Broody Hen - I gave her fertilized eggs!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by SusanPC, Jan 22, 2015.

  1. SusanPC

    SusanPC Chillin' With My Peeps

    179
    22
    83
    Feb 28, 2014
    Southwest Florida
    I was newbie to BYC when I ordered my first-ever chicks through our local feed store and received our 4 "babies" in late Feb. 2014. So when my BO went broody, I came in to work asking if anyone had a wire-bottom cage that I could use to "break" her (don't worry, when I say "break" I just mean get her out of being broody). Anyway, my co-worker brings eggs in weekly to give away and she has a rooster, so.... now I have fertilized eggs under my broody hen! It was a rash decision that I made quickly and now I don't know whether to be excited or horrified. I definitely have to look up what to do when/if these eggs hatch in 3 weeks, if I need to separate the hen and chicks and what I need to do to maximize the chances for a successful clutch based on the weather (might snow tonight! I'm in West Texas). She viewed the eggs with a flashlight to confirm if they were fertile, so that hopefully most of the 7 eggs (too many?) I put in with her are fertilized, but I guess we'll see what happens. I also worry for my BO - Daisy as she is as much of a pet as she is a backyard egg-giver. Wish me luck and please feel free to share your hijacked broody hen story or give me some advice. Thanks!
     
  2. Outpost JWB

    Outpost JWB Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,455
    362
    228
    Mar 31, 2014
    Ohio
    A couple questions for you 1st....
    Did your co worker wash or refrigerate the eggs?
    Do you have the hen in an enclosed area?
    If not the others will lay their eggs under her too. So you need to at least mark the eggs you set today or isolate her. We have a "broody box". I put the hen and eggs in the 3'x3' pen with her nest box. I take her off the nest once a day. She poops and eats. She has access to food and water at all times, but does not leave the nest. I have only had one successful broody hen. I had a quitter, and I had one batch that had an egg explode and contaminate the whole bunch.
     
  3. Outpost JWB

    Outpost JWB Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,455
    362
    228
    Mar 31, 2014
    Ohio
    I should add the cold/heat factor....Our brooder box has a hardware cloth framed top. This way we can set a light on top if need be for heat.
     
  4. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,576
    166
    158
    Jun 4, 2014
    Victoria, Australia.
    Ditto with the separating her from the rest of the flock. If you can, put her in her own separate pen, or section off a corner of the main coop. All she needs is her nest and eggs, water and her feeder. If there is some dust in there that she can dust-bathe in, all the better. Hopefully you are confident in picking her up? If she frightens you with all her growling and screeching, put on some long gloves and pick her up and give her a quick dusting of Pestene or Sevin dust. Lice and mites can be an issue for broody hens, but if you dust her now she should be right. Then leave her be - she will get up once a day or so to eat and drink and poop, but usually she will do this when you are not around. It's nature's way - to protect her eggs, she will only get up when she's alone.

    Keep an eye on her feeder - her feed should look 'disturbed' once a day but if it doesn't you might have one of those girls who just doesn't get up for food or water. If that is the case, establish a routine of getting her out of the nest very gently at the same time every day to eat and drink. I say 'very gently' because the hen will often tuck an egg or two under her wing, and if you are rough you risk her dropping the eggs! Gently run your fingers under her wings before you pick her up just to make sure! The eggs are ok to sit there for 10 or 20 minutes while Momma tends to her business. She will do the rest though. With regards to temperature, she may need a heat lamp if it's freezing, but if she is sheltered and out of the wind she should be ok. And don't worry about the chicks when they hatch - she will keep them warm as toast underneath her!

    Once the chicks come, you need to protect them. Make sure there are no nooks and crannies they could get stuck in or fall into. Your water bowl needs to be replaced with a shallow one filled with marbles, so that if the chicks accidentally fall in they won't drown. I put up fine wire mesh around the chick pen so that the babies can't wander out without Momma. If they do that, they run the risk of being attacked by the other hens. It can, and does happen, so do everything you can to keep them separated from the flock for now.

    Momma will teach the chicks how to find food and how to eat and drink. If you put the feed in a bowl, be aware that it is completely normal for Momma to kick it all over the ground! She will want to teach them how to forage in the dirt for food. Check your waterer regularly as with all of this kicking about it will fill up with dust and dirt quite quickly. I usually replace the chick's water at least three times a day, but usually more.

    When the chicks first hatch, try and leave them alone with their Momma for a few days so they can bond and get used to each other. After that you can quietly go into their pen with a handful of treats and let Momma take them from your hand. She needs to get used to you being in there with her babies before you go picking them up and playing with them. After a few days of 'getting to know you' time, you can quietly and gently pick up the chicks, but if Momma stresses it's best to put them back with her post-haste!

    That's about it I think. I have raised several batches of chicks now and if I were to give you any advice, it would be "Don't touch the eggs at any time." You really need to trust in Momma and not disturb her. The one exception I make is to candle the eggs once between Day 7 to 10. Remove any unviable eggs immediately and this will ensure you don't get any nasty egg explosions!

    Good luck, and if you have any further questions don't hesitate to ask.

    - Krista
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. SusanPC

    SusanPC Chillin' With My Peeps

    179
    22
    83
    Feb 28, 2014
    Southwest Florida
    Wonderful advice ladies! Thank you! I went home at lunch today and checked under Daisy by lifting her up at the side and she's re-arranged all the eggs so beautifully compared to the way I had laid them in the nest box two days ago. She had also laid an egg of her own, which I removed since it won't ever be fertile. (my co-worker's eggs are from leghorns and RIRs and are huge compared to Daisy's own eggs). Eggs were unwashed and had been collected over the previous 4 or 5 days from the community nest box she uses.

