Meet Dr. Mark.   Dr. Mark is, among other things, the fella who helped put Cuddles out of her misery.  Literally.  He knows his stuff this guy.  Dr. Mark is a vet who also happens to be a chicken enthusiast and judge.  So you know when you go to a fall fair and there’s a bunch of chickens or goats in a ring and you pick your favourite based on how much they’re squawking or drooling or pooing?  Well Dr. Mark is the guy who actually judges the poultry.  I’m not sure but I don’t think your chance of winning is  based on pooing. At least not a lot of points are given for that.

I’ve convinced Dr. Mark he should be a part of The Art of Doing Stuff and he’s agreed.  So if you have chicken questions, send them to me.  I’ll go through them, pick the best and send them to Dr. Mark for upcoming posts here on the site.

But since it’s my blog and my idea and my Dr. Mark, I get the first question for him.  And here it is!  Or more accurately here they are.  They’re all based on my curiosity about using my broody hen Josephine to hatch fertilized eggs.


Dr. Dr. Mark,

1.  If I have a broody hen. Can I stick fertilized eggs under her instead of using an incubator?

“Hey Karen!  You’re great and my favourite client in the world and everyone should send you potato chips and Gucci moccasins all the time, forever.  (I may have taken a bit of artistic license with that opening comment)  Of course you can use a broody hen instead of an incubator. Not only do you not need an incubator that way but also you won’t require a brooder to raise the chicks in either. Hens will all vary in their nurturing and brooding abilities and some breeds will never set reliably on their eggs, such as varieties found in the meditteranean breeds like leghorns. . If the female insists on setting she will usually be capable of hatching her eggs. Chickens are also not particular as to which hens eggs they brood, or even which species. Not uncommon to hatch ducks and pheasants under broody hens.”

2.  What about a dinosaur egg? Could I hatch a dinosaur egg under Josephine?  Nevermind.  Do I need to do anything special, or just stick the eggs under her and hope for the best?

“You need to provide her with a nest box that she can get in an out of easy without soiling or cracking the eggs and with lots of deep litter. The box should be kept in a dim lit, low traffic area so that she is encouraged to continue sitting for the duration of incubation, 21 days in chickens. The hen should also be treated prior for parasites as they will definitely take advantage of her brooding and lack of preening activities. Some broodies such as silkies have such a drive to set that they often forget to come off of the nest and will require some intervention. The hen will always produce a large fecal mass when departing the nest, this needs to be cleaned up immediately and produced outside of the nest box for obvious reasons.”

3.  Should she be kept away from the other chickens while she’s broody?  She tends to brood in one of the nesting boxes.

“She should also be placed in a pen by herself so other hens do not try to get in the nest with her and end up breaking her eggs. The eggs should also be candled at 7 days to see if they are developing and eggs that are not removed to prevent contamination from gases and possibly worse ……..breakage.”

4.  Once the eggs hatch what is her job to do and what is mine?

“Once the eggs hatch provide her with a clean pen and proper drinking vessels for chicks so they do not drown, placing colored marbles in the water vessel will encourage chicks to peck at it. It is always a good idea to dunk their beaks  in the water initially until you see them drinking regularly. This is more important in incubator chicks as mom is good at encouraging them to eat and drink.  Provide commercial chick starter on newspaper ,mom  will guide them to it. Hard boiled eggs broken up are great starter food for chicks as well  and she will encourage them to eat this.”

5.  Do I need to keep the new mother and her new chicks separated from the other chickens or should I let everything happen  naturally and hope the new hen protects her chicks?

“Best to keep mom away from other birds, chickens can be quite nasty to one another. The least amount of stress on mom the better. She will also be in a weakened state after brooding and should not have to spend energy protecting her chicks.  In the wild hens brood away from the flock and only bring their chicks back around after they are up and running and fully mobile. Birds in large enclosures or free range are usually less stressed and able to coexist better then in tight small confinement.”

