Hatching eggs with a broody hen - first timer

nicolevg

Chirping
May 30, 2021
48
75
76
Tehachapi, CA
We purchased our 10 original hens as one-year-olds this past early April. Due to predators, we now have 5 (1 olive egger, 3 Ameraucanas, & 1 Buff Orpington). We went out of town for a long weekend recently, meaning eggs accumulated in the nesting boxes, and now our Buff is very broody. She's been spending the last 3 days sitting on eggs all day.

Since our family needs more eggs than what 5 chickens can produce in a week, I was thinking of taking advantage of her broodiness & buying some hatching eggs before the end of the season so we have more egg production over the winter (since egg production would decrease anyway in the winter months). I'm not only brand new to chicken keeping (still in my first year), but also have NO experience with fertile eggs or chicks, so I could really use y'all's knowledge & expertise.

1) I found a dozen fertile RIR eggs online from Bresse Farms. Has anyone purchased from this farm before? Would you recommend them? I'm thinking getting a dozen eggs would probably be a good idea even though I'd only like an additional 4-5 laying hens, since I'm sure some eggs won't hatch and some chicks won't make it to adulthood.

2) Will I need to isolate the broody hen once the chicks hatch, so the other hens don't peck at the babies? (I already know I'll need to provide them starter grower feed & water that's lower that they can easily access.)

3) Our hens weren't touched much as chicks (we purchased them from a local producer), so they've never been very friendly or easy to catch/tame (hence why half our flock has died already. It's proven very difficult to wrangle them all up each evening after they've been free ranging on our acre property, meaning the local bobcat family that lives in our neighbor's wooded area has had a field day watching the stragglers and picking them off one by one when one hen strays from the rest of the flock while I try to get them all back in the coop at sunset.) Ideally, I'd love to have hens that enjoyed being petted and held & didn't run from me so much when I try to catch them. I'm thinking, if I were to isolate the mother hen and her chicks once we've hatched & put them in the extra large dog crate we have until they're 6-10 weeks old (thus, allowing me easier access to touch them and take care of them / get them used to human touch while still not traumatizing the broody hen & allowing her to stay with them), would that help their sociability with humans/me?

4) Would there be any repercussions if I were to separate the chicks from the broody hen once they were hatched? I don't really want to make the investment in all the equipment incubating eggs without a broody hen would take. However, I also don't want chicks that aren't friendly towards me because they were 100% raised by a hen. Would that be too traumatizing for her if I took her babies away for 6 weeks or so? (She's already a very vocal, demanding, high-strung bird. I can't tell if she's the alpha of the flock, but she's either #1 or #2. Before we expanded the run & back when we still had 10 hens, she and the other 3 Buffs we had were very aggressive towards the rest of the flock, always pecking at them and being mean to the point where our whole flock was/is featherless on their backs and butts still to this day. I'm hoping their fall molt helps with that. Thankfully, pecking is not a problem anymore since they have SO much space with the smaller flock & extended chicken run. I'm thinking becoming a mother might help her. She's already calmed down A LOT since becoming broody & isn't nearly as flighty and peckish at the other hens.)
 
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yakitori

Crowing
Jun 22, 2020
2,066
4,512
351
New York
Hmm... if you want tame chicks, I recommend the incubator. If momma is afraid of you, she will also signal her babies that you are a threat. If you take her chicks away, leave her atleast one to raise.

You can try improving your relationship with the broody by bringing her small amounts of her favorite snacks while she’s sitting. I would try to have her get comfortable with you reaching under her to check on the eggs (before getting fertile eggs!) so that you won’t run into issues when candling, removing or adding eggs.

Is there a reason youdont want to get sexed day old chicks? They will shave 3 weeks off the wait for eggs, and you will have a better chance of getting the number of egg layers you are after :)
 

nicolevg

Chirping
May 30, 2021
48
75
76
Tehachapi, CA
Hmm... if you want tame chicks, I recommend the incubator. If momma is afraid of you, she will also signal her babies that you are a threat. If you take her chicks away, leave her atleast one to raise.

You can try improving your relationship with the broody by bringing her small amounts of her favorite snacks while she’s sitting. I would try to have her get comfortable with you reaching under her to check on the eggs (before getting fertile eggs!) so that you won’t run into issues when candling, removing or adding eggs.

