Will A Broody Hen Adopt Chicks?

Our Buff Orpington Goldie was broody. Really broody.

I’ve had hens go broody before and they always seem to just get over it within about a week. Because I don’t rely on eggs for my income and the broodiness I’ve seen has been short-lived, I’ve never bothered to “break” a broody hen with a broody box or anything.

But Goldie was super broody. I nicked her eggs, she found others. More aggressive hens crawled all over her to get to the nest box – even kicking her out – and she sat serenely.

Broody Hen

She’s always been our big girl, but her feathers seemed to get fluffier and more puffed out by the day. Eventually it occurred to me that she had been doing this for a couple weeks and had demonstrated a real dedication to becoming a mom.


Only one problem. We live in suburbia. It’s a No Rooster Zone, and so there was no way short of immaculate conception that any of the eggs Goldie was patiently brooding were ever going to hatch into chicks.

Since we were planning on getting new chicks anyway this year, it occurred to me that her broodiness could be a real win-win. We could make Goldie a mama, rewarding her broodiness, and she could do the work of rearing this year’s little fluffballs for us.

First I looked into buying fertilized eggs. Those things are not cheap, and besides, eggs don’t come sexed, so I’d need more eggs than I wanted final layers and I’d be responsible for slaughtering or re-homing any roosters. That option didn’t appeal.

Next I thought it might be possible to get really little chicks from the feed store and pull a swap-a-roo on Goldie. If I could make her think her eggs had hatched…well…maybe she’d adopt the little feed store peepers as her own.

As it turned out, my local feed store was getting in the breed of chicks I wanted, Red and Black Sex Links, in two days. I had a plan. If worst came to worst, I figured, I would raise the chicks myself.


Mission: Chick Adoption

Spoiler alert: Mission: Chick Adoption worked, and has been the most rewarding, incredible, awesome thing I have ever participated in as a chicken keeper. But for several hours it was also the most terrifying, nerve-wrecking, stressful thing I’d ever participated in as a chicken-keeper.

I did a lot of things wrong when I introduced Goldie to her new chicks, and those mistakes could have cost the chicks their lives. I’ll go through my mistakes and tell you how to do it better.

Extremely eager to get the youngest possible chicks, I went at the feed store on the day the Black and Red Sex Links were scheduled to come in. I was there just a bit after opening, and unfortunately that was two hours before the chicks came in from the post office.

Minor setback.

Later that day, Homebrew Husband scooted out of work a bit early and stopped by the feed store to pick up Goldie’s new babies on the way home.


It was late afternoon at this point, and I was feeling a lot of pressure to get the day-old chicks under Goldie as soon as possible. I didn’t want to miss whatever bonding window there is between broody hens and baby chicks. I was also due at my part-time, evening job in a little over an hour, which increased the feeling of urgency to get this done. (Mistake #1)

We slipped the babies under Goldie from behind, swapping chicks for the eggs she was warming, and then watched.


Everything seemed ok for a bit. Goldie didn’t seem to notice the little fluffy additions under her bum, but she wasn’t attacking them, which was my big fear. The chicks themselves stopped their nervous peeping and went quiet and calm as soon as they had a warm bundle of feathers to snuggle under.

“Was that all it took?” I wondered?

Sadly, no.

The rest of the flock sensed something was up. The nesting box Goldie was in was open to the rest of the coop (Mistake #2) and one of the Ameraucanas bull-rushed that nesting box, literally climbing up and over Goldie’s back. I grabbed the Ameraucana and tossed her back out into the run. Within minutes she was back, charging right past my observation point and clawing back towards the chicks again. Again, I threw her back into the run.

This was when I really started to panic. Goldie wasn’t protecting the chicks as I’d expected and I was sure that if I left her and the new babies to go to work, I’d come back to find four dead chicks.

I needed mama hen to understand that she had babies to protect, so I pulled the chicks out from under her and tried to make introductions. (Mistake #3). Goldie tolerated the chicks and I thought things were ok until she half-heartedly pecked toward one of them and I realized face-to-face bonding was a huge mistake.


“This isn’t working,” I told my husband, “I think we have to move them.” He went into Go-Mode, pulling together a makeshift brooder from a large rubbermaid tote and setting it up in the laundry room.

In the meantime, I was essentially live-commenting this experience on my Facebook page, and I said Goldie wasn’t keeping the chicks safe from the rest of the flock.

“Separate them! A mama with babies should be separate so that the babies aren’t attacked,” reader Allison commented, correctly.

