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Broody hen troubles

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by davidschaffer, Apr 21, 2016.

  1. davidschaffer

    davidschaffer Out Of The Brooder

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    Hello All

    I have a hen that has been sitting on eggs for the past 2-3 weeks. I marked the eggs about a week and a half ago and some other hens have added 4 to the 6 that I marked. Now the brooding hen is starting to kick out some of the marked. Also, the nesting box is about 2 feet off of the next surface witch is hard wood and that is about 2 feet off of the ground. If she does manage to hatch the eggs, do the chicks stand a chance being that high off of the ground? I keep putting the eggs she kicks out back under her but cant be sure of anything at this point. She is a 10ish month old Icelandic and some of the eggs are Icelandic, some are from our bigger hens. What should I do? Thanks
     
  2. chicklover 1998

    chicklover 1998 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    if she is kicking them out then they may be duds.
     
  3. rebrascora

    rebrascora Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The whole idea of marking the eggs when you set them is so that you can remove any that are laid by other hens after they are set. That should be done on a daily basis if at all possible, otherwise the broody ends up with a nest full of eggs and sometimes she can't cover them all and the ones on the outside chill and that can lead to a less successful hatch as well as a staggered hatch.
    Are you sure the broody is kicking them out or could it be that they are getting knocked out when the other hens are coming to lay in her nest. I would candle them to check viability, but if this is happening through the day when you are not there to replace them and the eggs are chilling, then even if they were developing, that could slow or stop development. This is why, in my opinion, it is best to give your broody a quiet, secure place to brood, where she can't be disturbed by other hens climbing onto her nest. I have an old cupboard with holes drilled in the door, that I keep in the hen house for this purpose. Once a hen goes broody, I make her a nice nest in the cupboard with the eggs I want her to hatch and transfer her onto that nest after dark and then close the door. I open the door once a day and encourage her to get off the nest and have a break for 10-15 mins and then ensure that she gets back onto the correct nest and shut her in again. I close the door whilst she is off so that other hens don't lay in it and open it again when she is ready to go back. She still spends a little time each day with the flock and raises the chicks within the flock, so there is no integration required but she has a nice secure nest to herself whilst incubating her eggs.

    Usually when my hens start to go broody, they stop laying in the communal nest boxes and head off to make a secret nest somewhere where they can lay and then hatch their own eggs. If your hens are confined to a run and coop instead of free ranging, then they often don't have the option of making a secret nest and have to settle for a communal nest. I don't think it's really fair, if we want our broody hens to rear chicks, to make them do so in a communal nest when, given the choice, they would usually go somewhere dark and quiet and private. I like to give them that environment but in an accessible place of my choosing. There are then no worries about the chicks falling out after they hatch and being unable to get back.

    If I was you, I would fit a demountable cover across the front of the nest she is brooding in so that eggs can't get thrown out and other hens can't lay in it and chicks can't fall out after they hatch. That said, chicks are pretty light weight and jump/fall quite some distance without getting hurt. The problem occurs when they fall out and can't get back and the broody is still hatching the last of her eggs and won't abandon them for the one that fell out. Finding an egg kicked out of the nest is one thing but finding a cold dead chick on the ground below the nest is really upsetting.

    Good luck with your hatch. I'm on day 9 of my first brood of the season, so we may be hatching about the same time.. I've just candled them tonight. My little Frances was such a good girl, letting me check her eggs without any protest and carefully tucking them underneath her as I gave her them back. You have to love broody hens. They are priceless!...
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. davidschaffer

    davidschaffer Out Of The Brooder

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    This is great information! Thank you for sharing!! The flock is free range from morning till night. I close up the coop each night for their protection. It sounds like I should tack some chicken wire around her box and let things play out. She accepts the eggs that I return under her and seems to be good about moving them around but I am not able to see her actions during the day. I have never seen her off the nest since she started the brood. The other chickens have started laying in a box next to hers so I hope it stays that way. If I do "cage" her in her box, I would only be able to let her out for a few hours each evening. Would this be ok? Thanks again!
     