6.  Do chickens like to wear hats in your opinion?  (not on a regular basis, that’s just stupid, but more for special occasions and the like)


“In my experience Crested fowl are the only breeds that do not mind having something adorning the crown of their heads. :)”


So it looks like in order to let my broody hen Josephine hatch some eggs I’ll have to separate her from the other chickens so they don’t bother her while she’s nesting and keep her separate when her chicks hatch.  Which will be a bit of a struggle, but not impossible.    Like putting a hat on a chicken.
Thanks to Dr. Mark, and if you have a chicken question you can’t find the answer to on Google, email me and I’ll forward it to Dr. Mark.
You can also follow the work of Dr. Mark and learn all about pigeons, ducks, and other fowl friends in his magazine The Exhibitor.
Email Dr. Mark to subscribe to it.
Now, as you may have guessed I have a broody pen to make and a dinosaur egg to buy.



  1. Meg says:

    I have a friend with a farm in New Hampshire. I’m pretty sure their livestock is treated better than at least some people I know. They cost more, because the maintenance and upkeep for the animals is higher. (It’s not cost-effective to allow hens so much space to run around and scratch in the garden beds, as an example.)

    Despite the cost, they always sell out of things – like turkeys at thanksgiving – because the quality is top notch. I wish I were closer to them I’d get fresh eggs alll the time.

    • Meg says:

      this was supposed to go under Judy’s comment; d’oh.

      For my part, I wish I had room for chickens. :( sadface.

  2. Leslie in Hampton says:

    Welcome Dr. Mark. I too have a broody hen but gosh I don’t need more chickens. I do have an incubator but may hatch out some ducks for a friend shortly. Her ducks are not sitting very well right now so I might try my broody silky.

  3. Elen G says:

    Welcome, Dr. Mark! This is going to be fun. Informative, of course, given your expertise, but… fuuuun! Karen’s readers weren’t found in a cabbage patch. Okay. Some of us. Maybe. Cheers!

  4. Linda in Illinois says:

    Welcome aboard Dr. Mark! Thank you for taking good care of our Karen’s chickens.

  5. Cred says:

    If you don’t get a barrage of chicken questions, would Dr. Mark consider fielding a question about ducks. Does Dr. Mark have experience with ducks, too.
    I frequently refer to the Backyard Chickens, duck forum, to address some of my questions. But as the doctor referred to in one of his answers, there can be behavioural differences between coop flocks and free ranging flocks. Not to mention the various other differences from larger scale duck farmers to my-duck-sleeps-at-the-foot-of-my-bed duck owners.

  6. Erin says:

    Hens being broody and hens staying broody are the challenges we had:

    Last summer we had 4 broody hens at once (out of a flock of 20.) They lived in a mobile pen that we move through our pasture and those girls were clogging up the nest boxes! So we moved them to their winter pen in the garage where they each had their own quiet area and nest box with fresh bedding. Somewhere in the transition, three of the four went “unbroody” and all they wanted was OUT! Only the little banty stayed on her new nest and hatched a couple chicks.

    Good luck with the dino.

  7. judy says:

    To a post that is always light hearted, witty and very funny-can I introduce a topic that really really bothers me and yet I keep buying eggs and chicken meat. Is it possible -given the volume of chickens bred and processed for sale to make the system more humane and hygienic?

    There are a lot of pictures on line that make me cringe and stop buying until I run out of ideas for alternatives and I’m back as a part of the problem…anyway to be part of a solution, no matter how small would be a step in the right direction. The latest post I saw was hundreds of thousands of live male chicks sent to a Grinder! because the industry does not need roosters. I get not needing them but for crying out crass capitalism. Couldn’t somebody have come up with something other than a grinder? And I’ll wager that the grind results are a major component of dog and cat food.
    Any Hoo I wish all of us could have our gardens and chickens and enjoy the experience-Horrors, definitely not allowed in my neighborhood.

    • Erin says:

      One solution, if I may…
      Find a small local pastured poultry farming operation and give them your business. Be prepared to pay for the extra care that goes into humane treatment, but also be prepared to taste some of the best eggs and chicken you’ve ever had. Best Regards

      • judy says:

        Thank you so much-how simple and why didn’t I think of it-guess I wasn’t aware such a thing existed in this day and age. All food production seems dominated by the Corporate farm owned by a huge grocery chain in America. I am going to research this, we are retired so even if said farm was far away it would be interesting and fun to take a drive and see the countryside. Thanks again.