When we built our current coop a few years ago, we converted our old small run into an isolation and brooder coop, and it was available for Goldie and the chicks. I attempted to move everyone over there. (Mistake #4) This was very distressing to Goldie, who tried desperately to get back to her nesting box.

“It can take a while for her to get into mama mode from broody mode,” came another great piece of advice from Stacy on my Facebook page.

I had to move Goldie back to the nest box. She was pacing like crazy and wouldn’t settle in the brooder coop. She’s a very mellow hen, but I think she was trying to get back to the clutch of eggs I’d already taken.

Meanwhile, the chicks were peeping (I was so worried they’d get too cold!), so I shoved two down my sports bra and held two in one hand, got Goldie in the other arm and we made the move back to the original nesting box. Back in the expected place, Goldie settled right down. I placed the chicks back under her wings and breast and started pulling together a divider that would keep mama and babies safe from the other hens.

Luckily, I have all kinds of garden crap hanging around my yard, so it barely took any time to find a suitable scrap of hardware cloth to section off Goldie’s nest box from the rest of the flock. I bent it into a U-shape and stapled it to the edges of her nesting box so there was just enough room outside the nest for a chick feeder, a dish of water, and a teeny, chick-sized exploration area.


Free from the molestations of other hens or – ahem – me, Goldie relaxed into contented little clucking pretty quickly. She seemed more-or-less unaware of the chicks.

I felt sure that the hardware cloth would protect the chicks from other hens, what I didn’t know was if Goldie would take care of the chicks. I didn’t know if they would freeze to death under her. I didn’t know if she would notice them all-of-a-sudden and decide to peck them to death. I didn’t know if I was dooming four chicks because of some hare-brained romantic notion about giving a broody chicken some babies.

“Keep an eye on them?” I asked my daughter, the chicken whisperer. She agreed to watch for signs of aggression and pull the chicks away to the indoor brooder if she had too.

And then I went to work.

The Next Day

We weren’t sure what we’d find in the morning.

I think Goldie woke up and said, “Hey look, my eggs hatched!” because after a very stressful (to me at least) beginning, she has been a model mama. I don’t quite know how to express this without seeming like I’m drawing inappropriate parallels, but I feel a sort of grandma pride in how good she is with the chicks.

Here’s a quick video that shows just how patient she is with her adopted babies. This was taken the day after the initial rough introduction and you can see she’s willing to put up with a lot from her chicks.

It was incredible to see Goldie care for her adopted babies. Chicken TV to the nth power. Even my high-energy son stood rapt, watching the maternal avian instinct on display.


At one point my daughter reached out to give Goldie a handful of the layer feed we feed our hens. She had access to the chick feed but my daughter wanted to hand feed her because she was concerned Goldie wasn’t eating enough.

Mama hen carefully picked out pieces of field peas and cracked grain from the proffered feed but didn’t eat them – she used her beak to chomp them down into smaller pieces then dropped those in front of the chicks for them to eat.

After a couple days, the chicks were exploring the full reach of their teeny screened off nest box arena and doing their best duck impressions. We decided everyone needed a little more space.


We moved Goldie and the chicks to the brooder coop and they settled right down. Sometimes Goldie looks around and I swear she’s counting babies to make sure they are all there. I mean, I know chickens can’t count…but maybe they can count baby chicks, ya know?


We covered the top of the brooder coop with black plastic to keep out the rain and slipped heavy cardboard along the exposed side for insulation and windbreak. It’s not a lot to look at, but everyone seems to like their spacious new digs.


When the chicks are a bit older, we’ll let them run with the rest of the flock, supervised until we determine how good Goldie is at protecting them. For now, they get all the pine shavings they can kick and all the care a mama hen can give.

Want another adorable video of the ladies in their new home? Of course you do:

How To Introduce Chicks To A Broody Hen (The Right Way)

I made a lot of mistakes introducing our four new little peepers to Goldie, so I asked the chicken experts at Scratch and Peck Feed how to get a broody hen to adopt chicks – and do it the right way.

Matthew Aamot was kind enough to answer my question:

First, I’d preface this with a blanket disclaimer – all hens are different. Even the best of breeds will sometimes not accept chicks. I had one particularly frustrating Silky hen that never did accept the chicks that I tried to have her foster, and Silkies are one of the best! But – here goes:

  • Before you introduce the chicks, get the broody comfortable in a pen that can be enclosed to protect the chicks from other hens and to prevent any chicks from wandering away that first night.
  • Timing is important – it’s best to use 5-day old or less chicks for the fostering – the younger the better – and introduce them towards the evening. Evening hours are important because the hen is more relaxed.
  • Hold the chick in your hand, cupped up, and reach under the hen like you are going to steal an egg away. Instead, you deposit the little bundle of fun, and repeat. I always place chicks under the hen, never in front of her.
  • It’s very important to only do this with a hen who has exhibited a clear desire to hatch her chicks – to be safe, she should be broody for at least a week if not a little longer.

