Day 18 of Hen setting on clutch - one chick hatches and dies... no other chicks hatching... what's u

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by WoolfsClothing, Aug 2, 2013.

  1. WoolfsClothing

    WoolfsClothing New Egg

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    Jul 17, 2013
    I've been searching the threads and can't seem to find an answer to this situation. About 3 weeks ago, we had 3 chickens (at least) go rogue... they were jumping the fence and starting a super secret nest. One of our New Hampshire Reds, Big Bertha, went missing one day, and we found her the next day setting on the clutch of 18 eggs! Here they are that day...
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    So, we decided to let her go for it and see how she did hatching them. We called that first day we noticed her missing as Day 1. She has been doing a great job, has weathered a few rough storms, and is sitting like a zombie-chicken champ! I have only ever seen her off the nest 4 times in 17 days.
    [​IMG]

    Today is day 18... and I was expecting her to go into super-zombie-chicken mode, since I know that the last 3 days are crucial, and you are not to disturb the eggs when hatching in an incubator... so I figured she would be extra diligent.

    Well, instead of super-zombie-chicken, we heard a loud "bok-bok-bok-ba-GAWK!" coming from her tree this morning. It was just like the "hey y'all, I just laid an egg" call. We rushed over there to see what was up, and there she was, off the nest and eating up the food we placed behind the tree for her. Every now and then, she would give her egg call while she was eating. We bent down to get a good look at the eggs and we spotted a CHICK amongst the eggs! We were like "WHAT?" Because this is just day 18. The chicks feathers were damp, but he was not moving. I reached in to feel him, and he was dead :( His little neck was stretched out over another egg, and there was no shell on top of him or close to his body, so he had been moving after hatching. I just found a small part of the shell, (it was a little crushed) and it was still moist. He was fully formed, with just a tiny bit of yolk sack not yet absorbed. So far, there have been no more chicks today... and we didn't expect any until Monday (3 days from today)

    So - what could have happened?!

    I know that there can be early and late hatching... but 3 days seems really early, especially since they were all under the hen, and not in an incubator with hot and cold spots. Could it be that she was too far into zombie mode, not expecting the chickens yet, so she didn't move when the little one was hatching, so she smooshed him? Or maybe she stepped on the egg and crushed it enough that he just went ahead and hatched early? Maybe he had something wrong with him so he just didn't make it once he was outside of the egg? And why would she get up like that so suddenly and make her call? I thought she might be giving herself one last chance to eat and drink before her 3-day marathon setting... but she just left the dead chick in the nest.... so maybe she didn't realize it was there? This is her first time to go broody, so maybe she just doesn't have the instincts down yet? Maybe we were a day or two late in finding the nest and it's not so early after all? I don't know... it's all left me with tons of questions.

    So now, I am wondering if we should go ahead and let her keep the chicks as they hatch, or should we put them into a brooder so she doesn't accidentally smoosh any more while waiting for the others to hatch. I thought about setting up our incubator and finishing them off ourselves, but we figured we should let nature take its course and let her finish out hatching. However, I'm not so sure about leaving them in the nest with her after they hatch. We'd have to do a lot of checking for new chicks, which could disturb her and the other eggs waiting for their hatch.

    Anybody have experience with this or any possible explanations?
     
  2. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    If she is back to sitting on the nest, I would just let her be.
    With the timing, day 18 is quite early but not unheard of and I wonder if she didn't actually start a day or two earlier or another hen did before the NHR took over for good...if the weather was as warm as it was around here the eggs could have been fine without a hen for hours at a time.
    As you mentioned, there are a lot of things that could have been wrong with the chick, and his death may or may not have been her fault. She is a big girl and may accidentally have stepped on him or something, but since she has taken good care of the eggs to this point I assume, if she will I'd let her try and finish.
    First time broodys are working on instinct and often get confused and don't have the timing down quite right and occasionally they get up too soon when they start hearing the chicks peeping in the shell. It is like they know the noise means something but they get ahead of themselves and don't realize they have to wait for the chicks to hatch. I've had them do that, or try to leave the nest after the first chick or two has hatched (can't really blame them, I'd be bored by then too). I usually let mine brood in a dog crate or something similar if they try to leave too early I just lock them in, they settle down pretty fast again.
    Have you checked or candled the rest of the eggs at all to see if any of the others are viable?
    You can't really move her to a new place now, and your only real choices are let her be and hopefully if more chicks hatch she will set like she is supposed to and wait for them. If she doesn't and you want the eggs to have a chance to hatch you probably don't have much choice but to put them in the incubator. I wouldn't take the chicks from her as they hatch unless she is trying to harm them.
     
  3. WoolfsClothing

    WoolfsClothing New Egg

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    Jul 17, 2013
    Thanks for your advice Kelsie!! She did go back to the nest... she got up for a few hours again on Saturday... we were nervous... but took that as our chance to candle a few of the eggs (well..using my non-technical LED-flashlight-in-the-garage method), and they were all dark with a large airsack - so i'm keeping my fingers crossed!! Today is the big day, and she's still just a sitting! Hopefully I'll come home to some little cheeping bundles of fluff :)

    ps.... i am AMAZED at the tenacity and patience of a hen setting on her eggs... what dedication and sacrifice!! I love my chickens more and more every day :)
     
  4. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    Good luck with your girl. Hope she has a lot of chicks tonight. Eggs getting ready to hatch should look like a dark mass with a pretty big air cell, so that sounds hopeful.
     

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