The more natural way to incubate eggs is by using a hen. If you decide to go this route instead of using an incubator, then you need to be prepared to care for your hen. Hens that incubate usually neglect their own needs so you need to make sure that she has access to food and water at all times close to the nesting area.
There are some things you can do to make sure your hen brings healthy chicks into the world without sacrificing her own health.
Food and Water
Food and water are very important for an incubating hen. Make sure that the food and water are close by since she will be against leaving the nesting area for prolonged periods and distances. An incubating hen will consume around 80% less food and water than usual so do make sure that she eats at least once a day to keep her energy up.
If you notice your hen isn’t eating at all, try giving her some treats like mealworms to spur on her apatite. Also, make sure no other chickens disturb her to get to her private food and water, that will only make her more anxious. Always make sure she has fresh water. You might need to change her water twice a day if she messes in it or at least once a day to make sure that it stays fresh.
A Safe Environment
A broody hen needs to have her own personal space where she can sit on her eggs in peace. It is best if you can give her her own small coop away from all the other chickens to make the whole incubation process less stressful. All disturbances will be kept to a minimum with no egg-laying, feather-ruffling or scratching around disturbing your hen.
Keep The Nest Clean
It is essential to clean the nest regularly. If you don’t change the bedding regularly, the eggs might get soiled and go bad. Changing bedding regularly removes poop, broken eggs, foul-smelling eggs and other debris from the nest creating a clean environment for your eggs to be incubated in.
Try Not To Interfere
You need to try to keep disturbing your hen to a minimum. The more she is disturbed or interrupted while incubating, the more likely she is to give up on the whole process and abandon the eggs. All you really need to do is monitor that she’s consuming food and water and change the bedding in the nest while she’s out. Keep any other kind of contact to a minimum.
This is a stressful time not only for you but also for your hen. Do the best you can to keep her healthy and incubating happily. She will do the rest and raise some wonderful baby chickens for you.
Whether you go the self incubation route or use a hen to start your flock, bringing new life into the world is always an extraordinary experience. There isn’t much that can compare to seeing fluffy little hatchlings coming out of their shells. To prepare yourself for the big occasion, read up on chick care and how to care for a hen with babies. The more information you have, the less stressful all of this will be.