Each hen is unique (just like people)
- Each hen has a number or volume of eggs that will make her start sitting. It could be anything from 1 to a dozen.
- Hens cannot count, there is one and more then one, and just enough
- If a hen wants to sit (not all hens want to be moms) and everyday you take her egg, she will try laying them in a different nest/location
- Some hens will not sit on any eggs, I have seen this most often with hens that were born in an incubator. Chicks that you buy from the feed store may have been hatched under an incubator for generations. The mother instinct is not reinforced.
- If you want to take her eggs and not have her sit, put one or two fake eggs (shaped wood or golf balls) in the nest, she will lay a third egg everyday.
- If you don't take any eggs, at some point she will stop laying eggs and start sitting on them. She will still get up to eat and drink daily.
- If the eggs hatch, she will keep the chicks on the nest for a while (hours to days) and then abandon any unhatched eggs as she moves off with the chicks
- If no eggs hatch (any reason), at some point she will stop sitting and move on, some hens will get off a nest 2 days before the eggs should hatch, some will sit on the eggs, weeks past when they should have hatched.
- Some hens (and other animals) will eat eggs, if you leave them to rot bad things will happen
I had a hen once that started sitting on a couple of wooden eggs and stayed there for about 2 months, finally I had to remove the eggs, she was unhappy. The next year I had some duck eggs that I wanted her to sit on, so I started adding wooden eggs to her nest, and got her sitting just before all the duck eggs were laid, then moved the duck eggs to her nest and took the wooden eggs. She raised up some duck babies :)
Assuming a hen house, you should remove the eggs at least every couple of days. Very edge case, at least once a week. If the chickens are free roaming and laying eggs under trees and bushes, well that depends, it will start to attract predators, who may start eating your hens.