Anyone else think hatching chickens is just too overcomplicated? (Psst...BTW, that's code for HELP!)

VictoriaTemple

Songster
Aug 27, 2018
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Southern Chester County, PA
Ok, full disclosure time. I am both mentally and physically disabled and can NOT comb through all the volumes of information on this forum. Raising chickens is my therapy, and I can do it because it's SIMPLE! So if I ask questions that have been answered millions of times, please understand and help if you can.:)

I have some plans for breeding my small flock toward a personal dual-purpose target hybrid. I have several hens who, despite their youth, are showing broody tendencies. I will NOT use an incubator. I want to leave as much as possible to the hens until the chicks are hatched, and I need a very basic primer on how to get from egg to live chick successfully. My hens are friendly and handleable. One Cochin I hope will adopt young chicks from outside the flock for me, but I have not tried it yet. I have everything I need to set up a brooder if necessary.

The layer I'm most interested in right now is my Black Copper Marans, who has been hiding eggs for a week. She is a Spring pullet, but seems quite serious about brooding. I intend to set her up in a broody pen with her own coop, probably next week after the others are moved into their new coop and yard. Since she is still in the egg-hiding stage, how can I get a better idea of whether she intends to keep the eggs? My Jersey Giant is also clearly interested in brooding, she's 1 year older, but she is laying in the usual place.

This may be a dumb question, but can a refrigerated egg still be viable? Be kind, never attempted hatching before!:oops:

Other questions likely to come. Thank you!
 

FluffTheDuck

Duck love is recognizable in any language
Nov 26, 2018
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My Coop
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This may be a dumb question, but can a refrigerated egg still be viable? Be kind, never attempted hatching before!
If my memory is correct the eggs have to be 70° Fahrenheit+ for 24 hours or else they wont develop. Correct me guys if I'm wrong. Also more people will answer soon so don't worry.
 

sylviethecochin

Free Ranging
Jun 14, 2017
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The layer I'm most interested in right now is my Black Copper Marans, who has been hiding eggs for a week. She is a Spring pullet, but seems quite serious about brooding. I intend to set her up in a broody pen with her own coop, probably next week after the others are moved into their new coop and yard. Since she is still in the egg-hiding stage, how can I get a better idea of whether she intends to keep the eggs?
You can't. Unfortunately, It's really hard to read a chicken's mind. If she's gone broody before, you can remember her behaviour from last time. But every chicken's unique, and many will have different brooding behaviours.

My Jersey Giant is also clearly interested in brooding, she's 1 year older, but she is laying in the usual place.
How do you know she's interested in brooding? What are the signs you're seeing? I have hens that fluff up and squark at me when they're in the nest box, and those two have never gone broody. I have a hen who attempts to take chunks out of my hand when I retrieve eggs. She's also never gone broody.

This may be a dumb question, but can a refrigerated egg still be viable?
Yes. Many people will say that they can't, but I've pulled eggs directly out of the refrigerator (which has been cold enough to freeze and crack eggs in the past) and had pretty good hatch rates. I do try to avoid it, though, as I've read that chicks can hatch with deformities if the "egg" part of the egg is damaged by cold. It's not happened yet (Knock on wood.)

I need a very basic primer on how to get from egg to live chick successfully.

1. Broodiness. The chicken decides she's going broody. Generally marked by the collection of eggs and hanging around on the nest. May or may not care about you bothering her (even my first-timers seldom mind me), but will fluff their feathers, make horrible noises at barnyard cats, and hoard eggs.

2. Inspect the nest. It should be deep, bowl-shaped, and in a safe, protected location. If she's chosen a corner with no bedding, give her bedding. Lots of thick bedding. Preferably hay or straw, as it layers and makes a really good nest. Shavings sometimes suck in eggs, which are found rotten two weeks later.

If necessary (due to lack of safety, or her nesting on something you'll need, such as a lawn tractor), move her. Better to move her now and find out she's not a determined setter than to move her halfway through incubation after you've gotten your hopes up for all of those eggs.

Some hens move easily, and some do not. Sylvie's happy wherever I set her; her daughter Elizabeth is determined to set in a high place. Usually, an isolation pen with enclosed nest convinces a difficult hen to just take the eggs she's given.

I don't like to put food and water beside the nest; it can attract rodents. Even the most psychotic broody hen will leave the nest at least once every two days to eat her fill and dustbathe. If she's not leaving once a day, I kick her out for at least half an hour.

3. Choose eggs. They should be large, thick-shelled, not porous, and of a regular shape. Less than ten days old is ideal. I candle to make sure that they're not double-yolked or in any way weird inside. Mark them so that you can tell if another hen lays in the nest.

A standard hen can cover twelve large eggs easily. Most bantam cochins can do the same. A really excellent brooding hen can cover twenty eggs, and Psycho has done this for me just this spring. I don't usually go beyond ten, though.

