How Many Chicks Can a Hen Care For? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Hi All, I have Buff Orpingtons and just discovered a hen that looks like she's "sitting" tonight. I have about a dozen or so fertile eggs I can put under her. I've always heard that a hen can take care of many more chicks than she can hatch out. I received an incubator at Christmas. I was thinking of trying to hatch additional eggs out of the fridge to hatch at the same time and slip the chicks under the hen at night. Does anyone have any idea what a reasonable number would be in addition to the dozen or so eggs she's on?

-- Mel Carroll in N.C. (, March 10, 2002


The problem is the chicks need to be able to all fit under the hen to keep warm for the first several days. If she has to many chicks some are going to be left out in the cold. Also, more chicks are harder to protect. I know other chickens just love to attack baby chicks. I have always left the number of eggs for hatching right around 12. I did have a hen hatch 21 eggs before,in no time due to their being to many to protect she was down to 11, which she did raise.

-- george nh (, March 10, 2002.

Twelve eggs is not an unreasonable number for a Buff Orpington to sit. Chances are that not all twelve will hatch but even if they do she could probably adequately care for them given her size. I wouldn't go with any more than that in my opinion. Hopefully she'll still have good mothering instincts.


-- Alan (, March 10, 2002.

That depends on how big she THINKS she is.

My best "mothering" hen was a little white banty. We would have to put a laundry basket over her and thin out her nest. She always tried to set more eggs than she could cover.

Last year she surprised us by hatching ten chicks just about Christmas time. She had gotten up the the hay barn and we didn't even know she had a nest. I wish all my hens had her instinct.

-- Mona in OK (, March 11, 2002.

That depends ....

As above, a dozen is about right if she's free-ranging during the day. However, if you put them in a little pen (say fifteen or twenty feet square) all of their own, with a small shelter for hen and chickens to all huddle together in during the night (and/or artificial warmth if you need it at the time), then she could probably handle two dozen.

-- Don Armstrong (, March 11, 2002.

We had a little cochin banty who sat on 21, and hatched out 17!! She was a dedicated mom. A lot of those chicks were standard Buff O's. It was so funny to see her call to them. they would all come running and she would fluff out every single feather she had to fit them in. She would have chicks sticking out everywhere! This was in warm weather other wise she would have lost some. Normally I would limit it to about a dozen, but she escaped our notice.

-- Lynelle SOwestVA (, March 11, 2002.

Though I know some people on here have reported hatching eggs that came from the refrigerator, I think you're asking to be disappointed to do so. Embryos stop developing at a certain temperature, and even if some of them do hatch I wouldn't imagine the chicks would be all that healthy. As for the first question, I'd say 12 is a good number. Like the above posts suggest, it's not just how manyshe can cover or hatch, but how many chicks she can take care of.

-- Jeff Baker (, March 11, 2002.


-- cody (, March 12, 2002.

Hi Cody, I'm afraid my hen sitting turned out to be a false alarm. Last year my hens seemed to sit later than my neighbors - more like the first of May. Have you tried putting up a "wanted" ad at feed stores? In North Carolina our Department of Agriculture puts out a free paper where N.C. residents can run free ads for agriculture items. At one point I needed a rooster - ran a wanted ad and found one about 30 miles away. Good luck in your search!

-- Mel Carroll (, March 13, 2002.

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