Can you hatch eggs from older chickens?

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by hperk806, Oct 5, 2015.

  1. hperk806

    hperk806 New Egg

    Sep 9, 2014
    Hello --
    My chickens are about 4 1/2 years old. I have collected theirs eggs and hatched chicks three times over the last year. However, my last two sets seem to be giving me problems. The last set made it all the way to 21 days and 2 pipped, but never made it out of the eggs. This last set made it to 21 days yesterday and only 2 hatched. The other 4 have not even started to pip yet and do not seem to be rocking either. The two that hatched seem to be struggling. The seem very week and are not really trying to walk or anything. The incubator temp was steady at 99.5 and my humidity was between 40-50% until day 18 when I raised to between 60-66%.
    Also, the eggs we get from our hens that I have not used for hatching but that we use for cooking/baking are often soft or have very dark yolks, one was even black. Is it possible that my eggs/chicks are struggling because the chickens themselves are older? Does the hens age affect the chicks healthiness? I hate seeing the little guys struggle!
  2. song of joy

    song of joy Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    Have you tried incubating eggs from young hens (1-2 years) old as a comparison? If not, I'd recommend doing this so you can see whether the issue may be related to the incubator rather than eggs from the older hens.

    That being said, fertility and hatch rate are lower with eggs from older hens. The hens themselves are less fertile and the eggs are less than optimal for the developing chicks. For example, the thin shells have less calcium and minerals for the developing chicks, who draw needed nutrients from the yolk, albumen and shell.
  3. nwfl

    nwfl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 4, 2011
    Northwest Florida
    I'm interested in opinions too. I have had older silkies and cochin silkie crosses lay and hatch out chicks that are fine. I have some older 3&4 year old Wheaten Ameraucana hens and a year old lavender wheaten rooster that I would love to breed in late spring. I plan on feeding them higher protein breeder feed and probiotics to get them in good shape at the end of winter. The ladies laid well this year but had illness and molt for last two months. They look really good now, are still off lay from fowl pox, but they are recovering very well. The rooster had a light case of pox and is in fabulous shape. All of my roosters are under 2. Shld I wait for my unproven pullets to reach breeding shape or use my 3 beauties? I plan on it anyway because they are still so well mannered and beautiful.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2015
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    NWFL: How is the quality of the eggs? If the shells are nice and solid, if the eggs are not overly large (IMO, those jumbo eggs don't hatch well.) it would be worth a go, b/c you want to preserve the genetics of these girls. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    You might try dropping your humidity. Is your bator still air or forced air? Do your hens have access to acorns? Those can make the yolks black. It the eggs are soft (shells?) or even membranes, that will definitely affect your hatch. Membrane quality tends to decrease with age of the hen.
  5. hperk806

    hperk806 New Egg

    Sep 9, 2014
    The incubator is still air. I did notice that the membranes on the two that hatched seem very thick --- it also took them much longer to get out of the shell which makes me wonder if they had trouble breaking through the membrane. The two that hatch did not make it through the night. I think the egg quality from the older hens were not suitable. The first two times I used the incubator the eggs were from hens that were late 2 year olds and I did not have any problems. I will look to see if there are any acorns falling in their area -- I did not know that caused the black yolks. Thank you

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