Why do Chickens Abandon Their Eggs?

It is rare for chickens to abandon their nests while incubating their eggs. After all, mother hens are persistent, and they won’t leave their nests until they hatch. Hens will leave their nest only once to drink and eat.

However, some broody chickens can abandon their eggs completely for various reasons. For example, your hens could abandon their eggs due to fear of predators, stress, and pest infestations.

9 Reasons Broody Hens Abandon Their Eggs

The greater majority of hens don’t abandon their nests till they hatch. However, some broody hens may walk away from their eggs, never to sit on them again. Chickens keepers ought to find out why their hens abandon their eggs. These are the top 9 reasons why broody hens leave their eggs.

– Breed Specific Behavior

Some chicken breeds, especially exotic breeds, aren’t good mothers. Such breeds usually abandon their eggs before they hatch. Most native breeds hatch better than others. They are also good at protecting their eggs and their chicks. Breeds such as Andalusian, Campine, and Ancona are known to abandon their eggs.

These breeds aren’t the best sitters either. Furthermore, they are hesitant to sit on their eggs even when they get broody. It would help to understand your hens’ specific breed behavior if she can sit on her eggs until they hatch.

If your hen belongs to an exotic breed that doesn’t make an excellent sitter, then there is little you can do to discourage the hen from leaving her eggs.

If a hen isn’t a good mother, you can’t expect her to stick to her nest since she is inclined to abandon her eggs. Although some hens aren’t excellent mothers, many chicken breeds have solid mothering instincts.

These breeds make amazing mothers, and they will never leave their eggs whatsoever. Some breeds that make good mothers include Cochins, Sussex, Silkies, and Brahmas.

– First Time Broody Hen

First-time broody hens are young and inexperienced. Such hens aren’t mature enough to understand the importance of sitting on their eggs nonstop. Therefore, they can’t remain in their nests no matter how comfortable their nests are.

Young and inexperienced hens also lose interest in sitting on their eggs. These first-time broody hens will walk away from their nests in favor of pursuing other chicken stuff such as foraging.

Fortunately, young hens will develop the instinct to sit on their eggs as they mature. You won’t have to train your young hens to remain in their nests. The interest to sit on their eggs will kick in naturally, although it takes time before this instinct kicks in.

If your first-time broody hen abandons her eggs, don’t be disappointed with her. She will probably sit on her eggs without abandoning them next time she goes broody. However, if the hen leaves her nest next time, she will probably never see the essence of sticking to her nest.

– Egg Problems

Not all chicken eggs are fertile since some hens won’t lay fertilized eggs, especially if there are a few roosters in your flock. Furthermore, chicken eggs’ embryos can go bad due to diseases, infections, and extreme weather conditions.

Hens aren’t good at detecting rotten eggs. However, they will finally notice the bad eggs in due time. Hens may choose to leave their nests if they discover they have been sitting on rotten eggs.

If your hen happens to abandon her eggs for several days, it could be that the eggs are bad, and the hen knows the eggs will never hatch regardless of how long she sits on them.

If you notice one of your hens hasn’t been sitting on her eggs, examine the eggs to know whether they are bad or not. Break one of the eggs and check whether it is bad or not.

If the egg is bad, the other remaining eggs could also be bad as well. Discard such eggs since they won’t hatch even if another broody hen sits on them.

– Parasites

Parasites such as mites, poultry lice, and tapeworms can present a huge problem for sitting hens. These can either live inside the hens’ bodies or in their feathers. Parasites are contagious, and they can also bring disease to your hens.

Hens with parasite infestation are pretty uncomfortable. Even if your hen is a good sitter, she will never remain in her nest if she has parasites.

The restlessness and stress that a parasite infestation causes can make your broody hen abandon her eggs. Instead of sitting on the eggs, the hen will start eliminating the parasite infestation. She will avoid her nest, especially if the nest is harboring parasites.

Therefore, examine symptoms of parasite infestation if your hen is hesitant to sit on her eggs. There will probably be an infestation that could be hindering the hen from remaining in her nest. Eliminate the infestation using pesticides. Also, spray the entire coop and the rest of the chickens with pesticides to prevent a parasite infestation outbreak.

Hens with internal parasites such as tapeworms and worms also feel pretty uncomfortable. They will never sit on their eggs persistently due to the discomfort they experience. Deworm your hens if you suspect they have internal parasites that could be making them abandon their eggs.

Deworming your hens isn’t only imperative for encouraging your hens not to leave their eggs but also for preventing severe diseases that occur due to parasite infestation.

– Pests

Pests such as ants, lice, and bedbugs can be disastrous to broody hens. Such pests don’t only attack hens, but they also attack their eggs. Broody hens are hesitant to stick to their nests when there are pests in the nests. Ants, in particular, pose a huge danger to sitting hens since ants attack broody hens, their eggs, and their baby chicks.

After all, your broody hen won’t see the need to sit on her eggs for 21 days if they are already pests in her nest. Hens might not be the most intelligent creatures on earth, but these birds possess a strong sense of danger, and therefore they will never go somewhere if there is a pest infestation.

