Can I leave a hen in the nest box to hatch her eggs?

Q. When a hen goes broody can you leave her in the nest box to hatch her eggs and then, when the chicks arrive, leave them all together as one extended happy family?

A. Jeremy Hobson says: You can – but I personally would advise against it as it can cause all manner of problems; not least of which is that your other hens will lay in the same box and unless you’ve carefully marked the batch of fertile eggs you’ve been saving until there’s enough for a clutch, there’s a chance that new-laid eggs will get mixed with the ones intended for hatching. There’s also the danger that your other hens could kill the chicks once hatched. It’s far better to put your broody and eggs in a quiet coop and run well away from the main flock (Articles previously published in Your Chickens and the relevant chapters of chicken-keeping books will tell you the best way of doing this). Once the chicks have hatched, she will be happy to look after them until they are around six weeks of age – by which time the broody may well have come into lay again. She can then be returned to the flock (be prepared for a bit of bullying from the others until the status quo has been established), leaving the chicks in the coop and run until they are either old enough to be integrated into the flock or moved into separate ‘adult’ housing depending on your set-up and future plans (you might, for instance, want to mate them with an unrelated cock bird to introduce fresh blood).

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