Like I said, success in not guaranteed, but if you follow these steps you have a great chance. Thanks and good luck!

Scratch and Peck, the company Matthew works for, sells the best chicken feed, and is an ethical, organic company run by really nice people. They also help make this blog possible through direct sponsorship, so if you keep hens, please keep Scratch and Peck in mind!

For more info on working with a broody hen and how to set her up for success raising chicks, I recommend the Mother Earth News article Raise Your Best Flock Using Broody Hens. It’s by Harvey Ussery, author of The Small-Scale Poultry FlockAlthough the article focuses on hens hatching out fertilized eggs, not fostering of hatched chicks, it has a ton of valuable advice. Had I read it before I attempted Mission: Chick Adoption a lot of stress would have been avoided.

Was It Worth It?

So, happy ending and happy peeping chicks, but was that initial scary set-up session worth the outcome? Would I do it again?

In a heartbeat. Of course, I’d do it right next time, making the chick swap at night, and proving a secure, dedicated space for mama and babies before the chicks were here.

I’ve already found that there are many advantages to letting an appropriate hen rear chicks.

  • It’s adorable. Yes, I know this isn’t the most practical thing, but I am a person almost totally devoid of sentimentality, and seeing this hen with these chicks has been one of the most heartwarming things ever. If you are already an ooey-gooey type, you might completely melt into a big pile of awwwwwwe, cute!. Consider yourself warned.
  • It’s cleaner. Raising chicks indoors with a heat lamp isn’t hard, but as they get older there’s a lot of dust, and eventually it gets pretty stinky even with dedicated brooder maintenance. While we enjoy holding and cuddling with baby chicks, by the time they have feathered out and are big enough to go outside, we are usually happy to move them along to that next stage.
  • It’s less work. All we are doing is managing food and water, as we do for all our chickens. Goldie is taking care of keeping them warm and their location outside means the poop management is mostly taken care of by soil microbes.
  • It may be healthier for the chicks. Yes, there are risks. But chicks raised by a broody hen within a healthy, thriving flock pick up immunities and are exposed to a healthy diverse diet of bugs and grass far earlier than chicks kept inside in a brooder.

Have you ever had a broody hen adopt day-old chicks? How did it go? I’d love to 


  1. says

    We’re at the stinky stage right now with our babies. I wish I had a broody hen. (I don’t think I ever have.) Being in the warm Bay Area, we can probably let them join the flock in a week or two. I haven’t been using the heat lamp for a while now.

    • sue says

      We tried a chick and duckling with our hen, the duck was very lively and did not settle. I found it later hiding behind the water dish, the chick had been smoothered, not pecked. I wonder if I should try again with more chicks.

  2. says

    Another tip for future reference from someone who grew up with chickens: Introduce the chicks at night. They naturally stay under her because it’s warm, it’s where she expects new born chicks in to be in the first place, and she has time to shift from broody to mama hen mode. Also, if you have to move a broody hen, it’s best to do it during the night- much less chance of her going un-broody.

  3. says

    We have a sporadically broody hen, who started acting up RIGHT BEFORE we got chicks this year. I briefly entertained trying this, but decided she hadn’t sat long enough for it to work. Based on your story, I think I made the right call, but how cool that it worked for you!! My plan, had I time, was to set up an alternate space for her in the garage. But the same things appealed to me–no brooder, possibly easier integration into the flock, and no mess in the house! If she has another serious broody fit (last year she actually tried to prevent all the other hens from going in the coop for a few days!) I may try to locate a couple of babies for her. It sounds so fun (after the initial stressful intro, ha).

  4. Laura says

    I’ve been able to introduce chicks to broodies several times, it’s never *not* worked (and they’ve also sat on/hatched eggs on their own) — and just be sure you switch mama and babies to chick starter, not layer feed! chick starter has more protein and less calcium, which i believe can be bad for chicks in too high of levels.