        • nanabobana says:

          You will not regret it. I drive 30 minutes south and get eggs and meat from a young couple trying to make a go of it with chickens and hogs and they are excellent people deserving of my business. I toured their farm and they have a very cool setup for their meat hens and their hogs, lots of open space and a small forest that they pen off and let everything wander and eat at will. So neat to support them!

        • Erin says:

          You are very welcome!

  8. Kat says:

    Wow a real live Doctor on your blog. It’s kinda like how Oprah has Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz But your doctor is much cuter. Welcome Dr. Mark.
    Karen this question is for you. On your side bar which has all kinds of stuff, I noticed a thing that said “10 top tips for New Readers”. I am not a new reader but I have never noticed that one before and thought it would be fun to read. But alas it does not link to anything. I hovered over it with the curser and tried clicking on it, but it did nothing. Then I became a curser with a potty mouth. I kept thinking I was missing out on something.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kat! When you click on it a pop up should come up asking you to subscribe to my site. If it doesn’t come up it might mean you’re already subscribed. :) Once subscribed the person is given my small ebook of a compilation of all my favourite tips. If you like, I can email it to you. :) ~ karen!

  9. cary says:

    hi karen and dr. mark. karen, i tried clicking on your ’email me’ link but it didn’t work for me so i hope it’s ok that i ask my question here. ellen is a 2 1/2 year old red sex link/silverlace wyandotte/gold lace wyandotte “mutt”. in the past she has layed 2 rubber eggs, missed the nest several times, and every so often layed a thin shelled egg. her yolks always have a red blood spot. now, just within the past week, she is laying very thin shelled eggs that crack in the nest. the weather has turned hot here, in the 90’s. i feed my girls high quality organic layer feed, they get homemade milk kefir daily, plenty of water, i grind up their shells and sprinkle back into their food, and they free range during the day. she hangs her tail low, and sometimes her comb and wattle are more pale than her sisters’, but, otherwise she seems healthy and happy. i hope i have given you enough information. is there anything else i can do for her? thank you so much karen and dr. mark!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cary! I have some idea, but I’ll give the question to Dr. Mark. Thanks! ~ karen!

    • Cred says:

      Thin shells are sign of low calcium. Although you mix eggshell back in the feed, I wonder if she isn’t getting enough that way. I keep ducks not chickens but because I also have drakes (that don’t require extra calcium), it is suggested to offer eggshells or oyster shells separately. The ducks will freely eat what they need. I have been using eggshell but found they eat it entirely before I have more shells dried to give them. I am considering oyster shells because I wonder if feeding back their own shells is quite enough.
      So, I’m curious, too, what the good doctor says.

  10. deb says:

    I’ll be very interested to see how this works out and will be following closely! I had two broody chickens, two zealous roosters who have been fertilizing eggs among the 28 girls at a rate that puts a person to the blush, and room for a nifty broody pen, complete two nests, and access to a small outside yard. Added a little mood music, soft lighting, and starting counting off the days.

    All was great. They never left those eggs (except for ejecting the aforementioned large fecal mass once a day), they cooed and clucked to them … I’m telling you, it was sight to warm the cockles of a chicken mother’s heart. Then, at 11 days and 14 days respectively, they jumped down, started eating like wild things, and never looked at the eggs again.

    All their energies were then directed toward getting out of the broody pen. After two days, I gave up, opened the gate, and out they went, without a backward glance at those 15 eggs. I would have named them Maisie 1 and 2, but that I already have a Maisie bird. So it’s Ruthless and Heartless. Okay, not really, but I thought about it.

    So, keep us posted on Josephine. It may give me the resolve to try again!

  11. Ev Wilcox says:

    Welcome, Dr.Mark. Your work is now cut out for you-dealing with us AND Karen! We all miss Cuddles and are thankful you could advise and help our Karen through that awful time. Though I will never have chickens, I care about all living beings, even some human ones. So, Welcome Aboard!

  12. Marna says:

    Very interesting! I never raised chickens myself, but was around them because my father raised them. A grandfather was a chicken judge and raised some fancy types, that was before I was born. My two older boys sure enjoyed my dad’s chickens, got right in the huge cage with them.

