Let's start with this is my first time breeding my chickens (and I don't know how to make this a short question!). I keep 23 hens together that have never been bred, and I have my 8 roosters kept together in a different area. I picked one rooster and 3 hens to breed and moved them into a private honeymoon suite together for a month. The 3 hens are still separate, but the rooster went back to the bachelor pad.
Now we can start counting all the mistakes I've made...
1. I saved a clutch of 12 eggs and put them under my broody hen, only to discover the other chickens in the hen house would lay their own eggs in her nest - and break her fertile eggs! Only 2 eggs survived to 21 days, and neither hatched.
2. All this time more fertile eggs were being laid, so I put the next 20 into an incubator and 16 hatched into strong and healthy chicks!
3. I might have been done at this point except that my 3 hens continued to lay fertile eggs for 3 weeks after the rooster moved out, so the next batch of 15 went under the broody hen again, but I fenced off a part of the hen house for her to be left alone. Two things happened; first, another hen went broody, sneaked in and started sharing her nest. Second, some of the other hens were apparently sneaking in again to lay unfertilized eggs, destroy fertile eggs and sneak out again, which I didn't realize until I checked on the eggs at day 21. In the end I had 12 eggs - 5 fertile (marked) and 7 infertile (unmarked) in the nest. Only one egg hatched and now I have two moms over protecting it.
4. The 3 fertile hens kept laying and I had fertile eggs everywhere, but collected another 20 by the time my incubator was ready for another round. (I'm trying dry incubation this time)
5. Which brings me to the 3 fertile hens again. One went broody and didn't want me to take the 4 eggs she had in their nest to add to my incubator, so I decided to let her sit on them. The problem is that the other 2 fertile hens kept laying eggs in that group nest for another week, until they went broody too. Now I have all 3 hens crammed in one nest a foot off the ground, with about 20 eggs that started incubation on different days over roughly a 10 day span.
I don't want 5 hens all being broody (2 raising one chick now, and 3 sharing a 20-egg nest). I don't want chicks to hatch in this nest a foot off the ground and fall. I've borrowed a second incubator and I'd like to put their eggs into the second incubator and all three (now formerly) fertile hens back in the hen house. The problem is that I don't know which eggs were start when, so I don't know how long to run the egg turner or when to remove it. And these are all blue eggs, and I've had no luck candling them - I've just waited 22 days and then float test any eggs before throwing them away.
If you've read this far - thank you! And I'd be grateful for any suggestions on how I might be able to successfully hatch this last batch of eggs.