  5. says

    I’ve been putting chicks under adoptive mom’s for what seems like forever. Silkies do make the best mom’s for that but you have to be careful not to give them too many large breed chicks as they have a hard time keeping them warm as they grow. They out grow moma faster than other smaller breeds. Silkies also seem to be more likely to adopt another nest as long as there are eggs in it. I currently have a white silky with 4 adopted babies. I too believe the babies are happier and better adjusted than brooder raised chicks. They are already adapted to the fact that there is a night time. I believe brooder raised hens have a higher incidence of stuck eggs, blow out and other reproductive problems including smaller eggs from exposure to artificial light 24/7. Just my observation.

    Another rule you may want to add to your list is this. Don’t introduce the mom and babes too early. The babies will need to be big enough to take some abuse from the rest of the flock and that will most likely be when mother is mostly done with them. I keep mom and babies in a separate chicken tractor during the day where the others can see but not touch and even at that mother tries to defend her brood through the wire of the tractor. If you don’t want fighting in your coop introduce the babies through a protective divider first.

  6. says

    We just moved our most reliable broody hen – a blue cochin – last night to the brooder cage in preparation to give her chicks Friday evening. This is how we raise 90% of our incoming chicks because we have so much other stuff to do, raising new chicks is one more chore I don’t need. When moving a broody hen, it’s best to do it at night and keep her cage dark for a couple of days to get her settled in.

    The bonus for hen raised chicks is you will experience less problems with coccidiosis because the chicks are on the ground young and able to develop immunity to the oocysts before they become a problem at 3 weeks-16 weeks. If we don’t hen raise, we still brood out in the coop in a wire crate right on the ground. Makes us able to avoid medicated feed.

  7. Laurel says

    Yes, we’ve done this but we don’t always have a broody when the feed stores are selling chicks. Like right now we have cuckoo marans chicks in the house because none of the hens are broody. A friend of ours has a hen that will ALWAYS accept chicks even when she’s not broody. Now that’s a keeper!

    We live in the country so we’ve got roosters. All the eggs are fertilized so sometimes we just throw some into an incubator and do it ourselves. It’s great having the mama raise them though. Like you said – she does all the protecting and warming and all we have to provide is food & water. Oh, and occasionally rescue a chick in the evening that can’t find where mama has bedded down.

  8. Tanya says

    I have a very broody Buff right now and I was considering trying to give her our chicks because she is determined to hatch some eggs. We are adding 15 chicks to our flock this year. Any advice on how many I can give Momma?

  9. says

    I have done this twice now with fails and success. The first time, the hen attacked and killed the chicks, pecking them in the head. She was broody for months. One of those that cannot be broke. I don’t know if it is because we put them in during the day or not but we didn’t want to chance it again. Her broodiness was a problem as I do depend on my hens for eggs so she was rehomed to someone who could take advantage of her. She has never gone broody again, go figure. Next was last night. I put a showgirl and silkie under a silkie hen that had been broody for over a week. This morning, I found one dead and the other looking ruffled. Turned out an older hen wanted them even though she wasn’t broody and in the fight, killed the showgirl. A big upset for us as it was our first and a big investment for us over the last year (hundreds spent on eggs that never hatched and finally a rooster bought and shipped). Mom is now in a brooder in the basement with her lone baby and a fake egg. We have more eggs hatching in our incubator so she will be given more as they hatch. She is happy to be by herself with all she needs. Once we finish our greenhouse, we will be moving her and the chicks out there so they can move and bond and grow.

  10. Barb says

    Yay! I was wondering when the full post on this would come out. I’m so excited that its all coming together. You can bet that when I decide to expand our new flock, I’ll be hoping to have a broody to do the job for me too. Our 4 week olds in the guest room are getting starting to get pretty dusty and stinky. Husband is in charge of building the coop/run, and I’m telling him…just get the housing/coop part done do we can start managing the chicks in it – the design is tall enough that we can move the heat lamp out there and I’m confident they’ll be good to go.

    Congratulations Grandma!

  11. Fleebers says

    I have the same issue- suburban living, no roos allowed, but I really wanted to add to my flock to keep egg production steady. My Miss Jean Broodie (a buff) has 5 chicks that she’s bringing up right now. Basically introduced as you said: separate nest box, but in same coop; after she’s been broody for a week or two ; after the sun goes down when they are all calm.

    Last year we did fertilized eggs this way, 4 eggs, 2 hatched, one didn’t make it past day 5 and the final one was a roo. So it was a total loss but not due to mama. Sexed chicks seemed like a better way to go.

    She’s a great mama and they are all living together in the same coop now and free range the yard with no issues from the other four adult ladies in my flock.