5. Brooding. Settle your hen down, mark the date, and check for extra eggs on a regular schedule.

After day two (during which delicate blood vessels are forming: Do Not Disturb), you can begin to candle, though there's not usually much to see until late on day four. 250+ Lumens is good. I invested in a 900 Lumens flashlight and it is glorious. I candle constantly, because I'm obsessed. It's usually good to candle at least once during the course of incubation, so that you can remove any rotten eggs.

6. Lockdown. Double-check that the nesting spot is chick-safe. Make sure that no chicks can fall out of the nest and be separated from their mother. Chicks bounce, so they won't hurt themselves falling.

As I said, I don't keep food or water beside the nests, because rodents and ants are more trouble than they're worth. But I do bring a lockdown hen water. She's thirsty, and deserves it.

7. Isolation. Mum and babies are all healthy, but the babies aren't that fast yet, and they should learn to eat and follow Mum before being tossed in with the adult flock. A first-time Mum often doesn't realise that her chicks can't keep up. So I keep them apart for the first two-three days.

8. Integration. I integrate by the tried and true "toss-'em in and let 'em be" method, but this works for my flock. They're aggressive, but everyone knows their place in the pecking order, and they know that chicks aren't food, or real competition. It likely will not work for your flock. If you have a "see-don't-touch" pen, you may want to use it until the chicks are half-grown. As always, keep an eye on new flock members. It can get ugly.
 

slordaz

hatchaholic
5 Years
Apr 15, 2015
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if you have a serious broody she does all the work, best to put her in a protected area and let her do her thing ,sooner than later as they seem to become attached to their nest spot which should be separate from the nesting boxes.you don't have to worry about it once she is setting on the eggs , they will get up 1-2 times a day to relieve them self, eat and drink.
 

VictoriaTemple

Songster
Aug 27, 2018
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Southern Chester County, PA
Thank you very much! My pen is the opposite of "see-don't-touch", I handle my birds every day. Part of my therapy. Every one knows me, knows their name, they don't all consent to hand-feeding but we're working on it. They will not hop up in my lap, but I guess with heavy breeds that's not surprising.

You might be right about the Jersey Giant hen. She practice-broods frequently. She adopts every egg in the box and sits on them for a few hours, and growls and hisses if I take them away. But after a few hours, she gets up and has nothing more to do with it. It might be crowding making her abandon them, which is why we are moving soon. The TSC prefab coop they have now is for 6 birds, and about 11 sleep in it at night, with 6 on the roosting bar in the attached "run". I had to take out the nest area dividers to make sleeping room. She knows I have to take the eggs out or they will break them in their sleep, so she abandons hers.

I will mull over the rest of your very thoughtful post. It really doesn't sound all that hard.:)
 

CalBickieMomma

Songster
Jul 27, 2019
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Hello! I don’t have a ton of experience in encouraging broodiness, but I can tell you what I have witnessed from my own chickens...

When my sister and I were kids, our chickens free-ranged 24/7 and we let them hatch out chicks. All we had to do was keep an eye on our hens and try to find their nests when they went missing for more than a few days (we were really good at this). They would sit for several days, then come flying off their nests making a big fuss. They’d be making their momma chicken constant ‘bawk-bawk-bawk’ sound, scarfing down food, flapping their wings and stretching a lot (imagine sitting on a nest nonstop for a week or more), and sometimes take a dust bath. They’d return to the nest about 30 minutes or so later. Sometimes they’d take these breaks two or three times during incubation. SO, that’s one way to try to find the nest. And they would usually lay between 10-15 eggs (so maybe you can keep track of the days to get an idea of when they might start setting).

Recently, I let one of my hens hatch some chicks. She and the rooster are in a side coop and little open shed that’s connected to the main coop. I used a small, old metal trash can placed on its side with straw in it, then basically left it up to her. I simply didn’t collect the eggs. She also took a few breaks to stretch, eat, drink, and take dust baths and the rooster was really good not to pester her. I did put him in a separate pen next to them after they hatched because I wasn’t sure if he’d hurt them or not. She ended up laying 13 eggs and hatched out all but three of them.

Anyway, hope this helps and good luck! (And chicken raising is the best therapy <3).
 

VictoriaTemple

Songster
Aug 27, 2018
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Southern Chester County, PA
I'm beginning to wonder now if Pella really wants to brood at all. She lays an egg in her "secret" place (which she knows I know about), but she can't brood there anyway. She had 6 there when I found them, plus another 6 from 2 Cochins. After I collected them I have found 4 more. She might just want a quiet place to lay, and nothing else. I don't know. I will let her have the broody coop to herself after the move and see if she still wants to brood, but if not I just have to buy some more babies from my breeder friend. We shall see.
 

MANNA-PRO

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