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Lesson 637 – Broody Hens in the Winter – What to Do

By Wendythomas @wendyenthomas

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.

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

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