The easiest and the most natural way to hatch eggs is using a broody chicken.
You have a flock of chickens, but how do you find out if you have a broody one?
Here are just a few signs of a broody chicken:
• Eats and drinks very little.
• Puffs out her feathers when you will get close to her.
• Clucking Softly, especially when you’re near her.
• Prolongs sitting and camping through nestling boxes.
• Unwilling to leave the nesting box.
In order to have a successful hatch, you need to move broody chicken away from the flock, because the longer she will be sitting in the nesting boxes the more attached to that location she gets. So, it’s so much easier to move the broody chicken to her permanent place as soon as you notice she’s broody.
I use a small rectangular animal feeder pan. Spread out hay, straws, or softwood chips inside the pan to make the nest comfortable to sit in. Then I take about 15 fresh eggs from the nesting boxes (they cannot be washed or refrigerated, learned from my own mistake here ;), place them into a prepared nest and set the broody hen on the eggs.
If you don’t have that many freshly laid eggs in one day. Then mark as many eggs you placed on day one, day two, or day three. I don't recommend collecting the eggs for longer than that, because when the eggs will start hatching and the first chicks will start growing they do not want to stay in the box with the mama hen, then she will leave the nest to be with her chicks leaving the rest of the eggs behind. The eggs will become cold and they will no longer hatch.
Finally, I place the box with the broody hen and eggs on the other side of the shed, where we collect eggs from the chicken coop, and where we store all the crops and grains for the animals. That way other chickens will not have any access to the broody hen and will not be adding newly laid eggs.
It will take about 20 to 25 days for the first placed eggs to hatch. Sometimes the eggs need a little help to hatch. Eggshells from home-raised chickens (especially if you give them oyster shells supplement) are much thicker and harder to hatch.
So, if you noticed an egg has been cracked for multiple days its best to just crack it open and help the chick to escape from it. The crack is usually where the beak is so you will hear the chick chirping. I’ve learned that from my own experience. I have noticed that one egg is not making any progress in hatching for a few days, so I decided to help by separating the shell and found that the chick inside was already dead.
Caring for the Broody Hen
Some very dedicated broody hens will not get off their nests for multiple days in a row. Then try taking her off the nest so she can eat, drink, poop (like a lot:), maybe take a quick dust bath and then quickly returns back to the nest of her own.
When she’ll go out for breaks, have her eat with the rest of the chickens and the rooster. It is super important for the rest of the flock not to forget about her existence and then treat her like a newcomer on her return.
22 days later of a broody hen sitting on eggs, the very first egg has hatched. How adorable is this black baby chick!