Hatching eggs in November

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by OldeDog, Oct 28, 2016.

  1. OldeDog

    OldeDog Out Of The Brooder

    12
    0
    22
    Sep 26, 2013
    South Mississippi
    One of my chicken, a Buff Orphington (sp?) has decided to set on her eggs. She is not yet a year old, we got her as a chick in first part of March. We have three other Buffs and five three year old Austrolops (sp?), and one rooster (Aussie).

    My question is should I let her continue to sit on the eggs and try to hatch them, or should I collect the eggs to discourage her? I worry about the winter weather, even here on the gulf coast, and if she is too young to do a proper job.

    Thanks for any advice.
     
  2. GitaBooks

    GitaBooks Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    6,613
    575
    271
    Jun 23, 2015
    USA
    I've had hens hatch on Christmas and practically every other time of year. It can be a real pain to care for a mother hen and her chicks during a cold winter, but generally they do a good job with just a heat light, fresh water (warm if needed) and plenty of food to digest (a process that provides heat). Keep them out of the wind with barriers and plenty of stray/hay to snuggle into. Make sure she can cover all her chicks until they are fully feathered.
    I've kept a hen indoors with her chicks during very cold weather, but I've also just used a heat-light. If she can cover all the babies she will usually do fine. One time a hen "weaned" her chicks early. They were too small to keep themselves warm, so I would bring them in during the night or even fur a few days in a row, providing plenty of food to help them keep up their growth. They did well and I still have one of them now. It was a warmer winter (it was raining that Christmas), but still, even when the water freezes a mother can often keep her chicks warm.

    Hens that are regular brooders will often go their first year, and they do an awesome job. Just watch her for signs of stress and make sure she returns to the right nest (sometimes they get confused) and that other hens aren't getting on her nest and laying extra eggs. It would be best to keep her in a pen for the first few weeks when her chicks hatch so that they can't get separated from her, get wet and freeze from snow or the larger water dish, ect.

    I hope all goes well. Best of luck!
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    20,124
    3,323
    496
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    South Mississippi! That’s practically the tropics compared to most of us. There are threads on here where people let a broody hatch eggs and raise the chicks in the dead of winter with the temperature often or usually below freezing, sometimes a lot below freezing. Your hen will not need any additional heat. There was a thread on here a few days back where someone put her broody under a heat lamp, it really messed that hen up. Don’t put any heat on your broody, before or after she hatches. She does not need it.

    I have had plenty of broody hens do great their first time. A few years back I had a broody hen do great her first hatch and mess up her second. I see that all the time on here where a broody hen is just no good the first time she’s broody. Sorry, that has not been my experience.

    Should you let her hatch? Do you want more chickens? If you want more chickens now, then the answer is yes. If you don’t want more chickens now, then the answer is no. It’s your decision based on your goals. You are in South Mississippi, it would be a good time to hatch. I lived in South Louisiana for over 30 years and often took Boy Scouts over to South Mississippi in winter to camp, often outside of Kiln. You have nice weather even if it does rarely freeze.

    If you want her to hatch, collect all the eggs you want to give her before you let her sit on any. They all need to be started at the same time. You have two basic options. If you want her to hatch with the flock, mark all the eggs you give her. I use a black Sharpie and draw lines around the egg so they are really easy to spot. Put them all under her at the same time. The every day after the others have finished laying, remove any strange eggs that wind up under her. As long as you remove them daily they are good to eat. This is how I do it.

    Or you can isolate that hen from the rest of the flock. Put her in a caged area where she cannot get out and other chickens cannot get in. Give her food and water and a nest. She doesn’t need much more room than that. Leave her locked in there until the eggs hatch. She will not return to the wrong nest and other hens will not lay eggs in her nest. The risk is that if you move her she might break from being broody.

    Once the eggs hatch you have a similar decision. You can let her raise the chicks with the flock (it’s what I do) or you can isolate the hen and chicks from the flock if you wish for as long as you want.

    People do this with all kinds of variations of these basic ways. There is no right way or wrong way, just different ways.
     