    Although she fluffs up her feathers and is limp as a rag doll when I try to move her, she is quite docile and has not tried to peck me. The nest box she's in was the "popular" box where they all 4 laid their eggs, so the other gals have moved next door to lay. Will their daily visits to the adjacent nest box (there is a solid piece of plywood between the two boxes, but they are side by side) disturb her too much that I should consider moving her and her nest to the penned off area now? I could wait the 10 days, check the eggs, and if I see growing embryos, I could do the move at that time. Conversely, I could leave her where she is and move her when the chicks hatch.

    I haven't seen her leave the nest box, but I'm at work all day, so who knows. I did put food and water inside the coop as I keep the regular feeder and waterer in the run. I won't know if she's eating since the other chickens have access to the food and water inside also, so that's another consideration in moving her earlier rather than later to her own area.

    Again - thanks for all the tips!
     
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    31,451
    3,564
    538
    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    If she is truly broody, she did not lay that extra egg. One of your other hens got in there and laid it. Since your eggs aren't fertile you don't have to worry about a staggered hatch, but you'll still want to check under her every other day or so to remove any extras. Unless the fertile eggs are quite distinctive from your own, I'd advise marking the fertile eggs with a sharpie so you can easily tell which eggs to pull. Other than that, I agree on the no touching advice. Myself, I don't separate the broody unless there is an issue. If you do separate her, get her and the chicks back in with the flock asap. The chicks shouldn't be older than a week when you get everyone together. Be sure you have enough space, and hiding places for the littles. Also be sure the feeder and waterer are low enough for the littles to reach.

    Something else to start thinking of now is what you're going to do with the cockerels you hatch out.
     
  7. song of joy

    song of joy Chillin' With My Peeps

    991
    310
    191
    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    I have a hatchery BO that went broody during the summer. She was great at sitting on the eggs, but terrible when it came to the hatching part. She continued to sit on the eggs when they pipped and ended up crushing them. Hope you have better luck with your hatch!
     
  8. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    31,451
    3,564
    538
    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Joy, I'm sorry you had a bad hatch, but a hen is supposed to set on the eggs when they pip. As a rule, the hen will stay on the nest about 2 days after the first chick hatches, to give stragglers time to hatch.
     
  9. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,576
    166
    158
    Jun 4, 2014
    Victoria, Australia.
    My preference is always to separate Momma and her eggs to their own area. I know many people take the opposite approach though, and keep them all within the main flock. The benefit in separating her out is as you have already identified: You can keep an eye on her food intake, you prevent extra eggs from accumulating under her, and the chicks are protected. If you choose to leave her in an accessible area, you do run the risk of the chicks being attacked by other hens. A Momma Hen will usually be pretty feisty with her chicks and will try to protect them, but you know how it is with kids - you can't be everywhere all at once! I usually move my broody hen, along with her clutch of eggs after a week or so of sitting. They do imprint to the nest, so if she is not securely penned up she may try and get back to that spot. To minimise stress, I would do the whole move at dusk, have a helper at hand if you need to, and act quietly, calmly and quickly. She may get up off the eggs for a period of time but normally their instinct will be to go back to them.

    There are two schools of thought regarding integration too. Some people prefer to reintegrate Momma and the chicks back to the flock very quickly, claiming it goes smoother than if you remove them for an extended period of time. I myself have always kept Momma and her chicks separate for 6 or so weeks, although always in a place where they can be seen by the rest of the flock - just not touched! I find that Momma relaxes more when they all have their own space. How you choose to proceed in this is your call though - do what you're comfortable with!


    In general I would agree with this statement. A well-broody hen will not lay eggs. That being said, I have had several hens at the start of their broodiness who continue to lay for a day or two in order to get a larger clutch size. During this time they still take on the classic broody appearance - puffed up feathers, screeching and pecking, and once their clutch size is satisfactory to them, all laying ceases and they begin to sit for the long haul.

    It is interesting actually, most people identify a broody hen as one who has been sitting on her eggs for a few days, but my opinion is that the whole broody process actually begins long before that. It is, after all, a hormonal shift - they don't simply go snap! and they're broody all of a sudden. I have always been able to tell when my girls are going broody well before they start sitting constantly - adopting the broody walk (puffed up, slow moving, with a fanned tail), becoming antisocial and moody, and being more reluctant to leave the nests after laying. And they do sit on eggs during this time, although a handful of scratch may coax them out! Once they have laid a clutch which they consider appropriate though - you can forget about it! Sitting commences in earnest and they won't leave the nest but for once a day to eat, drink and poop.

    - Krista
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2015
  10. SusanPC

    SusanPC Chillin' With My Peeps

    179
    22
    83
    Feb 28, 2014
    Southwest Florida
    Update. I checked on the nest box yesterday after work and Daisy was sitting on 4 broken eggs out of the 7 total. She was a mess, so we brought her inside, washed her underside, and set her up in a plastic dog kennel with straw nest in the house for the night. We rinsed off the remaining eggs under warm water, dried them with a paper towel and popped them back under her. This morning we decided to candle the eggs to see if it's worth continuing to try this and one of the eggs was growing an embryo. I don't know if it will be viable after all the commotion yesterday, but we are going to set up a separate area for Daisy in the coop. I don't know if she broke the eggs or another hen. She had yolk on her beak but that could have been from rearranging the broken mess. Anyway, we shall see if this one embryo will continue to develop. I'm going to give the other two eggs a few more days before I check again and pull them out since they were harder to see brown eggs, but I'm pretty sure they're duds.

    Will there be problems associated with only having one egg under her? What about if she actually gets the one chick? Any issues there? Thanks again and I have now moved into the "separate the broody hen camp" as I would know if she broke the eggs herself.

    Susan
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by