  5. rebrascora

    rebrascora Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi

    Yes, letting her out once a day is fine. That's what I do and if she doesn't come off within 10 mins of opening the door,, I lift her out and put a few treats down to encourage her to eat and move about and that should also stimulate her to poop...broody poop is large and disgusting and it's important to ensure she has gets the opportunity to evacuate once a day.... she will usually manage to avoid soiling the nest and they can go 2 days without a movement but better to have the opportunity and not take it, as make a mess of the nest. She may also want a dust bath as sitting for long periods can attract mites and lice..... I usually dust the nest box with DE before I set the eggs I want her to hatch, to help keep parasites down. I also put higher grade food and water in the nest box with her and of course, with the door closed, there are no problems with other hens stealing it. I usually make a wet mash with chick crumb and add scrambled egg and probiotic yoghurt and a few mealworms. Any that she doesn't eat, gets tipped out for the other hens to scavenge the next day and fresh replaced for her. I think it's important to give her moist food as broody hens can get quite dehydrated. Sometimes I ferment the feed for her as this also helps keep the digestive system healthy during a challenging period.

    If, I were you I would probably use plywood or similar rather than wire but leave an inch or two gap at the top. Broody hens like to be in a quiet, dim location and the gap at the top will still allow a little light and air flow of course. I hope this system works as well for you as it does for me.

    Regards

    Barbara
     
  6. davidschaffer

    davidschaffer Out Of The Brooder

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    Soooo, she is still brooding but no chicks. I tried to block her off from the rest off the chickens but she got out and could not get back in. I think this may have been when the eggs stopped developing. Two days ago I disposed the obvious really old eggs and left her with 10 or so. Tonight I went out with my new candler to see what was what and as I lifted her of the nest an egg stuck to her and fell and cracked. It then started to peep! The hen took off for a couple of minutes but is back on the nest now. I put water and chick feed near by. Did I kill the chick? What should I do? Thanks
     
  7. rebrascora

    rebrascora Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oh dear! You are having a bit of a disaster! [​IMG]

    Not a lot you can do except leave her to it now. Was it badly cracked? I assume you put it back under her so you should know sooner or later as you will hear cheeping when you go in to check on her. You do have to be careful picking broodies up as eggs and chicks often get tucked under wings and can get squashed or dropped as you sadly experienced. At least you know that some of the eggs (one at least) are still viable. At this late stage it is probably not worth candling anyway. If it makes you feel any better, I lost two of 11 chicks and I'm pretty sure it was by interfering on hatch day, checking for chicks and removing shells etc. Two were fully formed but failed to pip and hatch. Can't see any other reason why they didn't make it out, so please learn from my lesson and leave her to it until she is ready to leave the nest.

    Good luck

    Barbara
     
  8. davidschaffer

    davidschaffer Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for the advice. The other hens continue to lay eggs in her box so I was really trying to keep that under control. I guess it will be best to just let it be and learn what I can. Thanks again
     
  9. rebrascora

    rebrascora Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If that is the case, then you really need to make a separate broody pen for any future broodies. The others continuing to lay eggs in her nest is a risk to any hatching chicks as they are liable to get stood on and squashed. It really isn't difficult to make a demountable cover for the front of her nest, so that she can't get out and others can't get in and then just let her out once a day whilst you supervise. In a natural scenario, the hen would go off and make a secret nest somewhere to lay her eggs, where the other hens wouldn't bother her. Because we confine hens to a small area with limited nesting facilities, the broody hen ends up in a communal nest and it makes life much more difficult for her and success rates lower as a result. It is therefore your responsibility to make her nest private, so that she can do her job in peace.

    My flock free ranges in an old farmyard with many nooks and crannies so I see this natural behaviour and I currently have one hen sitting on 15 eggs in a tumbledown old shed where I can't get to her but I can see her through a hole in the roof. The other hens don't seem to know about her nest and the eggs under her are almost certainly all hers.... I will be very surprised if more than one or two don't hatch. She comes off the nest once a day for food and a dust bath and then returns to her nest and there is no confusion over where it is, because she chose the site herself and has been visiting it every day for the past 15 days or so to lay an egg in it. From a hens point of view, this is how it should be, not being harassed by other hens and humans several times a day. Trying to replicate this natural situation for a broody hen within the confines of your set up and with due regard for her safety, should be your goal.

    If your broody manages to hatch any chicks, she will need to abandon the other eggs once they are a couple of days old and teach them how to be chickens.... dust bathing is a vital part of that. They also need to leave the nest for health reasons as parasites can build up in it with the constant heat of the broody.... hence the early dust bathing lessons.
     
  10. davidschaffer

    davidschaffer Out Of The Brooder

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    I was really hoping the broody hens would find their own space out of the coop. They free range all day and are couped just at night. At a previous home I had a similar set up and had success with hens disappearing for a few weeks then showing back up with a whole mess of chicks. Maybe my current hens are just to young for this ( not yet a year ). I'm surprised the current broody is still on eggs as it has been over a month. Thanks again for the advice.
     

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