hi Dan, thanks for the question.

I would suggest leaving your adopted hen and her clutch right where they are.

If she were already a part of your flock, you would have the option to move her but because she is not an established member of the pecking order, you’re better off leaving her where she is.

As far as provisions for her in the barn; make sure she has food and water within close proximity. She’ll be hesitant to leave her nest so if her nourishment is close, she won’t have to worry about the safety of her clutch while she is gone.

Do not however put the water where it can spill and get the eggs wet.

Water will wash away the protective bloom that is keeping bacteria from entering the eggs and keeping the chicks safe.

If mama hen has built a nest off the ground and there is any danger of the eggs rolling off, build her a proper box in which to hatch her chicks. Your hen will need enough room to stand up and turn around, she will turn the eggs and move the inside eggs to the outside on a regular basis, if she is too cramped, she’ll end up breaking eggs by stepping on them.

Remember though that she is more likely to brood if she has a cozy space so don’t make the box so big that she feels vulnerable. Ideally you should give her a nest that is about 15 inches square and 16 inches tall. It should have a roof and the front should be open but have a lip at the bottom.

This new brood box should sit on the ground to prevent newly-hatched chicks from tumbling out.

The box should be generously filled with soft bedding material that is concave in the middle so the eggs won’t roll out. The ideal nesting material would be two pieces of grass sod. Place one with the grass side down and the other with the grass side up. Pound down the middle of the sod to a saucer- like shape to keep the eggs safe.

If you must move her, place the new box close to her for a day or two so that she can get used to it.

If possible, move the eggs while she is up getting a drink, some food or relieving herself. If you are unable to move the eggs while she is away, move her at night after she has settled down for the evening. Hopefully she’ll be too drowsy to put up much of a fight and eggs won’t get broken in the struggle.

There is a possibility that the move might make her give up the whole thing and she will abandon her nest so only move her if her current nest is unsafe for the eggs or the newly hatched chicks.

If it is necessary, supply her with a heat source if the temperatures are really dropping at night. Give her protection from the wind as well.

Good luck with your (her) hatch. I hope this has been helpful.