My broody hens usually hatched 12 to 15 eggs at a time, but it depends on the size of both the hen and the eggs. Just give them as many as they can cover comfortably.
Below: This mother hen has 15 chicks.
I have found that some chickens have a natural number of eggs for sitting on and will even eject the others from the nest. This seems to be a comfort thing as the birds like to feel cosy on the nest.
How many chicks can a chicken have?
The average clutch size for a chicken is between 10 and 14. Mother hens my struggle to raise than this and I have found bigger the brood the bigger the losses general rule.
That said I have successfully hatched thirty one Polish chicks under a white Orpington hen with no losses at all. It really all does depend on the size of the eggs and the signs of the ability the hen doing the hatching.
How many chicks can a chicken have a year?
It is possible for a hen to raise 50 or more chicks in a year but very unlikely. I have been raising chickens for a lot of years and could count the number of birds that go broody or 3 times a year on one hand, they're mostly Silkies which being quite small generally don't hatch large groups of chicks.
Below: A free range light Sussex hen with a brood of chicks.
Normally a chicken will only go broody once a year and the most commonly in spring, this gives her cheeks the best chance of survival with the most natural food and the best weather.
How many chicks can a hen keep warm?
Any mother hen is going to struggle to keep more than 16 chicks warm, especially as they begin to grow bigger.
Below: As the chicks get bigger they will struggle to fit under the hen
It might seem like a hen and keep more chicks warm then she has but you need to remember that they grow quite quickly and when they reach around 2 weeks of age they will be struggling to squeeze under mum even if she is large and feathery.
What is the best number of eggs to put under a hen?
Between 6 and 16 depending on the size of the hen. So 6 to 9 eggs under a bantam chicken like a Silkie and 12 to 16 eggs under a large bird like in Orpington.
|True Bantam||4 large eggs or 5 to 8 small eggs|
|Bantam||6 large eggs or 9 small eggs|
|Large Fowl||12 to 16 large eggs or 18 to 20 small eggs|
Too many eggs may mean some get cold and don't hatch so it is reverse economy to put too many under a chicken.
How many eggs does a hen lay before she sits on them?
The natural clutch size for chickens is 12 to 16 eggs. If you watch a broody hen you may well see her steal eggs from other nests by rolling them with her beak and tucking them under herself
Below: This chicken is thinking big.
I have had chickens try to go broody on nests with dozens of eggs in so its not instinctive for all.
How many chicken eggs are in a clutch?
A clutch is a group of eggs laid by a bird and it is different for all species. The Penguin for example lays a single egg and at the other end of the spectrum the Ostrich can sit on a communal nest with 20 to 30 eggs in.
The old definition for a "setting a clutch of eggs" is 15 eggs. My old chicken keeping mentor told me years ago he always set 15 under a large hen and 8 under a bantam.
It does depend on the size and ability of the hen you use to hatch the eggs.
Your average healthy laying hen produces one egg roughly every 24 to 30 hours so waiting too long to get more eggs in the nest means that the first eggs produced may not be viable as they have been left too long before incubation started. The hatch-ability of eggs drops off quite significantly passed 14 days.
In the wild chickens will lay a clutch of 10 to 12 eggs before sitting to hatch them.
How many fertilised eggs can a chicken lay?
A single hen that has mated once can lay fertilised eggs for about two weeks. This means from a single mating then hen will produce 10 to 14 fertilised eggs.
Not all eggs are fertile, even if the hen is mating more often but a chicken in good health will produce eggs that are around 90% fertile.
Some breeds have naturally lower fertility rates and some struggle to mate successfully because of their shape or size. Orpingtons and Pekins need to have the fluffy feathers around their cloaca trimmed and Cornish chickens struggle to mate properly because of their size.
Why do chickens want a clutch?
As the weather warms in Spring most animals begin a cycle of reproduction and chickens are no different. Hormonal changes in the chicken trigger a series of actions starting with producing a clutch of eggs and ending up with a batch of fluffy chicks.
Chickens get the urge to go broody, although some never do and some won't stop wanting to be in the family way.
Below: Broody hen cartoon.
Also don't forget that hatch-ability starts decreasing from the day the egg is laid so if the nest has too many eggs produced over more than 14 days or so there is a risk that the eggs laid first won't hatch and may go rotten and ruin the whole hatch.
Can you give incubator chicks to a mother hen?
Yes you can give chicks hatched in an incubator to a hen to look after provided certain conditions are met.
- She needs to be broody and sat on a nest. It is better if she has sat for a week or more.
- She needs to be used to human interference and good natured.
- It should be done late in the evening when almost dark.
- Slip a chick under her and see if she takes to it, there will be contented clucking if she does.
- Add all the other chicks one at a time and let them settle for the night.
- Watch them like a hawk for a few days and keep them contained in a broody pen.
- Be prepared for failure, it doesn't always work.
I once gave a hen 15 incubator chicks and she raised all of them no problems at all. As long as you can get her to accept them all will normally be fine.
Below: A Barnevelder hen with 15 adopted chicks.
How many chickens are born at a time?
When I was a kid I remember a hen hiding a nest and showing up with 18 chicks. She hatched and raised all of them. Both these were in the heat of summer.
My personal record for chicks hatched under a hen was 31 polish chicks under an Orpington hen. She had a shed to herself and made a good job of rearing them all.
If I can help it I never let mine raise more than 12 chicks at a time. But if the hens are big you could slip in a few more. Just make sure they can fit them all in under them comfortably with a little room to spare for when the chicks grow bigger.
They usually loose a few even then, because the more chicks they have the more prone to predators they are.