How Long Do Chickens Sit on Eggs?

If you are new to raising chickens and want to expand your brood, you probably have many questions. 

The best part of having chickens is watching your fluffy chicks find their way around for the first time. 

Once you notice your hen has parked herself on her nest, you may wonder how long she’ll sit on her eggs.  

Most broody chickens sit on their clutch of eight to twelve eggs for 21 days with the ideal temperature and humidity before the clutch of eggs hatches. This incubation period is pretty consistent, and some hens may even allow their eggs to be swapped out if you want to incubate them yourself. 

Sometimes there are complications leading to longer hatching times and warning signs that your eggs might not have a successful hatch. 

Let’s look into this in a bit more detail in the rest of the article.  

how long do chickens sit on eggs

Best Chicken Breeds for Hatching 

Not all chickens are suited for naturally hatching eggs; certain breeds have had it bred out of them for egg collecting. 

Broody chicken breeds, or inclined to hatch their eggs, are: 

  • Silkie
  • Cochin
  • Orpington 
  • Brahma

These may be a good place to start if you want chicks, but you’re inexperienced. 

If you aren’t sure if you have a broody hen, use fake eggs to place in the nest and see which of the hens start sitting on them. 

The instinct to nest will come once the hen has egg-like objects to sit on.  

Take a look at these fake eggs on Amazon; they are a good starter for nesting hens.

Signs Your Chicken Is Broody And Ready For Chicks

Backyard chicken owners will know their chicken is getting ready to bring her new chicks into the world when she starts acting broody. 

Signs to look out for are heightened aggression, decreased eating and drinking, and larger poops. 

Once broody, a hen will puff up her feathers when sitting on her nest, attempting to look bigger; she’ll also peck anything or anyone coming near her nest and eggs.

You may even hear a chicken growl. 

They may be small, but motherly instincts compel them to guard their eggs, so wear gloves or take other precautions when handling a broody hen or her eggs.  

They know they need to keep the eggs warm to be born, so stay out of their way as much as possible. 

After finding a broody hen, you’ll need to ensure the eggs are fertilized, which takes a rooster. 

Ten hens to every rooster will usually do the job, ensuring most of the eggs being laid are fertilized. 

If you are not interested in raising chicks regularly, you might not want to introduce a rooster into your flock. 

Trading for fertilized eggs is another way to get them; just ensure they are the same breed.  

Related: Do you need a rooster to have chicken eggs?

Tips For A Successful Chicken Hatch

Keep the Nest Safe 

Make sure your broody has a clean, safe nesting area. 

It should be at least 1’ square foot and have nesting materials such as wood chips or hay. 

Setting up in an isolated area keeps your other chickens away from the newly aggressive mama chicken and keeps the nest safe from predators. 

Chickens lay one egg every 24-27 hours and won’t start to incubate their clutch until they have several eggs, often eight to twelve. 

Don’t be worried if your broody doesn’t start sitting on her eggs when there are only a few; she’s waiting for a full nest. 

Pro-tip: Provide comfortable chicken coop nest boxes so you always know where the eggs are going. 

What To Expect When The Hen Sits 

Once a chicken has as many as she can comfortably cover, she’ll settle in to start the hatching process. 

Chickens will sit on their nest for most of the day, taking short breaks. 

These breaks can last 15-minutes to an hour depending on the temperature and individual chicken. 

Don’t worry; mama knows best and will be back in plenty of time to ensure her eggs are OK. 

Make sure to keep food and cool water near the nesting hen so she’ll take breaks to eat. 

If the food source is too far away, your hen might decide it’s too risky to leave the nest. 

While brooding on her clutch, you’ll see your hen turning her eggs regularly. 

This process keeps the heat evenly distributed and the developing chicks from sticking to the membrane on one side of the egg. 

The broody might pull out her chest feathers and use them to insulate her nest. 

Having skin-to-skin contact also helps increase heat transfer. 

A hen’s body temperature runs from 105-106° degrees Fahrenheit (41° C), and she keeps her eggs around 100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C). 

Humidity is another important factor in the hatching process; it comes from moisture the hen’s skin produces and the moisture her feathers pick up from dew in the mornings or evenings. 

Keep Track of the Eggs

At about 7-10 days, check to ensure the eggs are developing. 

This process is called candling. 

Holding a light up to the developing egg allows you to see inside; you are looking for thin spidery veins and the embryo, which looks like a dark spot. 

If you don’t see anything the first time you check, look again in a few days, and if there is nothing there, remove the egg and depose it. 

Use a pencil to mark eggs to help keep track. 

Broody hens might kick out one or two eggs while incubating if they aren’t viable or if something is wrong with them.  

Be Ready When The Eggs Are Close To Hatching

At around 21 days, peeps will be coming from inside the eggs. 

Your chicks are getting ready to hatch. 

It takes several days for chicks to make their way out of the eggs, so don’t rush them. 

No matter how tempting, they don’t need help.  

Chickens will sit on nonviable eggs for up to seven weeks which will be detrimental to their health. 

Left too long on eggs, a hen can start to lose weight, become dehydrated, and prone to disease. 

If you determine your chicken eggs aren’t developing or aren’t hatching, be sure to remove them.  

What To Do With Your New Chicks

Once hatched, you might not see chicks for the first couple of days as they keep the chicks warm under mom. 

Eventually, small fluffy chicks will be running around the chicken coop but return to the nest box to stay warm at night until they are 6-8 weeks old.

Keeping the chicks warm during their first few weeks is critical, but hens will naturally help. 

It’s best to let the hen introduce the chicks to the flock and handle integration.  

Make sure your chicks have access to clean water and feed them with a chick starter like this on Amazon.

Repeat whenever you are ready for more adorable baby chicks to expand your flock size.

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Growing up amidst the sprawling farms of the South, Wesley developed a profound connection with farm animals from a young age. His childhood experiences instilled in him a deep respect for sustainable and humane farming practices. Today, through, Wesley shares his rich knowledge, aiming to inspire and educate others about the joys and intricacies of rural life.

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