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Setting a broody hen

  • Make sure the hen is “sitting tight’ on eggs before introducing the hatching eggs to her.
  • Select a good nest box which will provide a dark interior for the hen.  A small entrance hole will help reduce the light inside the box
  • Dig a turf about 100mm thick and turn it soil-side up.
  • Scoop enough soil from the centre of the turf so that when you turn it over (grass-side up) a natural hollow results.
  • Put the turf in the box and on the grass put plenty of clean straw for the eggs to sit on.
  • The turf will provide moisture for the eggs so every 5-6 days, wet the turf around the sides with about a cup of water.  Don’t flood it!
  • Once a day, lift the hen off the nest to feed her and pass faeces. It’s very important that she doesn’t become constipated. 
  • When you lift her off, make sure there are no eggs under her wings.
  • Block the door of the nest box off to stop her going back to the nest until she has fed and defaecated.  This should only take about 20 mins and the bit of exercise she’ll get when feeding and scratching is important.
  • When the hen is off the nest, turn the eggs over, though a good broody hen will do this herself.  Just check they are all sound and none cracked or broken.
  • Keep this whole job very quiet so keep dogs and cats away.
  • Once the chicks start to hatch, remove any shells if the hen doesn’t throw them out of the nest.
  • The chicks will not need any food for a day and hopefully by then all eggs will be hatched.
  • If any eggs have not hatched by this time, then suspect they have problems.
  • The other option is to take the chicks away that have hatched and put in a warm ventilated box to see what is going to happen to the last eggs.
  • Have some special young chick crumb feed ready and feed them on a sheet of newspaper.
  • Hold them carefully and dip their beaks into a shallow dish of water after they have fed.
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