  12. Bay Herrmann says

    Erica, I learned the hard way ( is there any other way) about raising chicks, do not put them in with the adult birds until they are big enough to fend for themselves. You will have dead or seriously injured little birds otherwise, you know how territorial chickens are. Which, of course means, another chicken enclosure. Just what you wanted!!! And yes, watching a hen with babies is the best ‘chicken t.v.!!

  13. Mara says

    I’m convinced that a mama hen *can* count their chicks– or else, they know them individually. I had a mama lose a few 2-week-old chicks and even though she still had 7 left, she seemed to be looking for those two.

  14. Anne says

    Hi, LOVED it. Still have not waded into Chickens, but this helps me think about it.
    I would like to see the video you mentioned, and show it to my kids. I can’t find the link!
    Help, please!

  15. Teresa says

    We had an extremely determined broody Cuckoo Maran last spring. She sat on the nest for a couple of weeks, got discouraged for a few days, then was back at it for a week or so. We finally gave in and bought two chicks – slipping them under her in the evening. For the first couple of days, she kept them close to her and the nest box. We placed chick food and water just outside the box. She would let them go out to eat or drink but called them back if they went too far. The other hens would come up into the coop to lay and roost, and she kept the two little ones safe from them. We must have gotten lucky! I was prepared to move them into a separate area but fortunately we had no issues.

    I was worried about the babies navigating the ramp down into the run. Our coop is elevated about 3 feet off the ground. I came home from work one day and found mama and the chicks happily foraging down in the run. She led them right up to bed at dusk.

    If letting a broody hen raise the chicks for you is an option, do not hesitate! It is SO much easier than the dust and smells in the house and worrying if they’re warm enough, too warm, etc. I also appreciated not having the transition period with the older hens. We’ve had minimal issues with everyone adjusting to each other, and I think that can be at least partly attributed to raising the newbies within the flock.

  16. says

    I’m going the broader route as my hens haven’t gone broody in over a year. How do you make one do so? Sure would be easier to keep them basically together than separate. Thanks

  17. Mary R. Henry says

    We fostered 5 chicks on a buff orpington hen last year. We, luckily, have a veterinarian for a neighbor who is also a chicken keeper. We are relative newbies to urban chicken-keeping, but had many years of experience with a farm flock, so we were glad for her advice.

    We encouraged a hen to go broody by adding a couple of sand-filled plastic eggs per day to the others in a nest in the coop. When the pile got to be big enough to suit one, she began to warn the other hens off when they tried join her in the nest. We waited until she had been on the nest for over two weeks before we put the chicks under her “after all the others have gone to roost” as the vet said. The new family was in an area that the others could be excluded from and the hen decided when she was ready to rejoin the flock. She is the top of the group’s pecking order and so they did not challenge her. When another hen would appear interested in the chicks, she could expect to be warned off and attacked if she persisted. No one did it more than once.

    We now have four new hens at work in our flock, but had to rehome a rooster.

  18. says

    I love love love this post. Your pics and video could keep me daydreaming about baby chicks all day long. I am still on our first round of hens and haven’t yet needed to introduce new girls to our flock, but when the time comes I so want to try this. Thank you.

  19. Melissa says

    Our Buff Orpington is named Goldie too! ;) And she went broody a couple of years ago.We have no rooster, so the poor girl would never have hatched her own chicks. It took us FOREVER to get her off of those eggs! Thanks for sharing this post!

  20. Ginny says

    Just did this with 15 chicks. I bought a Silkie hen from a lady who didn’t like how broody she was. I put all fifteen chicks under her during the day, which she gladly accepted, and then later that night I put 7 of those chicks under a Cochin and Silkie hen that went broody together and are inseparable. The next day they were a happy family. I just put another 3 chicks under a Sizzle hen, who is related to the original purchased Silkie super mom, and it was a good sign when she lifted her body for me to put them under her. Fingers crossed that another happy family is formed tomorrow morning :) Oh and all 3 groups are in separate brood pens where they can’t be bothered by the other hens and had been broody for about 2 weeks prior to this chick adopt-a-thon.