    2 people like this.
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    17,707
    2,337
    466
    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    When I have done it in dead of winter there some additional adjustments made. First keeping them in an area protected from direct wind and must be dry. A location with lots of straw or hay helps with that. Another problem will be keeping chicks in water. When it is cold their water requirement drops. In my situation the chicks are watered twice daily, first at dawn then later after I get home from work which is after dark. You can also provide them with hydrated feed like with the fermented approach. I then resort to supplemental light. Day length here gets down to 8 hours per 24 hours which can be a significant problem when compared to 16 hours during the normal growing season. Protracted darkness causing reduction of feed intake when energy needs for staying warm during very cold periods can be considerably higher. I had to make so feeding arrangements decreased needs for free-range foraging. Chicks on snow have a hard to breaking even when going out away from protected cover.. I also like ot delay roosting up bit also want them not sitting on wet feces all night so get them to roost in deep and loose straw that is refreshed frequently. Last round I made so hen had a nice cave provided by 4 hay bales with the loose hay made into a nice nest in the cave. The area outside the cave then had lots of loose material everyone could scratch through and settle on to stay warm. Make darn certain that if hen can range away from protected area that chicks do not become separated from her for more than a couple of minutes. Chicks exposed to -10 F for any length of time are in serious dudo very quickly.

    This assumes eggs not frozen before hen goes broody. Once hen broody on eggs freezing risk is effectively zero assuming she can feed up quickly prior to getting back on to nest.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. HSMomma3

    HSMomma3 Out Of The Brooder

    29
    1
    26
    May 4, 2012
    Central Foothills, NC
    Hi Ridgerunner,

    You have described just what we did with our broody Momma. She is also less than a year, and she did great with setting and hatching. Just before hatch time, we moved her to a small caged area below the (elevated) nest boxes, separated from the flock by a "wall" of hardware cloth and partially draped with fabric to block the draft. The 6 new chicks are now about a week old and I'm wondering when I can let her out of the caged area? How long do you usually wait? We have 11 other hens and a rooster... do I need to be concerned about the other birds harming the babies? Or about them getting separated from Momma? Also, should I be worried about temperature? We are in the foothills of NC, cool but definitely not as cold as some. Her "nursery" area is protected from any cool draft, and I worry that if the chicks can run all through the coop (8x16) they will get too cold? You said that you let your hens raise the chicks with the flock... how do you handle feeding - chick starter vs. the adult food? Right now Momma and babies are all eating the starter feed.

    Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer! This is our first home hatch and our whole family is having such a wonderful experience!
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    17,707
    2,337
    466
    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Last of my chicks of 2016 hatched in early AM of today. These guys will suffer a road trip before being settled into a location that expends more effort than usual to keep them dry.

    I will try to photo-document procedure I will be using to get through the winter. They will be hen reared through at least 5 weeks an possibly go as long as 10.
     
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    20,124
    3,323
    496
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I keep the broody hen and her chicks locked up separated from the flock zero days. She hatches in a regular nest in the coop, she decides when to bring her chicks off the nest, and she protects them from the other hens. I have never had a mature rooster threaten the chicks, sometimes a good rooster will help Mama take care of their babies, though most of time the rooster just stays away and leaves them alone.

    On occasion another hen will be aggressive toward a chick, especially if that chick invades her private space. Usually if that happens she pecks the chick which them runs back to Mama’s protection. My broody hens generally ignore all this unless the hen follows the chick to keep up the lesson. Then Mama politely whips butt. When her chicks are in the wrong another hen can discipline them but no one threatens her chicks. I have had some broody hens that will attack any other chicken that gets close to her chicks, others are a lot more laid back. I’ve never had a hen that would not protect her chicks if they are in danger. You are dealing with living animals, others have had broody hens that don’t protect their chicks, so I can’t give any guarantees. But it has never been a problem for me.

    It’s possible the chicks can get separated from Mama, especially if she goes through a gate and back along a fence where the chicks can’t get through. Chickens are not great on the concept of gate. I’ve had a rooster go over and stay with the chicks until Mama finally went back to the gate and collected her babies when this happened. To me this is the biggest danger of trying to isolate Mama and her chicks. If a chick escapes and goes to mingle with the rest of the flock with Mama locked up where she can’t protect the chick the chick is in danger.

