Bad mama hen??

rainbowcharmer

Hatching
May 22, 2015
6
0
7
So 22 days ago I had a hen go broody. I've been keeping backyard chickens for 4 or 5 years now, and this is the first one to go broody on me. I also have a rooster because he was mistakenly identified as female when I bought a group of female chicks a couple years ago. Anyhow, I figured - OK - broody hen sitting on fertile eggs - I guess we'll have a few new chicks in the flock! She was in my top nest box and I worried that with it being so far off the floor, it probably wasn't the safest place to raise babies. So about 4 or 5 days into her broody sitting, we moved her to a nest box in a dog crate on the floor of the coop - this way she and the babies are left alone by the others for the time being. When we picked her up, she was sitting on 20+ eggs!! She had been stealing them from other hens! We had noticed a decrease in eggs, but thought perhaps because she was in one of the boxes that the others had found a place to lay outside the coop and we just hadn't discovered it yet. Anyhow, we moved her AND all the eggs because I didn't want to kill any developing babies to this new nest box. She's been very faithful sitting on them and protecting them. But yesterday when we came home we found two dead baby chicks. One outside the coop altogether - which means it must have traveled a ways to get there. And one just outside the nest box still in the dog crate. The one outside the coop was dry and fluffy - had been hatched for a little while anyhow. And the one inside the crate was still wet. I'm not sure why these chicks were out from under her at all. Is she kicking them out as they hatch? Did she maybe chase out the one that was a little bit older and scare it out of the crate?? They are small enough that they can certainly fit through those crate wires - but I really thought that babies would stay with mama and that wouldn't be a problem to start out with... I also thought that typically they stay under mama for the first couple of days while the others hatch... I did pick her up for a second yesterday afternoon to see if any others had hatched and were still under her, but only eggs under her.
She has kicked out an egg here and there throughout the broody process, so she's not sitting on quite as many as she started out on, but I'm just not sure why she's kicking out live chicks! Anyone have thoughts or suggestions?? Should I take them away from her and hatch and raise them myself?? I haven't taken anything yet. And I will see what's going on after work today. This morning when I opened the coop she is still sitting there and no other babies are outside the nest. I don't know if anything else has hatched and I know that some of the eggs are a few days behind since she had been stealing them for that 4 or 5 day period.
Looking for advice or experience with a new mama hen who maybe isn't such a good parent??
 

nchls school

Crowing
5 Years
Apr 22, 2015
6,878
3,584
376
Tennessee
I suspect the hen is not a good mother. Not all are. I would remove any new chicks that have hatched. Don't be surprised if there is no more. Twenty+ eggs is to many for most hens to incubate properly. If she could not cover the eggs adequately then as the incubation process went on eggs would have chilled. I do hope this is not true in your case. Good Luck.
 
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rainbowcharmer

Hatching
May 22, 2015
6
0
7
Thanks for the response. I realized at the time that 20 was too many. But I didn't want to be the one who decided who lived and who died... I figured mother nature would take care of that. Anyhow - I would imagine that at least a few would hatch - but I suppose I will see. I know some are a few days behind so I'm going to wait it out a little bit. But if I do find any new hatchlings tossed out of the nest, I will take over for her and see if anything else makes it. Darn these chickens anyway sometimes!!
 

nchls school

Crowing
5 Years
Apr 22, 2015
6,878
3,584
376
Tennessee
Thanks for the response. I realized at the time that 20 was too many. But I didn't want to be the one who decided who lived and who died... I figured mother nature would take care of that. Anyhow - I would imagine that at least a few would hatch - but I suppose I will see. I know some are a few days behind so I'm going to wait it out a little bit. But if I do find any new hatchlings tossed out of the nest, I will take over for her and see if anything else makes it. Darn these chickens anyway sometimes!!

It sounds like the hen might be throwing the chicks out as soon as they hatch. Consider checking to see if any eggs are pipping. Then you will know to be extra watchful or not. There's quite a bit of time between when the eggs first pip and when they actually hatch. Good luck.
 

Ol Grey Mare

One egg shy of a full carton. .....
7 Years
Mar 9, 2014
20,622
15,032
821
Oregon
My Coop
My Coop
Thanks for the response. I realized at the time that 20 was too many. But I didn't want to be the one who decided who lived and who died... I figured mother nature would take care of that. Anyhow - I would imagine that at least a few would hatch - but I suppose I will see. I know some are a few days behind so I'm going to wait it out a little bit. But if I do find any new hatchlings tossed out of the nest, I will take over for her and see if anything else makes it. Darn these chickens anyway sometimes!!

