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How many chicks can a hen cover?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
I currently have 24 eggs in my incubator, and one of my light Sussex pullets has gone very broody. She's been at it a week, so I figured I will move her to the broody pen and see if she keeps it up while I am incubating.
If she does, I would like to try and adopt the chicks that hatch to her. I guess what I don't know is, how many can I give her? I don't think all 24 will hatch, but if 20 do, can she cover 20 chicks?
If not I can set up a heat lamp in the brooder but I prefer to have them with a mama only if possible.
Edited by newwestchick - 3/5/16 at 8:00am
post #2 of 5
What is your weather going to be like? If you modify your profile to show roughly where you are it could help in answering questions like this.

In the heat of summer I gave a hen 15 incubator chicks. She had no trouble raising them all. As a kid I remember a hen bringing 18 chicks off of a hidden nest, again in summer. Those chicks will increase in size really quickly. In summer the hen doesn’t have to necessarily cover them all at the same time. I often see chicks sleeping next to or even on top of Mama in warm weather. No, I do not mean 90 to 95 and drop it 5 degrees a week temperatures. They can handle a lot cooler than that.

In winter however the hen may need to cover them all at the same time, even after they are two or three weeks old. Usually by four weeks they are fully feathered and can handle pretty cold temperatures but if you are talking really truly cold they may need a few more days.

Even if I knew exactly what your temperatures will be for the next couple of months that’s a hard one to answer. I’d go with 20 if the overnight lows were in the lower 70’s. If it’s cooler than that I’d cut back on what would be an acceptable number. It’s just hard to know what my maximum number would be.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

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When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
I'm in Vancouver BC, Canada. Please bear with my degrees Celsius tongue.png

It about 5-10 overnight and up to 13-17 during the day. Sweatshirt weather but not freezing temps - think Seattle WA.

I had a broody hatch last summer and was surprised at how little time the chicks spent under her, really only at night and for a quick warm up here and there. It is not too hot in the summer either, if it's above 25 we all complain haha.

I'll see if I can modify my profile! Thanks!
post #4 of 5
I’ve worked in Europe, Asia, and Africa, Celsius isn’t a problem for me. I’m surprised your nighttime lows will be that warm, in Vancouver I’d expect cooler. But you are on the water. That tends to moderate the temperatures a lot.

That’s a hard one. I’d probably be uncomfortable with more than a dozen. But a possible suggestion. Can you build a predator proof area, maybe in the coop, where you can safely provide heat? I usually don’t recommend anything like this with a broody hen but with this many chicks, well you need to stay flexible.

What I’m envisioning is a fairly large box you can lock the hen and chicks in after they have bonded. You might even have wire on the far end. Keep them locked in there for a few days, usually two or three is enough. The hen should then take them back there at night to sleep. I do something like this occasionally when my coop is getting pretty full and a hen hatches, but do not provide heat. Just heat one corner and let the rest cool down as it will. I’d bet the hen will be able to manage with that help.

It would probably be easier to raise them yourself though.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Amazingly you have described to a tee the brooder we are putting in the coop tomorrow. I have a large open air coop with a small house the hens roost in so its not conducive to having a broody. We hatched with a broody in a large dog crate last year but it was too tight - plus we have a significant rat problem so need to wait until the chicks are at least 3 weeks before they can range at all (we lost one at a week last time). I'm able to add a heat lamp should they need it, but prefer not to. I guess I can play it by ear smile.png

We are so warm this year! El Niño... I have half my garden planted already and we haven't had a frost in over two weeks. Crazy times.
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