The original method is to have hens sit on fertile eggs for about three weeks, hatch the eggs, and raise the chicks themselves.
Most incubator and hatchery chicks are raised by people, in brooders outfitted with heat lamps to keep the chicks warm and dry.
After a trip to the post office to fetch a box of day-old chicks, I got the little peep-peepers settled in an indoor brooder with heat lamp. That night, when all was dark and quiet at the chicken coop, my hubby Jim and I put two chicks under each broody hen. 1.Make sure the hens are actually broody, having sat devotedly on eggs for at least a couple of weeks. 3.Be prepared to get the chicks started in a brooder and to brood them completely if necessary. 9.If mama and chick seem to be bonding well, place the remaining chicks under her that night and remove the rest of the eggs.
10.Repeat your visual checks the next day just to make sure the mama is handling all the chicks well and all the chicks are thriving in their new arrangement.
It’s possible that you may still need to raise chicks in a brooder if the hen will not care for the chicks or if you have more chicks than your hen(s) can handle. If the chicks are more than a few days old they may not bond to the hen even if she is willing. Hear more about our Successful Hen and Chick Adoption story at our family blog, Rural Living Today. I just successfully used a broody Cochin hen to foster three chicks I got at a local farm store.


Modern-day alternatives include hatching eggs in incubators and purchasing chicks from hatcheries. But another option is to introduce tiny chicks to broody hens and let the mamas do what comes naturally. We checked back and forth for a while and all seemed well—mamas clucking softly, babies snuggled underneath the hens. Most hens--even experienced mothers--will have no interest in raising chicks unless they are already broody.
While it’s fine to just let broodies remain with the masses, many chicken owners say the hens are more relaxed if they have solitude. Good signs are the chick staying under the hen, the hen using her beak or wing to nudge the chick under her, and the hen clucking softly to the chick. If they won’t take refuge under the hen when the air is chilly, they may die of exposure. You’ll still need to provide plenty of feed and fresh water, but mama will keep the chicks warm and cozy.
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If the hen seems aggravated or doesn’t know what to do, remove the chick and try again later. One solution for this is to keep a brooder lamp in the brooding area, preferably with a small accessible box under it.


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If you’re providing only a chick feeder, make sure the hen can get her beak inside the openings. Chicks that don’t attach to the hen can huddle under the lamp as they would in an indoor brooder.
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