    If Mama raises them with the flock she will handle integration. If you keep them isolated until she weans them you have to handle integration. To me the biggest risk to the chicks is not when Mama is taking care of them, it’s after she weans them and leaves them alone with the flock. I’ve had that happen as young as three weeks in warm weather and more than nine weeks in all kinds of weather. I have lots of room and those three week old chicks were OK completely on their own with the rest of the flock. If your room is tight that can be more of a problem.

    There are threads and photos on here where hens have raised chicks in the dead of winter up in Michigan or similar areas. You do not need to add any heat, Mama has a built in heater that never has a power outage. She can handle it. Many of us brood outdoors in weather below freezing. I do. I provide heat on one end of the brooder and let the rest cool off as it will. I’ve seen ice on the far end of my brooder in winter. Many people are surprised at how much time those chicks spend away from the heat in those brooders or with a broody hen. Winter is a more risky time to brood chicks, either with a broody or in a brooder outdoors. What might be an inconvenience in the heat of summer can become life threatening if the temperatures are really cold, but barring something unusual, broody hens normally manage quite well.

    A standard way to handle feeding a mixed age flock where some are laying eggs and some are young is to feed them all the same feed. That can be a Starter, a Grower, or a Flock Raiser, basically anything except Layer. The higher calcium content in Layer can be harmful to the chicks. To provide the calcium laying hens need for their eggs, offer oyster shell on the side. The ones that need it should eat enough, the ones that don’t need it won’t eat enough to harm themselves.
     
  8. karenej

    karenej Out Of The Brooder

    47
    10
    29
    Oct 27, 2016
    Northcentral Alabama
    Hi all! I have a broody hen that is sitting on eggs right now. Two questions. Since she is a banty hen and all my other chickens are full-sized, should I separate her from the rest? I don't know if she'll be able to defend the chicks from the bigger chickens. Also, if I do keep her with the other chickens, my nesting box is separated from the rest of the coop by about a 4 ft drop. There is a ramp but I doubt the chicks will know how to use it. Should I move the banty and the chicks after she hatches them so they don't fall from the elevated nesting boxes? I have tried to move the banty before while she was broody and she has left the eggs so I dare not move her now that she's sitting on them. Thanks!
     
  9. GitaBooks

    GitaBooks Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    6,613
    575
    271
    Jun 23, 2015
    USA
    Welcome to the forum. : )

    Bantam chickens have a lot of spirit, and with calmer standard hen breeds, she should do fine. If there is enough space and easy access to multiple food and watering areas, most momma hens cope well. However, I've had multiple experiences with other chickens killing chicks that belonged to other hens from the first day up until they are fully feathered. Sometimes it is best to separate a new mom with her freshly hatched chicks for a couple weeks until they are stronger and can follow her or run away easier. They also can handle a few sharp pecks without much damage.

    As for the chicks falling out of the nest, once a momma hen is done hatching, she generally leads the chicks to the floor and stays there. Once she chooses a nest site after hatching, however, she generally returns to it until they begin perching, so if she does choose the nest box she may try to get them up into it.

    I hope this helps some. Best of luck!
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. HSMomma3

    HSMomma3 Out Of The Brooder

    29
    1
    26
    May 4, 2012
    Central Foothills, NC
    So much great help! Thanks Ridgerunner! I'll take the cage up today and let them integrate. They have already been socializing "a little" each day, when I go in and open up the broody pen to change water and feed for Momma and babies... and I have seen that Momma does protect them if another hen is inside. (Most of the girls spend the day outside unless they're eating or laying.) I think the chicks should be pretty safe from truly becoming separated, the pop hole door is about 8 inches off the floor of the coop, so the adult birds have to hop up to the threshold... I think that will keep the babies from going out until they are a little bigger. But we're having an amazingly warm November for NC, so the cold really isn't even a factor yet. Our adult feeder is also too high for the chicks to reach, so that should keep them from eating the high calcium Layer feed that is there. Guess I can't keep the adults from eating the Starter, ;) Thanks again for such a kind gift of good advice!! I'm still learning, and after 4 years of having chickens, this is our first home hatch... it has been a little intimidating. Thanks BYC'ers for all the help!!
    [​IMG] Love these sweet little breakfast makers!!
     
    1 person likes this.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by