Although pest infestation is a huge problem for broody hens, you can effectively get rid of a pest infestation to encourage your broody hen to remain in her nest. Check these ideas on how you can prevent a pest infestation that could be holding your broody hens from sitting on their eggs.

  • Remove food sources near the nest– Food sources could attract pests in the nest. Initially, pests like ants enter the coop due to food sources in the cage. However, the pests will turn into nests and attack your broody hens and their eggs once they finish eating the food leftovers. Eliminate any food sources that could attract pests into the nests.
  • Use pests repellents– Repellents such as peppermint can help deter pests, especially ants, from entering the coop and finally finding their way to the nests. Spray or apply such repellents inside and outside the cage to keep pests at bay.
  • Remove clutter– clutter can provide suitable hiding spots for pests. Remove any clutter, including worn-out bedding, from the coop lest it ends up harboring pests that prevent your broody hens from sitting on their eggs. Also, keep the nest clean since dirt attracts pests into the nests.
  • Seal holes and cracks– Open holes and cracks can be potential entry points for pests. Seal cracks and holes before pests take advantage of them and enter the coop to attack your broody hens.

– Stress

Constant disturbances can stress your sitting hen, making her abandon her eggs. Broody hens search for a safe and quiet spot to incubate their eggs. Therefore, your broody hen wants to be undisturbed throughout the incubation period. Regular disturbances will only make her leave the nest in search of a safer place.

Sometimes, other chickens and humans can stress brooding hens making them stressed. As a result, the hens will leave their eggs and search for places with no constant disturbances. Unfortunately, the hens won’t carry their eggs with them.

They will only return to their nests once there are no disturbances. Avoid stressing out your broody hens lest you force them to leave their eggs.

Humans are pretty intimidating to broody hens. Hens will panic and instantly leave their eggs due to the presence of humans. Avoid disturbing your broody hen when she is incubating her eggs. Otherwise, she won’t sit on the eggs for the required 21 days.

An overcrowded cage is also another recipe for disaster when handling broody hens. Other chickens will constantly disturb your broody hen if you put your hen alongside other chickens in an overcrowded cage. Roosters are especially notorious for disturbing broody hens.

They never give broody hens time to incubate their eggs in peace. Consider separating your broody hens from other chickens since other hens will ultimately keep disturbing the broody hens.

Furthermore, keep away from your broody hens since your presence will scare them out of their nests and make them abandon their eggs completely.

– Fear

Broody hens are quite timid like other chickens. They will never sit on their eggs comfortably if they fear something while incubating. Predators, for instance, are among the leading causes of fear for broody hens.

These hens fear for their safety and the safety of their eggs, and thus they will strive to keep off from predators. Predators will scare away your hens, making them flee for their lives. Ultimately, your hens will no longer continue to sit on their eggs if they detect predators.

Ensure the coop is free from predators by sealing any entry points predators can exploit to get to your broody hens.

Apart from predators, loud noises can also scare broody hens. Loud noises from vehicles and heavy machinery will instill fear in your broody hen, making her abandon her nest. Ensure your broody hen is incubating her eggs in a quiet place, else the hen will walk away from her nest due to loud noises.

– Change in Weather

Weather changes can make chickens avoid their nests for several hours. Depending on the prevailing weather conditions, your broody hen can decide to either sit on her eggs or abandon them altogether.

If the weather is warm, the coop will be warmer, and the hen will sit on the eggs for several hours uninterrupted. Your broody hen will nevertheless leave her egg in cold weather since the weather conditions aren’t favorable for her. She will leave her nest in search of a warmer place to stay.

Keep the coop warm in cold weather to encourage your hens to sit in the nest persistently without walking away from their eggs due to cold.

– Eating and Drinking

At times, your broody hen might not have abandoned her eggs completely. She could just be getting some water and food. Like other hens, sitting hens need to drink, eat and poop. Your broody hens will have to leave her nest at some point to get some food and water.

These trips can make you worried, although they don’t mean that your broody hen won’t sit on the eggs again. If the hen has walked away from her eggs to drink, eat or poop, she won’t take long to get back to her nest. She will only take a couple of minutes, and everything will go on just fine.

How Long Can a Chicken Leave Her Eggs?

A broody hen can leave eggs temporarily but not permanently. Although the duration of time a broody hen can leave her eggs isn’t definite, most broody hens don’t leave their eggs for more than four hours unless other factors make the hens leave their eggs for longer.

Can You Hatch Abandoned Eggs?

Yes, you can hatch abandoned eggs by placing them in an incubator, although there isn’t a guarantee the eggs will hatch into chicks. Probably, the abandoned eggs could be bad, and therefore they can’t hatch. Nonetheless, you can try hatching the eggs since you might be lucky to have a few baby chicks to add to your flock.


Chickens can abandon their eggs due to many reasons. Most of these reasons, such as egg problems and breed-specific behavior, could be beyond your control.

Others such as parasites, pests, and stress are within your control. Either way, try establishing what could be making your broody hens abandon their eggs.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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