    A Side Note- I tried to put the 7 chicks with the Cochin and Silkie hens the first day and they ran to the other side of the pen and looked terrified and wouldn’t even look at the chicks. I read that it was probably because they thought those chicks belonged to another hen and that she would be back for them any minute and kick their fannies. I stuck the chicks back under super Silkie and then waited till that night and tried it again, putting them under them while they slept and slipped them in from the behind and the next day they were so proud of the chicks that they had hatched together. So crazy what the night can do to a chicken :)

  21. Michelle says

    I have an interesting scenario going on right now. We have 3 chickens that live with 4 mallard ducks. Our ducks and chickens both lay eggs, but only the duck eggs are fertile. We also have an Orpington that is majorly broody and has been for a very long time. She is now sitting on several duck eggs. We have incubated some of the eggs and now have a bunch of ducklings we are planning to put in our pond. We decided to leave some of the eggs for our broody momma to sit on. Our son candled them (iPhone Flashlight) and knows they have babies growing inside. Does anyone have any experience with a chicken raising baby ducks or will she kill them? I have no idea what will happen. She is very sweet, but who knows how she will react in this situation. I would really appreciate some advice. Thanks!!

  22. Becky says

    Erica, I just wanted to let you know that your article was sooo helpful! I love how you included so much detail & tips. These helped us have a smooth experience with our broody hen, Grace. She had been broody for at least 6 weeks & we were going to get baby chicks anyways to increase our flock, so it seemed like a great opportunity to see if she would adopt them.
    Our Golden Comet chicks hatched on Monday night, we bought them at the feed store on Tuesday and we first gave Grace 2 babies on Wednesday night. It went soooo well, that we ended up sneaking in the others on Thursday (just a couple at a time, while each time sneaking an egg away from underneath her). So by nightfall on Thursday, she had all 10 in with her. We were just amazed at how quickly they all bonded with each other! Today was her first full day with all 10 and she has been even more amazing than we could have hoped for!! You are right, it is great entertainment & just melts your heart! She is so incredibly patient with them, protective & vigilant. We love watching how she take bits of food & drops it down for her babies. It is also neat to see the babies run & snuggle up under her for warmth or perch on top of her. Thanks again for posting your article…it was a blessing & a great help! We are having great fun enjoying God’s precious creatures. :)
    PS….I hope this link works…it’s a short video clip I took of Grace introducing a watermelon rind to her babies……https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqjTmGJA8oA

  23. says

    I’ve had mixed results getting brooding hens to adopt chicks. I’ve had some hens kill chicks, and other hens take to the new chicks without a hitch. I even had one hen adopt another hen’s brood when the other hen was snatched by a coyote. The chicks were more than two weeks old at the time, but the other hen was also raising two week old chicks. When we moved the orphan chicks where she was settled down for the night with her own chicks, she gladly took them in, and raised all the chicks.
    In my experience, it works best to introduce the chicks to the brooding hen at night. And the earlier you can do it the better. Even a few days makes a difference. I’ve noticed that hatchery chicks, which are usually two or three days old by the time you get them, aren’t as attached to their mothers as chicks that the hen hatches. But if you have an accepting brooding hen and chicks a few days old or less, the chicks do much better with a mother than without.

  24. Rose says

    I tried this with two broody Blue Swedish ducks sharing a nesting box. I brought home two chicks (Silkie and Bantam) that were 2 days old and five day old Blue Swedish ducks. The chicks crawled under a duck and the duckling chased the other duck around the coop and she ran from them. When they tried to join the other duck harboring the chicks, she tried to kill them. I didn’t think she had it in her to be so aggressive. So to be on the safe side, I just brought everybody in. I’m the grandma that ends up raising the kids.

  25. T says

    thank you for your blog. you helped save our hen from a seriously dedicated broodiness.

    Wish we had your phone number because we were in such a jam. But….we had high hopes and positive vibes……..and everything worked out.

    long story, short:
    our nursery school’s broody hen was on her nest for over 3 weeks. we got her 6 fertilized eggs to hatch. unsuccessful, she remained strong-willed and determined to be a mother…three weeks later, no hatchlings. We didn’t want to let her down so we adopted two chicks and replaced her remaining two eggs with week old chicks. she was flabbergasted and indeed proud that her eggs had finally hatched!! (although we know the truth). She fell for it….Hook, line and sinker! We were thrilled. She completely adoringly and proudly accepted her two chicks. She pecked at each of them once, (we think to make sure she wasn’t dreaming). After that, she groomed herself and began to groom them. It happened in a matter of 5 minutes.

    Thank you for your guidance and motivation.

    Would have love to post pics and video.

