Broody Coop

I’ve always used a heat lamp to brood chicks, but this year I thought it’d be fun to put a few day-old chicks under a broody hen. I’ve been told that a mama hen not only keeps the babies warm, but also keeps them active, teaches them to feed, it’s less work for the human, and is just darn cute. The idea is to take a broody hen, put her in her own house and yard and let her sit there on fake eggs for two weeks. You need separate housing for several reasons. First of all, chicks can’t get in and out of a typical nesting box that’s a foot off the ground. Those chicks will be running around the first day and you don’t want them tumbling to the ground. Secondly, unless you have a lot of space, the other hens in the flock will not be kind to the little ones. Mama will do her best to keep the babies from being pecked, but if it’s crowded, you’ll have bloodshed. Also, the chicks need special food for the first few weeks; to make sure that they get it, but not your entire flock, they need to be fed separately. So, a small broody coop and yard for the mama and babies is the best set-up.

The broody hen will be fine in her isolation. When a hen goes broody she doesn’t care about anything other than the eggs she’s sitting on. She won’t miss her friends. When the chicks arrive, tuck them under the mama at night, take away the dummy eggs, and in the morning the hen will be quite proud and possessive of her babies.

So, for this plan to work, I need a broody coop. Not only is my friend, Lauren Scheuer, an artist, blogger and chicken keeper, but she has power tools, and she knows how to use them! She loves building things from scrap wood, and I had a pile of lumber odds and ends and a discarded rabbit cage to work with. On an (amazingly) sunny day this week, Lauren, and her tools, and her fine dog Marky, came to my house to build the coop. I provided the coffee, the banana-currant bread, and an enthusiastic and encouraging audience.

First, Lauren sketched her ideas. We considered an Egyptian-themed coop, but settled on a simpler model.

Lauren plugged in her power tools and got to work. I passed her screws. Marky came over to check on our progress.

The red boards are from an outgrown soap box derby car.

Lauren let me use her electric screw driver!

Scooter and Marky napped in the sun. Lily is not pictured here. She was too busy watching for UPS trucks. It’s a full-time job, and somebody had to do it.

In just a few hours (and three cups of coffee) the coop was built. Now what I really need is a broody hen. I can usually count on Coco, Twinkydink, Lulu and Buffy to go broody in the spring, but so far, they have shown no maternal inclinations. Maybe if the temperature gets above freezing in the mornings, their broody switches will be turned on. If I don’t have a broody hen, I’ll have the time to turn the coop into that Egyptian folly that Lauren sketched. I’m sure she’d be happy to come back for more coffee and cake. I know my dogs would be happy to see Marky.

To see what Lauren thought about our broody coop day, read her blog, Scratch and Peck.


  1. Woo hoo! That was so fun… You’re right — Lily’s on a UPS-spotting MISSION at all times! Can’t wait to see how you paint the coop.

  2. Inspiring endeavor ladies… care to come down to my place and outfit our Barn-Playhouse-turned-Chicken-Coop with roosting bars and nesting boxes??

    Very impressive, and aren’t you lucky to have your trusty pups at your side as help mates. Even if they are there just for moral support. :) Good luck with your chicks!

  3. Fun!
    Lilly must believe those brown trucks are people and Scooter eaters! ;-)
    Once the broody stage is over you will have great isolation coop for a sick hen.

  4. Hmm, what about broody hens that are sisters and were raised together ? I don’t know if you remember me metioning a link to a video I found on youtube where a guy had two Buff Orpington sisters named Betty and Buffy. Well Betty went broody and gathered about 28 eggs from all the other chickens, and then when her owner moved her, Buffy decided to go broody as well. And the two of the them tag teamed and succsessfully raised 23 chicks ouf the 28. They did not seem to be aggressive together and did as a joint effort. Have you ever heard of that happening before ?

    • I would say those hens are the exception rather than the rule.
      I’ve had hens brood eggs in the same broody cage but when the chicks hatch any prize fighter would have been proud. I believe death of one of the hens would have been the result if I had not removed one hen.

      • So you think it’s because they are sisters and have a close genetic connection ? That maybe the chicken is thinking “babies of my sister are like mine and should also be looked out for so, so our bloodline can continue” ?