Unfortunately, in situations like this, it is up to us to be responsible for taking actions that are necessary even when they are uncomfortable - similar to having to make the call to end the suffering of an animal vs. allowing mother nature to run it's course which results in a prolonged and miserable trip to the same end result for the animal in question.
To the crate situation and the babies being out - unfortunately, the babies are babies and don't know much just yet. They can easily fit out through the bars (whether they mean to or simply take a tumble due to being new) and are not apt to figure out how to get back in. Mama is still in the "hatching zone" so she is not going to jump off the nest and go round up her errant hatchlings....which leaves the babies to chill or be vulnerable to other possible causes of death. A simple solution for your setup is to use a small opening wire around the bottom few inches of the crate which will effectively create a "bumper" and keep the chicks safely inside with the hen until such time she decides it is time to take them out through the door and will be with them to provide the mothering they need. Having a staggered hatch (she didn't steal the eggs, btw, the other hens will go right on laying in the nest occupied by a broody - it's important to mark the eggs that you start with and remove any unmarked eggs every day (just lift the broody up, do a quick check and let her back on them - no muss, no fuss) - is not a good idea because the hen will only remain on the nest for so long after the first eggs hatch - this is because she knows she needs to take her chicks to start teaching them about getting food and water and that means abandoning any unhatched eggs. When you have eggs that are going to hatch over a period of more than a day or two you are setting yourself up for a whole lot of abandoned eggs.
 

rainbowcharmer

Hatching
May 22, 2015
6
0
7
We ended up with 5 dead chicks (1 fully hatched and wandered out of the coop without mama, and 4 only partially or just hatched and kicked out of the nest - still wet). And 1 living chick, who is doing just fine and Mama is being good with her.

I now have 8 eggs in the house under a light just to see what happens with them. I candled and float tested the 11 I brought in and tossed 2 that failed the float test yesterday. One was apparently rotten and exploded at 2am this morning, so 8 remain.

How do I tell if any of the 8 remaining are rotten and likely to burst?? That was not my favorite cleanup in the middle of the night!

I'm aware that I don't have the ideal setup. I have a heat lamp and am able to keep them right around 100 degrees, but I have no real source of humidity regulation, although living in Georgia with it being quite humid, perhaps that won't be such a big deal. I had someone local here tell me that they've had success with hatching out eggs that were abandoned at the end of the hatch period by putting them under a heat source and turning them every so often. At this point, I figure they were going to die anyhow since Mama was done sitting. So worst case is nothing else hatches.

There are 3 that I cannot see inside at all when candling due to the egg shell color (I think). They are just too opaque. The others have an air sac yet, and in two of those I am almost positive I saw movement.

But mainly my question right now is how do I know if another egg is on course to rupture and stink up my house??

Thanks!
 

WalnutHill

Crowing
5 Years
Mar 16, 2014
7,000
2,268
346
SE Michigan
We ended up with 5 dead chicks (1 fully hatched and wandered out of the coop without mama, and 4 only partially or just hatched and kicked out of the nest - still wet). And 1 living chick, who is doing just fine and Mama is being good with her.

I now have 8 eggs in the house under a light just to see what happens with them. I candled and float tested the 11 I brought in and tossed 2 that failed the float test yesterday. One was apparently rotten and exploded at 2am this morning, so 8 remain.

How do I tell if any of the 8 remaining are rotten and likely to burst?? That was not my favorite cleanup in the middle of the night!

I'm aware that I don't have the ideal setup. I have a heat lamp and am able to keep them right around 100 degrees, but I have no real source of humidity regulation, although living in Georgia with it being quite humid, perhaps that won't be such a big deal. I had someone local here tell me that they've had success with hatching out eggs that were abandoned at the end of the hatch period by putting them under a heat source and turning them every so often. At this point, I figure they were going to die anyhow since Mama was done sitting. So worst case is nothing else hatches.

There are 3 that I cannot see inside at all when candling due to the egg shell color (I think). They are just too opaque. The others have an air sac yet, and in two of those I am almost positive I saw movement.

But mainly my question right now is how do I know if another egg is on course to rupture and stink up my house??

Thanks!

Put each egg right to your nose. I know I can smell a stinker long before it becomes an environmental hazard, even during allergy season!
 

rainbowcharmer

Hatching
May 22, 2015
6
0
7
Ok thanks. I did notice that one smelled a little funky when I was candling yesterday evening, and perhaps that is the one that burst overnight. Is this something that I should be checking daily as I turn them - do they go rotten that quickly? Or if they all smell OK, just keep turning and see if anything makes progress?

I am probably only going to give them until Friday or so - if nothing pips in that time, I will toss them and we'll just go with the 1 baby chick that did manage to survive this time around. Maybe next time she'll do better - and we will know to move her before she has collected 2 dozen eggs!
 

rainbowcharmer

Hatching
May 22, 2015
6
0
7
Ok well upon sniffing them after work two more got tossed so now there are 6. I will sniff them as I turn them through the rest of the week and we will see if anything happens. Thanks!
 

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