    Nancy, Mark & Liam Whelan and the Waldorf Petunia & Sunflower Nursery School, Santa Monica, CA

  26. Molly says

    Thanks for this article! After reading this my family and I went out and got some day-old chicks for our dedicatedly broody Buff Orpington. We also had a Barnevelder that has been broody on and off this spring. Well, they were both on the roost on “chick-swap” day and I reached in at night and swapped in three chicks for the two eggs that were there. I had closed off the henhouse from the run and they had it all to themselves. The next morning, I put food & water in there, and a while later I saw one hen had left the nest “box” (frame) and the chick I’d put under her was stuck in the box which was too high for it to get over. So I took the frame out and the chick zipped right under her new mama. Three days later everybody is doing great! The two moms seem to be sharing the babies. They are all getting the water with “chick boost” and amprolium (once a week) to treat the chicks against coccidia, and chick starter feed which has grit in it. Our third hen has been on her own for a while now and misses her flock, but she can hear them in the nest box. I’m thinking of letting the chicks & moms roam the run soon, but there are two ramps down from the nest box and I wonder if the little ones can manage it. I totally recommend doing this, they are so amazing to watch! And SO much easier than hand-raising with heat lamps, etc.

  27. Grace says

    If some of y’all are having trouble getting your hens to go broody, try fresh spearmint. I tried everything and could never get any of our hens to go broody, put some spearmint in their coop, my Speckled Sussex goes broody! Going to try to get her to foster some chicks :)

  28. Amy says

    A few years back we had two hens go broody at the same time and they were showing no signs of giving up after two weeks in the summer heat. We brought home 6, day old chicks and slipped them under the mamas after dark that night. It was awesome for my 4 year old (and myself) to watch how they instinctively and patiently took care of those little ones. We both learned so much from that whole process!

  29. says

    Darling post. And about whether or not she was counting her chicks? She might have been. I’ve read articles saying that studies indicate chickens can count and know when something is missing. They are smarter than most people give them credit for. :)

  30. Jesse says

    I tried this with a hen that was sitting on eggs but only one hatched out and survived. I bought 5 chicks that were one day older than the one that hatched and slipped them under her that night. Three of the chicks looked just like the one that had hatched and two looked very different (different breed). The next day Momma accepted the 3 chicks that looked like her’s but she ran off the other two so I had to raise those myself.

  31. Jan says

    2 broodie hens, 1 for 3 weeks, the other 4 days,. Introduced as instructed 2 day old chickens to each each hen at dark. Next morning all happy & content, that includes me. Checked hourly. Their nesting box’s R a few feet of ground so made an enclosure at same level from my hay bales.
    Midday found broody Mum off nest & 2 chicks missing. Found 1 chick & put Mum back on nesting box which she refused & just wanted to kill her chick & other 2. Wish I’d read the above story prior. 3 clicks now back inside with full warm incubation. Spent from all PM pulling all apart looking, even sat in shed with book hoping to find & here the poor little soul. Upsetting to say the least!

  32. Sarah says

    Hi my hen has just hatched 2 chicks from fertile eggs I bought for her but unfortunately one has died and I just wanted to know if I could buy some more day old chicks and get her to raise them with the one she’s got?

  33. Jan says

    On 16-10 put 2 day old chicks under each of my 2 broodie for 3 weeks Mums. Huge success! Such a wonderful experience for mums & chicks & me! Both hens share the 4 chicks who now have a small outdoor safe enclosure connected to stable pen during the day. Chicks are hustled inside immediately any perceived danger, ie birds, my dogs. The chooks have gone broodie on regular basis for up to 6 weeks, so was my first ever trial.

  34. Kylee bell says

    Great read, I was looking for information on how too when I came across your article, my first time breeding bantin chickens, it’s egg hatched hut unfortunately drowned after a week old. The next day I brought for baby chicks one week old and successfully mothered them
    With the new Forster mum very exciting thank for the information it worked :)

  35. says

    Be have a Banty named Twinkles, who just showed up on our property. The other chickens tried to kill her as she was an outsider so she just flew out of the coop, hangs around on the deck, yard & kitchen and sleeps in the kitchen behind the microwave in a towel lined bowel. She started doing this because raccoons killed one of her adopted grown babies after she had raised them. My husband & I misunderstood who locked up the chickens that night. When I first put 2 babies under Twinkles at night she accepted then. when I put one more under her the next night she killed it. I was so sorry and sad as the little innocent one died in my hand having been pecked to death. Now I know. She was protecting her 2 babies. BTW, she also crows in the morning, in the house and comes back in to lay her daily egg, guess where? Behind the microwave in her safe spot. She also enjoys a nibble of cat food on the hutch. Gotta love her, I do!

