Broody hen questions

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by mestaske, Mar 4, 2011.

  1. mestaske

    mestaske Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 14, 2011
    Southern Colorado
    I have had a hen that in the past week or so has seemed really broody. She has been in the same box sitting on a golf ball for about a week. Yesterday I decided to place a real egg underneath her. I added another today and took out the golf ball. It seems like she has stayed there for awhile, she did not get up to eat when I have fed the last few days. I have a few questions. First, is it ok to add the eggs underneath her, I don't know if they are fertile or not. Also, how long will the eggs last cold before they wont become baby chicks? I am going to try and get out there while the eggs are still warm from being layed but it doesn't take long for them to get a little chilled at this time of year. Also, how many eggs will she be able to sit on, I would like to add a couple in the next few days so that she has a better chance of hatching some. What number is normal.

    Thanks for your help,
    Kateri
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I suggest you read through this thread. I think it will help you. If you elect to not isolate her, please pay attention to the part about marking the eggs and checking under her daily to remove any other eggs.

    Isolate a Broody? Thread
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=213218

    Now to your specific questions.

    I do not give a hen any eggs to hatch unless she spends two consecutive nights on the nest instead of roosting in her favorite spot. Many will act broody but I do not consider then committed enough to give them eggs until they spend two consecutive nights on the nest.

    I don't know how many hens or roosters you have. I'm going to give you another link to another thread. This one shows you how to look for the bull's eye to see if an egg is fertile. The bull's eye may be hiding on the bottom of the egg yolk, so you might need to turn it ever gently with a spoon to find it. Obviously you cannot hatch an egg that has been cracked, but if most of the ones you check are fertile, odds are most that you put under the hen are fertile.

    Fertile Egg Photos
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=16008&p=6

    You really need to collect all the eggs you want her to hatch and start them at the same time. You can do a search for "staggered hatch" to see some of the headaches not doing that causes. Some people do it and have techniques to manage it, but I certainly do not advise it for your first time hatching.

    The egg can cool off and still be viable. The best temperature to store an egg for incubation is around 50 to 55 degrees fahrenheit. They certainly do not need to be kept warm. Freezing is bad and it is best if they don't get too cold or stay too warm, but you would be surprised how tough these eggs are. I'm sorry but I'll give one more link. I know it is a lot of reading, but you are asking a lot of questions. Good questions. This one is a lot about using an incubator instead of a broody, but it talks quite a bit about storing the eggs for incubation. That part is valid whether you use a broody or an incubator.

    Texas A&M Incubation site
    http://gallus.tamu.edu/library/extpublications/b6092.pdf

    Please remember these are guidelines, not absolute laws of nature. Many of us violate some of these guidelines and still do OK. If you follow the guidelines you are not guaranteed a great hatch. If you violate some of them, you are not guaranteed a total absolute failure. They are intended to improve yor odds, not guarantee anything. Consider them a target to aim for, not something you have to hit the bull's eye each time.

    When I collect eggs to incubate, my house is above the gudeline temperatures. I put them in my coolest room and turn them daily, actually using the turner from my incubator.

    How many eggs to give her? She needs to be able to cover them all comfortably. Different chickens and eggs come in different sizes. Some bantams can only cover 4 full sized eggs. Some full sized hens can cover 18 full sized eggs. For me, I usually go with 12 full sized eggs under a full sized hen.
     
  3. mestaske

    mestaske Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 14, 2011
    Southern Colorado
    Cool, thank you. Very informative. Tommorow for breakfast I will check to see if my eggs are fertile(3 roosters always at my chickens, I hope so). Should I just take out the ones I have placed underneath her? She has 3. She has been sitting on the same nest for the past week. Everytime I have gone into the coop she was in her nest box. When I reach under her she does the poofy feathers. I tried to isolate her today to get her from the other chicksn but she ran back.

    Kateri
     
  4. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    You don't say how big your flock is. If you have a flock over 10 head, I would isolate her, just to keep the other hen's eggs out of the clutch. If you have a smaller flock, I would leave her where she wants to be.

    You should mark the eggs with a pencil, get a good count, and put all of them under her at one time. And then you learn just how impossibly long 21 days can be [​IMG]

    Check the eggs once in a while, to make sure no other eggs are being added to the nest. A good size hen can hatch out a dozen eggs +. However, not all eggs will hatch, last summer they ran a poll and the average was about 50% broody hen or incubator.

    When the chicks are hatching about 24 hours, keep the other hens away from them. But after that you should not need to worry about it, as the mother hen will take care of them.

    mrsK
     
  5. ScissorChick

    ScissorChick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 17, 2010
    Under Your bed
    It's OK to put eggs under a hen, as long as you be sure shes

    actually broody. I had a goofy hen who would lay eggs, set on

    them for a few hours, then get up and never come back. [​IMG]

    You don't want the eggs to start developing, then she decides shes

    not broody after all. Gather the eggs before you put them under her,

    so if they hatch, they'll all hatch at the same time. Otherwise you'll have

    1 or 2 chicks hatching daily. You can hold them in an empty egg carton

    or cardboard box for a week (7-10 days) at room temp. I'd only give her

    5-7 eggs, just to see how it goes.
     
