help!- hen hatching eggs in winter

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Lisaz, Dec 12, 2016.

  1. Lisaz

    Lisaz Just Hatched

    Jul 24, 2016
    I was out of town for a week. When I returned I found that my cochin had been sitting on 4 eggs for an undetermined length of time. Since the chicks had already started to grow, I let her continue.

    But now what? I am totally new to this! She is in a coop with 20 other hens and 3 roosters. Currently we open the coop into the barn during the day and they have a small run but other than they, they don't go outside right now. They were free range up until a week ago when we developed a major hawk problem, and my birds are going stir crazy! To complicate things, it is winter and temps are supposed to drop to below zero this week. Should I move her to a warmer location while she is brooding? or after the chicks hatch? or just leave her be. How will the other birds react to the chicks? Will the mom hen be able to keep them warm and safe from the other chickens? Any information is welcome-help!
  2. azygous

    azygous True BYC Addict

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Leave her be, but keep an eye on things. Your Cochin's success will depend on her experience and determination, not temperature.

    The immediate problem will be keeping other layers out of her nest. Incursions can result in broken eggs, and deposits of newer eggs which would present the problem of a staggered hatch. You need to keep other layers out of her nest.

    If you can keep others out of her nest, then when the eggs hatch, the chicks will be protected for the first few days when they're at their most vulnerable. I like to give my broody her own space in the coop and a grow-out pen for the chicks during the first couple weeks. Then I open the space to the rest of the run so she can begin introducing the chicks to the flock. That requires monitoring, too, to make sure she is determined enough to protect her chicks.

    But the cold? I wouldn't worry. A broody has that covered. Pardon the pun.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I used to have a link to a thread where someone let a hen hatch in Michigan in conditions close to yours though they were not as crowded. It’s harder in those conditions, what might be a bit of an inconvenience in summer can be a life or death thing in those types of temperatures. Her hen was able to handle it with fairly minimal help so it can be done.

    Some people, like Azygous said, prefer to isolate the hen while she is hatching and even for a bit when she is raising them. I don’t, I mark the eggs with a Sharpie and check each day to remove any that don’t belong. And I generally let the hen bring them off the nest by herself and let them mix immediately with the flock. We all do these things differently.

    But in your case, isolating the hen while she is incubating may not be a bad idea. One thing that can happen is that when the hen leaves her nest for her daily sabbatical, another hen hops on the nest to lay eggs. If she is still on the nest when the broody returns, the broody can get confused and go to another nest, never switching back to her own. It doesn’t happen a lot but it does happen often enough to be a concern. In the summer I don’t consider it that big of a deal, I just toss the broody hen back on her eggs and usually still get great hatches. But in your temperatures it wouldn’t take that long for the eggs to get too cold. I think in your case it’s a reasonable precaution.

    I don’t know how big your coop is or how your facilities are set up. You can try building or creating an isolation pen in or out of the coop (maybe in a warmer spot like an attached garage) or build a fence with top around her current nest so she can’t fly out and other chickens cannot get in. You need enough room for the nest and food and water. A bit for a dust bath wouldn’t hurt but the overall area doesn’t have to be that big. By instinct a broody knows to not poop in her nest so she needs some room for that, but she does not know to not poop in her feed or water. You may be cleaning those out regularly.

    Bottom line, it can be done. In severe weather the risks are higher but others have been successful.

    Good luck!
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop

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