It comes entirely naturally for a hen to sit on her eggs – regardless of whether they are fertilized on not. Besides, this is how a hen must incubate and prepare her chicks for hatching. It’s part of her motherly role – either way. But how many eggs does it take for her to proceed? Here is all that you need to know.
So how many eggs does a hen lay before she sits on them? A hen will typically lay 12 eggs (this collection is known as a clutch) before she sits on them for incubation. She’ll then proceed to sit on these eggs for 24 hours per day, for 21 days straight, in order for them to hatch.
Allowing a broody hen to raise her offspring is an incredible process to witness.
From egg to chick, a broody hen will incubate and care for her young until they are ready to become independent.
They’re quite the mothers.
And we have to admire the tenacity of these birds.
They’re willing to sit for a significant amount of time on their eggs.
They will even do so on unfertilized eggs for up to 7 weeks, before they will ultimately give up. Persistence.
When it comes to the incubation of fertilized eggs, it’s essential to keep a close eye on your broody hens and their eggs, to make sure the process is going to plan.
The rest of this article will help you do so, providing you with some of the foundational knowledge of this process, and key aspects of the journey!
How Many Eggs Are In A Chicken Clutch?
The average clutch contains 12 eggs, although there is often some variation in this number. A healthy laying hen will produce an egg every 24-27hours, therefore it can take up to 2 weeks for a hen to lay all the eggs in a clutch.
A clutch is a name given for a group of eggs that have been laid by a hen in close succession, on consecutive days.
Once a clutch is complete, the hen will then sit on the eggs to incubate them to the point of hatching. A hen will not sit on her eggs until the full clutch has been laid; this ensures that all the chicks will hatch at about the same time.
There are various factors that can affect how many eggs are in a clutch including the age of hen, nutrition, seasonality, and genetics of the individual hen.
Hens usually start laying eggs at around 18 weeks of age and will continue to productively lay eggs until they are 5-7 years old.
Past 7 years of age hens might lay the odd egg here and there, but usually not on a consistent basis.
Young hens up to 2 years of age are often the most productive and will lay more eggs in a clutch; after 2 years old the number of eggs laid in a clutch will gradually reduce as a chicken’s age.
Nutrition also plays an important role in determining how many eggs a chicken will lay.
Without sufficient energy intake and a balanced diet, even the most genetically gifted of chickens won’t be able to produce eggs to their maximum potential.
The energy taken in by a hen will be used directly to produce new eggs.
How Many Hours A Day Does A Hen Sit On Her Eggs?
A broody hen will sit on her eggs for 24 hours a day to incubate them.
The average time it takes for an egg to hatch is 21 days and the hen will sit on her eggs for this entire period, often being aggressive to anything or anyone that comes near.
By sitting on her eggs, a hen provides body heat to incubate them.
This warmth is important in ensuring proper development of the chick within the egg and that a healthy chick will hatch after 21 days.
Many broody hens will even pull out their own feathers on their underside to allow for direct skin contact with the egg’s underneath, further facilitating the transfer of heat.
A motherly chicken will also turn her eggs occasionally underneath her; this ensures that the developing chicks don’t stick to the inside of the shell.
While these behaviors are instinctive to a broody hen, they cannot be forced.
Environmental factors are important, but a hen will only become broody if she has the right hormonal changes occurring within her and unfortunately for some chickens, this is not the case.
If you haven’t noticed your hen exhibiting these behaviors once she has laid her clutch, then consider incubating the eggs yourself in a mechanical incubator.
This eliminates any worries you might have over whether a hen is sitting on her eggs for long enough.
How Do You Get A Hen To Sit On Her Eggs?
You can’t force a chicken to sit on her eggs and unfortunately much of the broody behavior required has been bred out of chickens over time.
As mentioned above, not all hens will be broody from the start.
To exhibit broody behavior the correct balance of hormonal and environmental factors must come together and unfortunately, this is something chicken owners have little control over.
With the increasing availability of incubating chambers, there has been less requirement for broody hens and so they can be harder to come across.
However, there are still some things that you can do to encourage and increase the chances that your hen exhibits broody behavior.
Leave Real or Fake Eggs
You can try leaving real or even fake eggs in the nest.
Adding unfertilized shop-bought eggs or even fake rubber eggs may encourage your hen to sit on them, thus increasing the chances that she successfully incubates any viable fertilized eggs that she has laid.
Provide Easily Accessible Feed and Water
A broody hen needs a balanced diet and so one reason why she may not be displaying broodiness is that she feels unable to eat and drink at the same time as sitting on her eggs.
Ensure that there is a readily available supply of food and water nearby so that your hens don’t have to choose between sitting on their eggs and eating enough.
A hen may leave her eggs for 10-15 minutes at a time to eat but she will be apprehensive to go for any longer; by reducing the distance she has to go to eat she will spend more time sitting on her eggs and be broodier as a result.
Plus, this ensures that she is taking in an adequate amount of food to remain healthy.
Ensure that you hens have a dark, safe place to sit on their eggs.
A broody hen needs to know that her eggs are safe from potential predators so by providing a secure space she will be encouraged to sit on them.
If a hen thinks that her and her clutch are vulnerable she is unlikely to sit on them.
It’s also important to note that some breeds of chicken are naturally inclined to be broodier than others. Silkies, Cochins and Australorps are often considered the broodiest of all breeds.
If the methods above don’t work then unfortunately your hen may not possess the genetic makeup needed to be a broody mother.
However, all is not lost.
If you have multiple hens, and only some of them are displaying broody behavior, then you can move as many eggs as possible under the more broody hens; these hens should then act as surrogate mothers.
Of course, another alternative is to incubate the eggs yourself.
This takes out the guesswork as to whether your hens are providing the optimal conditions for their eggs and many chicken keepers will use this method as their first option.
How Long Does A Hen Sit On Her Eggs?
A broody hen will sit on her eggs until they are ready to hatch – this works out at about 21 days in most cases. However, some eggs may take a little longer to hatch, even up to 26 days, and so the hen may have to sit on her eggs for longer.
If a hen stops sitting on her eggs, then she may have stopped being broody.
This can sometimes occur if the hen is young and it is her first time sitting on eggs.
If this is the case, then you might choose to foster those eggs to another hen or incubate them yourself.
Another possible reason why your hen may have stopped sitting on her eggs is because she has a mite infestation.
Mites will make a hen incredibly itchy and so it may become intolerable for them to continue sitting in the nest where the mites live.
You should always keep your chickens treated for mites if you suspect this to be a problem.
As you can see there are many factors involved in determining how many chicks will be successful in hatching from their eggs.
While many of these factors are out of your control, it is important to be able to quickly identify when problems might be arising so that you can intervene if necessary.
Allowing your hens to care for their own eggs is rewarding, but you should never assume that the process will always go as nature intended.
Having a mechanical incubator as a backup is advised in case your hens are not displaying the broody behavior required to successfully raise their offspring.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.