  6. mestaske

    mestaske Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 14, 2011
    Southern Colorado
    Thanks everyone. i checked my hen this morning, still there. I checked my eggs this morning to see if they were fertilized, they were. One was pretty far along in day one. I think I am going to collect about 5 eggs and put them under her. Only now I feel bad that I already have two under her that have been there for two days. The strange thing about her is that she herself has not been laying eggs. She thought the golfball was her egg. I also dont see how she would be able to move any eggs into her nest. I have 13 chickens including the rooster. I have about 24 nesting boxes(they were already here) so none of the other chickens bother her, plus it is a really big coop. Do you still think I should move her? I tried yesterday to put her in a cardboard box I fixed up but she just ended up back in the same nest, clever chicken.

    Kateri
     
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I personally have never seen a hen move an egg. I have seen eggs that were on the ground wind up in a nest where the only thing that could have moved them was a chicken. Several people on this forum that I trust have posted that they have seen the hen move an egg from one nest to another. Some people with two broodies mark the eggs differently so they know which eggs belong to which broody and report that eggs show up in the wrong nest. I firmly believe it is possible. Other chickens will also lay in the nest with a broody. That I have seen. Sometimes they wait until she leaves the nest to take her daily constitutional and sometimes they just pile in with her. Some broodies allow that and some don't. If you do not isolate her, you do need to mark the eggs and check under her every day for new eggs.

    If you do not remove the eggs, the hen can get so many that she cannot cover them all. Some that were developing cool off and die. The hen is constantly moving the eggs so eggs that have died get back under her and others are pushed out to cool off and die. You often do not get many to hatch if the hen has more eggs than she can cover.

    For some people, another problem with not removing eggs is that the later eggs partially develop but do not hatch. The hen has to take her hatched chicks off the nest to find them food and water, so the unhatched are abandoned to die. That may not bother some people but to me it just feels wrong to have partially developed eggs die.

    Some people I trust have reported that a hen goes back to the wrong nest after her daily constitutional. I think a lot of that is that another hen is in her nest laying an egg when she returns, so she just picks another nest. I grew up with chickens and never saw that happen, but I believe it does. It is another risk of not isolating a broody. I personally do not consider it a big risk, but it does happen to some people.

    Some people have reported that another hen has killed chicks that hatch under a broody. Again, I have never seen that happen, but I believe it is possible. A good broody is so protective and has such a bad attitude that the others usually learn to stay away from her precious babies, but not all broodies are good. Again, I do not think the risk of this is very high, but I have no doubt that it has happened to some people.

    To me, the biggest risk of isolating a broody is that she breaks from being broody. Some will just not accept that move and remain broody.

    If you do decide to isolate her, I suggest preparing a predator proof area where she has a nest, food and water, and enough space to go poo. She needs to be locked in that area where she cannot leave to go back to her other nest and the other chickens cannot get to her nest. You need access so you can feed and water her and probably remove those broody poops. If you can, make the nest a little dark. That seems to help them accept the new nest. Then move her at night with as little light and commotion as you can manage. No guarantees, but I think this gives you the best chance of getting her to accept the new nest. It is best to not give her the eggs you want her to hatch until she settles in and accepts the move. You can use golf balls or the old eggs to try to get her to accept the nest.

    Do you absolutely have to isolate her? No. Broodies have been hatching chickens with the flock for thousands of years. Yes, sometimes there are problems, but often there are not. You are dealing with living animals. Sometimes you are going to have problems no matter what you do. Pick a method and go with it. You might have a problem or you might not. But either way, you have to manage it.

    I tried isolating a broody and would up letting her hatch with the flock. Now, I just let the broodies hatch with the flock. I have not experienced any of these potential problems, but I do check in her nest every evening for fresh eggs. Sometimes they are there and sometimes they are not.
     
  8. mestaske

    mestaske Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 14, 2011
    Southern Colorado
    Just marked the eggs with a blue marker, hopefully that doesn't cause her to peck at them or anything. They are so wonderfully warm and cozy under there. From what I am hearing there is a 50% hatch rate, so considering this is her first time maybe I will be lucky if she hatches out 4. She doesn't like me going under there but she tolerates it. I figured 8 is a good number since I get about that many each day. I am going to keep her in her nest spot for now, maybe someday I will have a special brooder area but until then being with the group will have to work. Also, if the eggs hatch should I take them away or put the babies in a separate area or raise them like I would the ones from the store or just leave them with the broody?

    Thanks,
    Kateri
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I leave them with the broody. It sounds like you have quite a bit of space, so that has a good chance of working. Again, there are different risks any way you do it. The broody will take care of the integration problems, so that is a huge benefit to me. The chicks will still have to manage the pecking order issues, but that is usually a lot less severe than integration.
     
  10. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Nothing is more fun to watch than a broody hen with chicks. Leave them with her!
     

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