Hen is Getting Eggs from the Whole Flock--what to do?

Carson213

Chirping
Aug 31, 2020
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the hen could be off the eggs for days...on your kitchen counter...and if they’re fertilized you can put in the incubator. it’s actually not very scientific...but if you can get a hen to do all of the work...way better. just make a brooder for her.
 

bobbi-j

Enabler
Mar 15, 2010
15,269
30,527
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On the MN prairie.
I'm not sure how I can manage it, if the other birds are squeezing into the box to lay in there. They have all laid in different places in the coop.

For now, I assume I can just take the bird off the nest and take all the eggs. With no eggs, I'm assuming she'll quit setting quickly. But the next time, I'm going to have the same issue with other eggs. The box is up off the floor, so I don't think she can get eggs up into the box. The other hens have to be laying in the box with her there, and she is collecting them.

I guess I could take a magic marker and mark the eggs she is setting on at the beginning, then take her off the nest every night and take all the unmarked eggs. Would that work?

And how long does an egg have to get to brooding temperature before it starts developing?
When I have a hen that insists on setting where others have access to their nest, I draw a circle around her eggs with a Sharpie. I don’t take the hen completely off the nest to check for extras. I just slide my hand under her, lift her enough to give the eggs a quick glance, remove what I need to and put her back down. As for your current situation, there is no harm in giving it another few days. If something hatched, great and if not, just dispose of the eggs.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Feb 2, 2009
26,490
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Southeast Louisiana
If there's a better plan, please let me know.
There are lots of ways you could go about this. When I think a hen has gone broody and I want her to hatch eggs, she has to spend two consecutive nights on her nest instead of sleeping in her normal spot before I give her eggs. I've had many that almost go broody but don't quite kick over into full broody mode. So two consecutive nights on the nest. During this time I collect real eggs put from under her daily but toss in a couple more fake eggs, golf balls for me.

I do not isolate my broody hens from the flock at all. Some people isolate while incubating, during hatch, or when the hen is raising them. I'm not going to say any of them are bad or best methods. We all have different circumstances and there might something about yours that makes one way better for you, but this way works for me.

I collect all the eggs I want her to hatch and mark them with a black Sharpie so I can tell at a glance which ones belong. Then I put them all under her at the same time, removing the fake eggs. Then every day after the other hens have laid I check under her and remove any that don't belong. As long as you remove them daily you can still use them. As someone else said the eggs that have started to develop are still safe to eat but I can't get past the yuk! factor. Starting then all at the same time avoid the staggered hatch uncertainty you are going through. There is a lot less stress.

Other eggs can show up. Usually this is from other hens laying with the broody but some hens have been known to carry eggs back to their nest, even hopping up a distance. Don't underestimate a determined broody. Like Bobbi, I just raise her up to see what is under her. Some people toss them off the nest. She should sort of hunch down there for a bit and then either go back to the nest or go out to eat, drink, and poop. Maybe take a dust bath. As long as she is a committed broody she will go back.

Before a hen or pullet starts laying eggs she stores up a lot of extra fat. I've butchered enough pullets, hens, cockerels, and roosters to see how much extra fat the girls pack on. It can be impressive. This fat is mostly what a broody hen lives off of while she is on the nest incubating her eggs. That way she can stay on the eggs instead of spending her time looking for food. Broody hens will leave their nests to eat, drink, poop, and such. I've seen a broody leave her nest twice a day and stay off for over an hour each time. Another one came off for only 15 minutes in the morning. Both had great hatches. A lot of the time I never see a broody hen off of her nest, they can be secretive, but I know she is coming off because she is not pooping in her nest. A broody should know instinctively to not poop in her nest, they often save it up and you can see some humongous poops outside when she does let go.

Different broodies store up different amounts of fat and come off of the nest for different periods. When ours come off the nest they have food available so they don't have to hunt for it. They can really load up. That stretches their fat even longer before they run out. I'm comfortable letting my hens stay broody and on a nest for five weeks before I break them. There is nothing magical about five weeks, it's just a number I arbitrarily chose. Broodies do lose weight while broody but it's fat put there for that purpose. It doesn't hurt them. Most broody hens will break from being broody when that fat runs out but a few won't. So for their own health I put them in my broody buster if they can't meet my five week deadline. I don't give them any eggs after they have been broody a week and a half. To show you how safe and arbitrary my five weeks are, some people let broody hens hatch turkey eggs which need to be incubate five weeks before hatch. It can take time for then to get the turkey eggs. I'm just extremely cautious.

This is for next time. What do you do now? You can mark all the eggs that are under her now and start removing any new ones that show up. Or you can candle them and mark and keep the ones you choose by candling. There is information about candling under the "Articles" tab at the top of this page that show you what you are looking for and how to do it. I use a bright flashlight in a very dark place. Others get more fancy and can probably see better than I can.

I'd let the hen go another week to see if any hatch before I used my broody buster. That's an elevated wire bottomed cage with food and water but nothing that looks like a nest. You may be able to raise it up on bricks or blocks depending o what you have or can make. The cool air under her seems to help break her from being broody. I keep her in there for 72 hours and turn her loose. That's usually enough but if she goes back to her nest I put her back in.

This is arbitrary, the way I'd do it. Others have different opinions and methods. I'm not saying they are wrong, just that this is the way I'd do it and I've tried to say why. You have lots of different options.

Good luck!
 

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