How long do hens sit on eggs?

In this article, we will answer the question “How long do hens sit on eggs?”, and how many eggs can a chicken sit on to hatch?

How long do hens sit on eggs?

Once the eggs are laid, the hen will sit on the eggs for more or less 21 days, to promote hatching. During this time, the hen seldom leaves its nest to eat, drink and de-stress herself. 

What is a broody hen and how to identify it?

A broody hen is the one that lays eggs. Broodiness is controlled by factors like instinct, lighting, and instinct. Some breeds like Silkies, Cochins, and Australoops are known for brooding. 

A brooding hen resides in a dark, secluded, and comfortable place like a nest. Their nest may be inside the coop or outside of it. The hen keeps the eggs warm and moist with its plucked feathers.

A brooding hen is very defensive when approached. To exert her dominance, she tries to growl, puff her feathers, or shriek at the invader. The broody hen wouldn’t leave her eggs except once or twice per day when she is hungry or thirsty. 

Because of this, the health of a broody hen declines during this period and it sheds a lot of weight. For the hen to be able to brood again, it should recover from the stress of the previous brooding first. Broody poop has a very pungent and nasty smell.

How many eggs can a chicken sit on to hatch?

A chicken can sit on a dozen eggs at once. To prevent the eggs from breaking, mother hen should be given a generous space that is comfortable for her. 

If you keep several laying eggs in a coop, the hens will share their nest boxes and will happily brood the eggs laid by another chicken. 

Why do chickens sit on eggs?

The embryo needs warmth to develop into a chick. This warmth is provided by the mother hen who incubates the egg by sitting on them and protecting them. 

The mother hen uses its plucked feathers to make the nest comfortable and to surround the eggs. 

The mother hen keeps the eggs moving with her feet to prevent the eggs from sticking and to promote healthy embryo development. 

Not every hen has the ability to brood. Hormones play an important role in regulating brooding. To allow the eggs to hatch, you should either have a broody hen or an incubator in place.

Do chickens kick bad eggs out of the nest?

Some of the eggs may not hatch because of infertility, unfavorable environmental factors, or a faulty embryo. An egg with a dead embryo eventually starts to rot from the inside. Such an egg stinks if you break it open. 

Most often, the rotten eggs break on their own due to the pressure of the accumulated gases inside them. The rotten mass smells disgusting and the bacteria released from it may contaminate the eggs and the nest.

Therefore, it is very important to get rid of rotten eggs. Sometimes, the hen will do this job but not always. Sometimes, hens continue to brood over rotten eggs and even kick out the healthy eggs. The bottom line is that a mother hen’s instinct is not very reliable in this case. 

Your best bet is to check for the integrity of the eggs using the candling method after 1 week or 10 days of incubation. Remove any rotten, cracked, or misshapen eggs as soon as you can.

Are chickens good parents?

In a commercial farming situation, a broody hen is of no use since the industry relies on incubators. However, under natural circumstances, as in some small farms, the mother hen proves to be an excellent parent. 

She teaches her chicks how to eat and catch prey. However, not every broody hen mothers her hatches chicks. So, you can expect a broody hen to utterly abandon her newly hatched chicks. That is where plan B comes in handy, that is, another broody hen or an incubator.

How to perform the candling test?

Candling is performed to check if the embryos are healthy or not by flashing light through the bottom of the broody eggs. Apart from this test, you should always sniff the eggs on a whim, from the start of incubation, to make sure no egg is rotten.

Ideally, this should be done after dark and on the 10th or 17th day of incubation. The eggs should not be disturbed after day 18. Because after the 18th day, the embryo starts to set in the position of hatching. 


In this article, we answered the question “How long do hens sit on eggs?”, and how many eggs can a chicken sit on to hatch?


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