        • Not at all. Chickens don’t think like that. It’s deeply ingrained for them to be broody and care for their chicks. The hens on the video were simply in a specific place and situation that allowed them to brood together.

  5. I haven’t heard of that, but I’m not surprised – especially since you’re talking about Buff Orpingtons, the most amenable of birds.

    • *Found another pair, that went broody together and are tag teaming it when coming to raising babies. Two female silkies this time in France, their owner made an tribute video to them and other hens to the Ace of Base song “All that she wants”.

      Their website seems intresting, a bit strange they keep every rooster they have ever hatched. Though if your going to a be chicken that part of france seems nice. Seems they have done other chicken videos to Ace of Base music.

  6. What a great job you two did! I have 2 broody Silkie hens that are going on 1 month now! You are welcome to come down to the Cape and take them both! To me, there is no end in site of their broodiness! We let Dolly hatch her own brood and now we have 8 three week chicks in a brooder in our garage! I can’t wait to see your new baby chicks! Warm regard, Melissa

  7. I am truly impressed! Hope it warms up a bit for you! Noticed on the HenCam you had some sunshine yesterday, must check out for today! I love it when a hen gets right infront of the cam! And the goats too! What a hoot!


  8. Very nice!! You can take off the legs and make it into a throne for Candy!! ROFLMAO!!

  9. I watched along with the goat and chicken wondering what you girls were up to. And what a fine house you made! Thank you for the link to Scratch and Peck. Another beautiful blog. I couldn’t stop from reading the whole thing!

  10. Three hours? Wow. I’m impressed. I can’t wait to see the new “mama” and babies living there. My guess is Steve is working hard behind the scenes to get the whole system ready.

    Thanks for linking us to Lauren’s blog, too. Now I have TWO wonderful chicken blogs to faithfully follow. Like Viki, I read every post. Great stories – fabulous illustrations.

  11. I found Scratch and Peck through Facebook. Lo and behold, she’s linked to your blog, a favorite of mine. Your blog is a resource for those of us who are researching the world of our fine feathered friends. Thanks!

  12. Terry, your blog is my fave! Any chance of having audio with it? Chicken chatter is so soothing. Thanks for sharing your animals with us!

  13. Hi! Just found your blog when I googled – Can you keep a rabbit in with chickens? –

    I just put together a coop and attached chicken yard – and I am about to receive 8 chicks in the mail – auracanas, buff orps, silver lace wyandotte -jersey giant. I am also about to adopt a baby rabbit – a flemmish giant mix. What are your thoughts on them successfully living together? If it’s not a good idea, I will need to find a rabbit hutch. The coop is a nice one, and the chicken yard is about 10′ x 16 and fully fenced and roofed with wire buried beneath the ground level also. My blog is… there you can see the new coop. Love your blog!

    • Check my FAQ’s – I have one about how I keep my rabbit with my chickens. I’m not an expert- this bunny is the first one that’s lived with my hens, but I know other people who have also done it successfully.

  14. Okay those illustrations are the cutest ever! I especially love Candy and her crew. Sounds like you have a how-to show in the making. I’d tune in!

  15. I love what you’ve done to get your fabulous looking broody coop! And the hencam is great. Love your blog!

  16. I have four broody girls currently – I’ve found you can stack them three high before they realise what you’re up to! Let me know if I need to post Gladys to you… you can bring her back first class. She’s sitting on top of Big Girl as I type, making noises like a demented chimp.

    • I’m sure the passengers would be *delighted* with a demented chimp chicken sitting in my lap on the flight. Perhaps wearing a diaper? (evil grin.)

      • I can’t see it would be any worse than a screaming child! She could heat up the towelettes for the cabin crew. And she’d be quite happy in a nappy if it were made of nice Liberty fabric…..

  17. Terry, I’m sorry, maybe I missed a post.
    Who ended up in the broody coop? A might nice one, I might add!

    • Janice- a typical situation – now that I have a perfect broody coop, not a hen is broody! Last year at this time I had three broody hens. Oh, well, I’ll be using the heat lamp.