Broody Hen and newbie Chicken Owners

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by wizardmt70, Jan 23, 2017.

  1. wizardmt70

    wizardmt70 Out Of The Brooder

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    My wife and I are novices when it comes to our chickens. We got our first hen and rooster about 18 months ago and have added 5 more hens since. One of the Hens decided to go broody about a month ago so we decided to let her sit. Here is where the fun and anxiety started. I figured it would be interesting and fun to see her hatch out some chicks as well as being educational for my 7 year old home schooled daughter. The issue was that she went broody on 2 eggs in a common nesting box that was about 24" off the ground. Then a couple days ago I noticed 3 more eggs under her in the box. Then next day one of the original eggs hatched and we had a new baby chick. We did some googling and decided that it might be best if we moved everything into a large dog kennel we have and kind of segregate the hen, chick and eggs away from the flock. We made the move last night and unfortunately and with deep heartache we dropped what must have been the other egg that had been under her from the beginning. We completed the move successfully minus the broken egg and we now have the hen, chick and new eggs segregated. We have the "kennel" under roof and under tarp in the run outside our coop. My question is how long should I wait after the new eggs hatch to try and introduce the hen and new chicks to the rest of the flock? I have an automatic feeder that is off the ground for the mature hens and rooster so I'm not concerned about the chicks getting the adult food but I am concerned about the adults eating all my starter crumble. I would appreciate any advice on how to move forward with this situation. If I had know it was going to be so stressful I might have changed my mind about letting her sit. As well as the frustration and grief over loosing the other egg!
     
  2. SIMZ

    SIMZ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It can be frustrating and heartbreaking at times. We all learn lessons in this journey! You were trying to help, so don't beat yourself up too badly!

    Do you have any idea how long those other eggs have been under her? The problem is that she can't do both - raise the chick and sit on eggs. It's possible that she won't take care of the chick or will leave the eggs. Unless they'll be hatching in a day or so, I'd take them out and put them in an incubator to finish (if you want to brood them yourself) or get rid of the eggs.

    IF you have enough room, you can let the broody raise her chick right with your flock. If she has enough room, she'll put those other chickens in their place and not let them near her chick. What you're also doing is probably ok if they all still see one another, too. Otherwise, it's going to be tough just throwing them back in there. Also remember, that she will be done raising the chick when it's still pretty small (4-12 weeks) and you won't be able to just toss it in with big chickens unless they're already used to it.

    Good luck on the starter crumble. My flock always acts like that is a delicacy and will hog it down no matter what I try. I just switch to a all-flock feed while I have chicks. Flockraiser is one you can switch to that everyone can eat.

    I hope this help. Feel free to ask more questions - it's tough to try to cover it all while not knowing a lot about your set up. :)
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Unfortunately you have what we call a staggered hatch. All the eggs were not started at the same time and at some point the hen will abandon the nest and unhatched eggs to take care of any chicks that might have hatched. That’s really common on here. Some do it on purpose using incubators, with one incubator for incubating and a second one for use as a hatcher. With a broody hen it is a lot harder.

    If you decide to try this again in the future with another broody hen, you have two basic options. If you let her hatch with the flock, collect all the eggs you want her to hatch and mark them. I use a black Sharpie, others use other things. Start them all at the same time. Then once a day every day check under her after the others have laid and remove any eggs that don’t belong. As long as you collect them once a day every day they are still good to use, you will not find any surprises inside.

    The other option is to isolate that hen’s nest from the flock. There are many variations on this. Some people move her to a totally separate building, some build a pen in the coop, and some build a pen around her nest. You need enough room for a nest, for food and water, and a bit of room for her to go poop, though you may find she doesn’t mind pooping in her food or water. You may be cleaning that regularly. Build it so she cannot get out and no other hen can get inside to lay an egg. And of course, start all the eggs at the same time.

    You have some options to try to get the late eggs but it’s likely you will have to raise at least some of the chicks yourself. You can try removing the chicks as they hatch and dry off. Put them in a brooder well away from the hen where she cannot hear them peeping. She may stay on the nest and hatch the later eggs, she may not.

    You can get an incubator and try to hatch any remaining eggs yourself when she abandons the nest to take any chicks that have hatched for food and water.

    You might keep her on the nest a little longer if you put food and water near so the chicks and she can eat and drink. If the first chick doesn’t get hungry she may or may not stay on the nest longer. This one is usually not real successful.