Is there a reason youdont want to get sexed day old chicks? They will shave 3 weeks off the wait for eggs, and you will have a better chance of getting the number of egg layers you are after :)
Those are good ideas. So far, she doesn't freak out when I open the nesting box when she's sitting there. But when I reach my hand in (no matter how slowly I do it), she does get up and run away. But she does return soon after I leave to return to her eggs.

I wanted to get hatching eggs so she could raise them so I wouldn't have to (less work for me, as I'm 33 weeks pregnant too with a 3yo and 2yo). That's why I was thinking of isolating her from the rest of the flock so she could hatch & raise her chicks in the large dog crate in our garage at least till the chicks got too large for that space: that would allow me more access to her & the babies so I could hold them every couple hours so they get used to me (& hopefully she'd get more used to me by then too). She does like me when I give her treats. But like all of them, she inevitably runs away when I get too close, no matter whether or not I bring treats.
 

yakitori

Crowing
Jun 22, 2020
2,066
4,512
351
New York
Those are good ideas. So far, she doesn't freak out when I open the nesting box when she's sitting there. But when I reach my hand in (no matter how slowly I do it), she does get up and run away. But she does return soon after I leave to return to her eggs.

I wanted to get hatching eggs so she could raise them so I wouldn't have to (less work for me, as I'm 33 weeks pregnant too with a 3yo and 2yo). That's why I was thinking of isolating her from the rest of the flock so she could hatch & raise her chicks in the large dog crate in our garage at least till the chicks got too large for that space: that would allow me more access to her & the babies so I could hold them every couple hours so they get used to me (& hopefully she'd get more used to me by then too). She does like me when I give her treats. But like all of them, she inevitably runs away when I get too close, no matter whether or not I bring treats.
That’s a good plan... only IF she lets you hold her babies. Some broodies can be fiercely protective. Normally I would tame animals by giving them food... but even if you try to hand feed them, the broody will take the food from you to feed to her chicks, so they will never associate you with the positive experience :(

I think the broody hatching experience is fantastic, and definitely worth it. but taming broody chicks can be a hit or a miss 😅
 

nicolevg

Chirping
May 30, 2021
48
75
76
Tehachapi, CA
That’s a good plan... only IF she lets you hold her babies. Some broodies can be fiercely protective. Normally I would tame animals by giving them food... but even if you try to hand feed them, the broody will take the food from you to feed to her chicks, so they will never associate you with the positive experience :(

I think the broody hatching experience is fantastic, and definitely worth it. but taming broody chicks can be a hit or a miss 😅
That's good to know. Thank you!

Really, I want them to be tamer primarily so I can catch them & keep them safe from predators when they're free ranging & I'm trying to get them back in their coop. After the deaths of half the flock, it seems like the remaining 5 have learned that sticking close to me is safest, even if they still don't like me touching them. So really, as long as they're tame-ish, that's all I really care about. (And it'd be nice to be able to pick them up so I can inspect them if they're ill or get poopy butts or something, which thankfully hasn't happened yet... at least not to my knowledge). But if they never become that tame, I'd still rather have a sufficient supply of get this winter & early spring than living off whatever our 5 eggs produce.
 

nicolevg

Chirping
May 30, 2021
48
75
76
Tehachapi, CA
I'd buy chicks to put under her after she's sat on eggs for 2-3 weeks.
Is that a thing? Wouldn't she realize they didn't hatch while she was sitting on them, & get suspicious & reject the chicks? And wouldn't the other hens be more likely to peck at the chicks if the broody thought they weren't hers because then she wouldn't protect them?

Cuz if this is a thing, then yes, I'll totally go this route instead!!! Seems much easier assuming the broody accepts the chicks as her own immediately.
 

yakitori

Crowing
Jun 22, 2020
2,066
4,512
351
New York
Is that a thing? Wouldn't she realize they didn't hatch while she was sitting on them, & get suspicious & reject the chicks? And wouldn't the other hens be more likely to peck at the chicks if the broody thought they weren't hers because then she wouldn't protect them?

Cuz if this is a thing, then yes, I'll totally go this route instead!!! Seems much easier assuming the broody accepts the chicks as her own immediately.
it totally is! Let her sit on the eggs for 10 days or so, then go get some day old chicks and sneak them under her (from behind) in the dead of the night. Remove the eggs when you do. Keep an eye out in the morning to see whether she rejects them... there’s a small chance you’ll end up having to raise them yourself, but honestly, brooder babies aren’t that bad. if you go with a deep litter, you won’t have to change out the bedding.
 

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