  36. says

    I have had sooo much success using Silkies for adoptive mothers. I recently had a Turken hen (notorious for being aggressive and being bad mothers) when she no longer wanted her chicks, one of my Silky moms adopted them. I have even had a Silkie rooster brood eggs. (Yes it’s true!)

  37. Kellie says

    Thanks for your article. I am about to embark on my adopt-a-chick plan. I have two broody hens that have been broody for ages – camping in the same nest box even. I may have to think of a way to separate them and give them a couple of chicks each…….or do I leave them together and slip a couple of chicks under each of them ??
    I only have one other hen in the chook house so I am hoping that she is the only one that gets separated (if at all)

    • layla says

      I’ve raised chickens for 20 something years the easiest way I learned is move hen to new safe empty nesting box that you had a hen set in before so it is already pacted down to her shape at night once settle which takes about half min. I slide chicks under her, she wont bother you at night. morning comes she will have claimed them put some starter feed in nest box in front of her she will feed them. because even if she has new chicks she will stay on nest another day or so to make sure no more eggs will hatch. because through the night she talks to them and they to her. if you listen you will hear her softy clucking as will they. and if 2 hens are together I would seperate because they will fight over chicks and they will get hurt in there squabbles.

  38. Jamie says

    Thanks so much for this article. We just built a new coop and the plan is to move the Broody hen in there and get her used to it. If she stays broody we well introduce the chicks at night as you described. When they are older we will move the other three girls in the new coop

  39. Debra says

    I was delighted to read all about your trials, errors and successes. I agree with your thoughts that chicks fair better raised by a doting hen then under the heat lamp. My husband and I are lucky to have a rooster and one of our hens go into in brooding mode so we deciding to give it a go. We allowed our determined brooder to sit on 5 freshly laid eggs we gathered in a day. She ended up with 7 underneath her. We suspected the additional 2 were added by other hens when Momma was on a nest break. There was no way we could identify who was who so we left them. We moved her to the smaller hen house no longer in use and allowed her some peace and quiet and privacy from the others at the end of her 2nd week of sitting. Momma tolerated our daily chick checks once 21 days had passed. It took about 3-1/2 weeks before signs of hatching occurred. Four healthy chicks appeared and she remained on the nest to hatch out one more chick three days later. Uncertain that the newborn would survive as Momma abandoned the nest. The new chick became cold and lethargic so we rushed to set up a heat lamp and did our best to make the baby chick comfortable along with the other two unhatched eggs. She was so frail, neither one of us expected the little chick to make it through the night but much to our surprise we woke up to a peeping fluffy yellow ball. We gave her a few days to get her sea legs and before returning her to Momma. On the 4th night we snuck her under Momma and had success. The other two eggs? They unfortunately were not fertile and gave off an odor that alerted us there was a problem. We suspected that may have been why Momma abandoned the old nest to set up house in a different area. Still, we felt pretty clever about saving the chick and successfully sneaking it under Momma, so much so that we purchased 4 more chicks and waited until dark to repeat the tuck. The next morning Momma hardly noticed her growing family and was proudly teaching all nine chicks to scratch and peck for food. When they started appearing cold and tired, Momma returned to the nest and called to them. Each came running to her. How fun to watch the little ones wiggled their way under Momma and travel up through her wing to peek out the back. Kid you not. Both my husband and I melted into a big pile of awwwwwe, cute!

  40. Lucy Green says

    Hi, I know that I’m a few months behind and a little off subject but I have a Wyandotte bantam that takes broody to a whole new level. First time round I tried to break it with a broody cage but wasn’t sold on it being very successful and it turned her into a truly vicious chicken in the process. At 5’10” I never thought that I would be running away from something smaller than a football! Her first brood lasted 5-6 weeks and this time round she has exceeded the six week point and shows no signs of coming out of it. I remove eggs as frequently as I can, lift her out of the nesting box whenever I am in the run and shoo her off to go eat, with a few extra treats. She’s a whole lot calmer this time but has plucked herself nearly bald and is feeling thin. I don’t have the space to add extra hens at the moment so adopted chicks would truly be a last resort and, as she is young and a good layer, I am loathe to give her away. I don’t mind the broody but I am concerned for her welfare. Any thoughts and suggestions would be very much appreciated!

  41. says

    This is so helpful. I have a broody Pekin and my neighbour has week-old chicks that need re-homing. I will try the recommended method! Thanks so much.

    • Jan says

      Hope neighbour is chicken sexer as would be awful to end up with roosters. 4, I bought for 2 broody hens were guaranteed girls.


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