Setting Hens

by Merissa on June 29, 2012

in Featured, Homestead Hints

Setting Hens

Setting Hens

Watching baby chicks hatch out of their eggs has to be one of the most unique experiences a farm or city kid can have. A real live fuzzy little animal comes right out of something that you can find hundreds of at your local grocery store. Well kinda....

If you are raising backyard chickens than having setting hens on eggs to hatch out chicks is a fun and great learning experience in your homestead lifestyle.

We discovered this week we have a setter hen or a broody hen. (I always called them setters...broody sounds grumpy!) My mom discovered this week she also had a setter so we decided to put some eggs under them and see what happens.


Before you decide you hatch eggs out you need to find out if you actually have setting hens. Watch your hen for about a week. If she is always in the nest when you go to check on her, that's a good sign. She may also pluck out some of her feathers to create her nest. She will stop laying eggs and she can possibly get very grumpy. If your bird has all these signs she probably is a setter!

The first step is getting fertilized eggs under her. If you have a rooster in with your hens you can just use those eggs. I can't stand roosters (been chased around the yard one too many times!) so I don't have one and had to get my eggs from a friend that does. When  we got the eggs we marked them with an X s we know which are fertilized in case another bird decides to lay in the setting hens nest.


Take the eggs and put them right next to the hen, she will pull them under her wings and into the nest.

After that it's up to the hen to do the work. She will turn the eggs to make sure the heat is distributed evenly. And don't worry if she shoves eggs out of the nest, she knows when a chick is growing and when one has died.

In about 21 days you should start to hear some little peeping from the eggs. The hen will cluck back to them to try and get them to crack their shells and come out. If you don't already have her in a separate area you might want to use something like a large dog kennel as the mama hen starts teaching her chicks the ropes of eating, scratching, and drinking. I think the chicks are SO cute when they climb on top of the mama hen! Note that not all the eggs may hatch on the same day. The hen should stay on the nest until she senses that all the chicks that are going to hatch have hatched.

The sooner you move the chicks away from the mama the sooner she will start laying again.

Learn more about Homestead Living and Raising Backyard Chickens!  If you're new to raising chickens, check out these other posts:

Have you ever hatched out chicks? Any tips or advice you would give?

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9:00 am

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carrie June 29, 2012 at 10:54 am

We have hatched out a few this summer. It is so neat to watch them with their Mama. We were able to modify our coop a little to keep them inside and avoid getting another location ready for them. One thing we read that was helpful was to keep their food and water inside something only they can get into.


2 Pat June 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm

We have a ‘setter’. She had been setting on several eggs. Was moody. She snapped at me once when I went out to check on her. Anyhow…she ended up getting off the nest about the first triple digit day and wouldn’t go back in. I gathered the eggs, (all of which were from that week) I candled them. Nothing.
So…we ate ’em!

Anyway…now she is back to setting. Will truly broody chicks leave the nest? do they get up to stretch their legs? drink, eat and poop? What?
I’m just not sure. I don’t want to take anymore eggs from her if she is going to hatch some out. Yes, we have a rooster.But the other hens keep coming in a laying more eggs in the box!

Thanks for posting this, and thanks in advance for any other tips you might have. ~ Pat


3 Merissa June 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm

They do get up from their nest, it’s normal! They need to eat and drink and take care of themselves:)


4 Teri June 30, 2012 at 1:27 pm

One of my red chickens hatched one egg a couple summers ago. She was on a nest of about 15 eggs. One baby died before it got all the way out of the shell but one made it. Her name is Miracle. Mama was a very good mama and very protective. It’s neat because we lost our rooster Emerald the following winter due to old age but Miracle has some of his coloring. He was a cool rooster – just protected the girls but didn’t pay much mind to us. As soon as she was able, Mama took her out and about. I’ve got a Mama duck now with 7 little ones and she’s doing much better this time around! Enjoy watching them grow – it’s an awesome thing trying to figure out if it’s a hen or rooster!


5 RevAllyson May 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm

In the flock of hens I’m purchasing mid-June, I’m getting two Dark Brahma hens and a rooster, which I’m hoping will turn into a lucrative thing. Apparently the Dark Brahma’s are prone to broodiness, so I will let them set eggs whenever I can. They’re a heavy bread, not big egg layers anyhow. We’ll eat their offspring as meat, and they can set on the other eggs as well! Our new coop has a 12 foot run attached, and I’ll modify one end of that run for a momma hen if we get one. 🙂


6 susan hall May 16, 2013 at 1:33 pm

We have a broody bantham that was sitting on one of her eggs and an egg from one our full size hens. Three days later I added two additional eggs from our full size hens. I am waiting to see if she will mama all the chicks even if they are different breeds. Do you have any information on that?
Yes – we have 2 roosters, but they are both bantham roosters. This may be interesting.


7 Melissa September 20, 2013 at 12:14 am

I have used broody hens several times and keep a flock of bantam cochins just for this. What I have learned is to make sure her feet don’t get wet when she gets off the nest, this can harm the eggs when she gets back on.
I always let her decide when she is done raising the babies. I have no interest in providing heat and shelter for a bunch of baby birds when their mama does such a great job. A broody hen that has hatched out babies, well those are her babies, doesn’t matter if she laid the egg or if they are a different breed or even ducks.
I do mark the eggs and try to set them all under her at the same time so they hatch at the same time.
Since the mama isn’t getting up and running around while she is broody I try to offer her extra nutrition treats. You can usually tell who is not laying by their pale comb color. It takes a lot out of them being broody even though they are getting a break from egg laying, I just use it as a chance to build them back up especially while they are brooding out the little ones.
Oh and I sacrificed an old oven mitt and made a slit in it so I can get my fingers out and reach under then hen and it doesn’t matter how hard she pecks cause my hand is now protected. 😀


8 mike May 6, 2016 at 7:08 am

does my setting hen need food and water, both avail in my case, but she has not moved from the eggs for a week??????? ill not intervene.
thanx for your help


9 Merissa May 6, 2016 at 11:18 am

She will get off of her nest when she is hungry and thirsty, although you may not see her do it. Just make sure she has plenty of food and water somewhere nearby and she will find it when she’s ready. 🙂


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