  13. Paula says:

    My chicken eats a lot of food, and yet she never gains weight – should I assume she has worms? I need to reintegrate an injured chicken (healed now but still in a rabbit cage in my kitchen but outside during the day) and I was told to cut the beaks of the aggressive birds. This sounds completely inhumane to me and I won’t do it, but I would like to know if this has any merit?
    Chickens rock.

  14. “Large fecal mass” – not words you want to be reading just as you pop a bagel with cream cheese in your mouth…

  15. Bever says:

    Great news! Welcome Dr Mark. I hope my two urban layers, Yvonne and Germaine will not be requiring his services but good to know he’s there . Love this blog?

  16. Cynthia Jones says:

    I just knew you had something going on with this Dr Mark.

    Remember I thought it was a Moonstruck kind of relationship?

    Anyhoo, he seems fine to me, though his enthusiasm over the certainty of production of a “large fecal mass” was a little unsettling.

    My question for Dr Mark “What are your intentions and are you going to take her to the opera and meet her at the fountain, a – la -Moonstruck?”

    “La Bella Luna”.

  17. MaggieB says:

    Welcome Dr Mark, can I add my thanks for looking after Karen’s feathered friends. I have no interest in keeping hens but love living vicariously with Karen (in the best possible taste). I just have a gargoyle, are they hermaphrodites I can’t find out, he just sits and stares, heavens could he be broody? good news he doesn’t poop everythere, so there’s that. Okay, off to take my meds now.

  18. Alita says:

    I have a question about egg incubation. Someone told me that if you incubate eggs at half a degree cooler than normal, then you will get more females hatching. I doubt that this is true as commercial hatcheries would do so. Maybe Dr Mark would be able to tell us if there is any truth in the tale.

  19. Rktrixy says:

    Welcome, Dr. Mark, and thank you for taking such good care of Karen’s chicks.

    I have no hens at this time, but am taking notes just in case I need to get broody.

  20. Kristina says:

    This is very useful info. It’s really too late to start new chicks in central California, but next year, my gals will be on it, and looking forward to seeing how your Josephine does! Also, I have a friend who hatches chicks in her 2nd grade classroom in about March or April and is always looking for places to send them afterward (not sure how I feel about this, but want to help them out). I’m wondering if your Dr. Mark has any opinions about placing hatched chicks with broody hens?

  21. TucsonPatty says:

    As an old (ancient) ex-4-Her, I’m interested exactly how do you judge the chickens at the county fair? I’ve judged livestock and home economics , but didn’t learn about chickens. I just hated cleaning out the chicken coop. We judged cattle etc. on looks, I didn’t do any feeling of the animal…how can you tell with poultry? Just interested, I’m not going to buy and raise them, cuz I’m too lazy and already did it when I was a kid.

    • Karen says:

      Same judging criteria as cattle I would imagine. Clean teats and all that. ;) It would be based on the breed just like a dog show. Confirmation, traits true to the breed like a feathered leg and the right amount of copper on the neck for a Copper Marans for example. Head size, shape, tail spread … all that kindda stuff. ~ k!

  22. Alisa says:

    I am so glad you posted this! I have a broody hen, and was just contemplating getting her some fertilized eggs. I’m totally going for it now!!!!

    • Karen says:

      I’ll keep the story updated as it goes along Alisa! I’ve never had a true broody hen before so I’m really excited to see how this all plays out! ~ karen

  23. robert says:

    What kind of dinosaur are you looking for?

  24. Kathleen says:

    Dit is nou ‘n ingewikkelde storie die! (This is now a complicated story, this – literally translated. )

    And here I thought the hen just sat around for a while, well, now I know it’s a LONG while, and the chicks just appeared. Done and dusted.
    I never thought of broken eggs, lack of personal hygiene (okay, grooming) because she’s nesting… This is not for the faint hearted.

    Good luck, Karen.

  25. Ardith says:

    Dr. Mark looks a vet who should have his own TV show. But being that he is your Dr. Mark, perhaps a video channel on your blog is appropriate. Anyway, welcome aboard Dr. Mark. Cheers, Ardith

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