I want to share with everyone my experience with letting a broody hatch a clutch.
Note that i am in the process of living this experience so i will be updating this post on a daily basis.
Being fairly new to hobby farming (began a year and a half ago), I always had so many questions about chicken and duck farming. Starting with day old chicks, every event (injury/sickness/behaviour etc) was new to me and it always brought up questions that lead me to find this site, let me tell you that back yard chickens was and is always there to answer my questions and further my knowledge and comprehension (THANK YOU BYC).
Now im dealing with my first broody and thought it would be cool to let nature take its course and let my silkie hatch a clutch of chicks. I decided to share with you my experience and thoughts all along this process to hopefully help out people who are new to this as well as gain knowledge on thoughts and tips from people who will comment!
This thread will consist off a newbie going through trial and error, observations, questions, answers and jimmy rigging things in hope to end up with 5 healthy hatched chicks!
Ill start off with what happened two weeks ago. My silkie decided to go full on broody during the weekend while i was not home. When i did get home she had been sitting in the nesting box and had horded WAY to many eggs than she could handle. I knew that only two hens including herself layed fertilized eggs as they were the only two who would tolerate my silkie roo. My broody had stoped laying which meant that only my easter egger hen had viable eggs. So went and took all but the three ee eggs out underneath her and let her keep those 3 untill i decided what to do. After some BYC reading. I learnt that its not recomended to give segragated eggs to a hen because once the first hatches she will most likely abandon the rest to raise the one. By the time i decided to start with new eggs and remove her 3 fertile ee eggs, i walked in to the coop and found 2 out of the 3 at the other end of the coop and she was sitting on new fresh eggs that my other hens had laid. One of the first things i learnt and did was if you decide to let her brood, try to separate her and the nest so the other hens cant lay in her nest because its annoying to remove the ones you dont want her to have every day, plus you can risk breaking the viable ones. Also, mark with a pencil the good ones to e sure that you dont remove the wrong one.
The eggs that i took from her where under her for 6, 4 and 3 days old. Here are some photos when i opened them.
1. 3 days old, you can see that things had started to kick start.
2. 4 days old. This ones yolk busted when i opened it but you can see the development of the amniotic cavity, blood circulation etc.
3. 6 days old you can see the embryo takes c shape, the head, eye and tail is clearly visible.
I was a little discouraged that these 3 didnt get to hatch, but it definitely got me wondering and furthered my knowledge on the development within the egg.
I left her on golf balls for the next few days while i collected new eggs. Because i only had one hen who layed fertile eggs waited 7 days to collect 5. From what ive read, keeping fertilized eggs for more than 7 days can decrease the fertility in the egg imensly. Also, by keeping them on the counter in a tempature between 18-22degrees celcius, the eggs wont start to develop until you put it under a hen (or incubator). So this is exactly what i did. The eggs were at 21°C the entire time and the oldest one was at day 7.
Now before giving them to my hen i decided to let her brood in the coop but by isolating her in a small dog cage it permits me to not have to worry about sneekies shoving more eggs underher or even possibly damaging her good eggs.
Here is what i did, i shoved a small dog cage in the coop and put cardboard on the back where the nest is, also i put cardboard on an angle on top of the cage to ensure chickens were not going to jump up and roost there.
Day 0 Just as it was getting dark out, i set up the cage, put lots of straw, put out food and water, then i placed the eggs inside in the back of the cage then placed my hen inside. Immediatly she went to the back, checked out her new eggs and persued to gather and tuck them underneath her.
Day 1-2-3 Not much to say here, i kept an eye on her and made sure she drank, ate and pooped (there poops huge as they only do buisness about once a day). I didnt open the cage during these days. She had been doing a good job on keeping her eggs warm and she creating a big deep nest with the hay i had put in there.
Day 4 - I decided to let her out and free range a bit with the others. I was a little worried on how excited she was and how easy she abandoned her nest to forage for juicy bugs. After a half hour out, she had no intention on goin back to her nest so I caught her, put her back in the cage and she went straight to her nest and laid on it. That was reassuring.
I removed the eggs and nest and layed down some old clothes i had laying around after i noticed the eggs were between the cages metal bars. (Theres no plastic linner in the bottom of the cage). I then put everything back as it was. While mother hen was out and about for 20 minutes, i noticed one of my two ee's decided to lay on the nest! I took her out and closed the cage untill mom came back. She didnt seem to have noticed that i touched her nest.
FYI - I am thinking that i will only candle the eggs around day 9. If anyone with experience is reading this and has anything to add or what not. Please do!
Day 6- 15 - (November 2nd) well, in my head there was going to be cool things to write about during "the wait", but turns out theres not much to say. My broody is still going on strong, she still has her 5 eggs and ive decided not to touch them one bit during since ive given it to her. I thought it would be cool to see how everythjng plays out without getting one but implicated in the process.
One thing I am curently debating is when do i bring her in the house... i am letting her raise her young in my basement over the winter because she winters are brutal here and i dont want the others to causs harm to the chicks. I am not sure what i will do yet but i will post about the steps ive taken to prepare for the hatchlings!