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How can a chicken hatch 14 eggs all at once?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by kkhh, Sep 3, 2016.

  1. kkhh

    kkhh In the Brooder

    Sep 22, 2013
    One of our laying hens could hop the rather high fence of our chicken enclosure. She'd let herself in and out and we weren't able to find a way to contain her. We live on about 2 acres out in the country, with some woods behind us and neighbors a distance away on both sides. She was making daily escapes until she disappeared exactly 2 weeks ago -- we assumed that a predator had got her on one of her forays. Yesterday, I was up by the garden and heard peeping. I just about fell over with shock because there was our missing hen with a herd of chicks around her -- 14 to be exact. They all appear to be approximately the same age -- maybe 2 or 3 days old. We got mama and the babies corralled and set her up in a small coop/fenced in area where they're warm, safe and secure. We checked all around the property but couldn't find the spot where she hatched them -- there's no sign of broken eggshells anywhere. I also can't figure out how she accomplished hatching 14 chicks on her own and I'd love to get feedback from everyone. A few questions:

    Could she have gathered then hatched 14 eggs all at the same time? There is no way that she could have stolen eggs from our other chickens -- they lay inside our coop and she had to jump a 6-foot fence just to get out. There wasn't any sign that she was broody either.

    If they're all her eggs, it would have taken her 2 weeks to lay them all, so shouldn't there be a 2-week age difference in the hatched chicks?

    Can a hen hatch chicks that are all different colors from her own eggs? She's black, and there are 4 black chicks, but the others don't even resemble our other chickens or Buddy, our rooster.

    How far will a hen travel to "steal" chicks? My husband thinks she stole the chicks (largely because they're all different colors) but the nearest neighbor with chickens is about a half mile away up the road.

    Thanks in advance!!
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2016

  2. mtngirl35

    mtngirl35 Songster

    Dec 10, 2013
    Are the neighbor's chickens free range? If so they could be laying anywhere. I have watched one of my broody hens tuck an egg from another nesting box under her wing and tote it to her nest. I never would have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    The development of a fertile egg into a chick does not begin until they are kept at about 100F constantly.

    It's pretty simple actually, the hen(or hens) will lay in one spot until she deems there are enough eggs to 'set',
    only then will she begin to sit on them almost constantly for 21 days until they all that are going to hatch do hatch.
    She will leave the nest every day or so for just long enough to eat, drink, poop, have a stretch, and maybe take a dust bath.
  4. gator75

    gator75 Songster

    Aug 25, 2012
    Remember as a kid seeing a dozen chicks come running out from under a pile of scaffolding on our properly. Scared the bajeezus out of me.
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    aart basically covered it.

    A hen lays an egg a day or so. Those eggs just sit in a kind of stasis, they don't start to develop. She used that nest for say 6 eggs a week until she had a decent clutch of eggs. Then, the hormones in her brain kicked in and she tucked herself on the nest, heating the eggs to around 100 degrees. Even the first laid egg didn't start to develop an embryo until she's sat on them about 3 days. Then, they all developed at the same rate and hatched over a time frame of about 36 hours, give or take.

    They're designed this way so everyone hatches at once and momma can leave the nest and care for the chicks. If they were developing at different stages (staggered hatch), she would be tied to the nest to incubate the latecomers, and not able to be out feeding and watering the already hatched babies.
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