    After her hatch is over you can try giving any chicks back to her. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. Some hens will mother about any chick, some will reject any you try to put under her. The more difference in age of the chicks the more likely she is to reject them. I’d count on raising them yourself.

    Do not count on the baby chicks not eating the adult feed. I’ve seen broody hens take food out and put it where her chicks can eat it. I’ve seen chicks less than two weeks old fly up to the feeder to eat the feed. The way I get around this is to feed them all the same low calcium feed and offer oyster shells on the side. The ones that need the calcium for the egg shells generally know to eat it, the ones that don’t need it for egg shells shouldn’t eat enough to harm themselves.

    You are right, if you put out food in a new spot, even if it is exactly the same food they are used to, the adults will treat it like something special. They will wipe it out. I generally get around this by having feed where the newly hatched chicks can get to it in a few different places and feed them all the same thing. Just have enough low enough that the adults can’t eat it all. My broody hens are pretty good about keeping the other adults away when her chicks want to eat, but there needs to be some food somewhere they can reach.

    Another method is to use a creep feeder. You put the feed in a spot the chicks can get to but the adults cannot. There are all kinds of versions of this. Since you have them in that kennel in your run already maybe you could make a hole in it the chicks can get through but the adults cannot. The hen will quickly learn to take them to that area so they can eat even if she cannot get in.

    Don’t do that until the hen has her chicks out with the flock. You do not want the chicks to get out and mix with the other adults if the hen cannot protect them. I don’t know what your kennel looks like, but if it has holes big enough the chicks can get through but the hen cannot, you should put some kind of mesh around it for the bottom foot or so to keep the chicks from leaving the hen’s protection.

    As usual we do all sort of different things when a hen hatches. Many of us do not isolate the hen and chicks art all, just leave it up to her to handle everything as long as food and water is where the chicks can get to it. Many people like to isolate the hen and chicks for two or three days, until the chicks have learned to eat and drink and are more mobile, then just let them free to mingle with the flock. With either of these, the broody hen takes care of basic integration. When she weans them they will have to manage their own pecking order issues but as long as they have enough room to avoid the other adults this usually isn’t a problem.

    For their own reasons some people totally isolate the hen and her chicks until the chicks are weaned. Then they have to handle integrating the hen back with the flock and integrating the chicks whenever they feel it is time. There is no right or wrong time, they can all work, but the more room you have the easier any of these are.

    Don’t beat yourself up, the only time you don’t have anything happen is when you don’t do anything. We’ve all had our “oops” moments. I just wish we’d discussed his earlier so we could have helped you at the start of this. There is something special about watching a broody hen raise her chicks, either with the flock or in isolation. Your first time it will be stressful, you don’t really know what to expect. And any time you deal with living animals about anything can happen. We cannot give you any guarantees as to behaviors. But usually a hen hatching and raising her chicks is a great experience.

    Good luck!
     
  4. wizardmt70

    wizardmt70 Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks to you both for the response and great advice. As we were pondering our next step it seems the Hen has made the decision for us. The great news is that we now have two new baby chicks with one being born this morning. The bad news but expected news is that she has now abandoned the nest and the eggs and has setup outside the converted 5 gal bucket nesting area. It looks like I will be removing the eggs this evening when I get home from work. I think we are going to keep the Hen and baby chicks segregated for a few weeks. We do have their pen in the normal run so they are in close proximity to the other chickens. Hopefully this will make integration back into the flock easier.

    Hindsight being 20:20 I will say this. If I had to do it over again we would have moved the hen and eggs to a safer location when she first became broody. I would have also carefully marked the eggs and depending on their number may have tried to introduce a couple more in the beginning. We were cautious of messing with her too much in the beginning for fear that she would stop sitting. I think peace of mind and better knowledge/control are worth the risk of her not sitting any longer. I would still love to raise some chicks in the group without segregating them out but I would have needed to modify my coop, feeding and watering system in the beginning to accommodate a more "chick" friendly system.

    I really hate we lost the other egg during the move but the additional and unexpected new chick this morning alleviates some of that sadness and frustration.

    Again thank you for your advice! It's is great having a place to come and ask questions!
     
  5. SIMZ

    SIMZ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the update and congrats on those cute babies!
     

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