Incubate or Not Incubate... PLEASE HELP!

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by HardizzlesFlock, Dec 31, 2013.

  1. HardizzlesFlock

    HardizzlesFlock Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 31, 2013
    South-East Washington
    My family just got a rooster for our 6 hens. When they lay their broods should I grab them and incubate??
  2. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

    Feb 18, 2011
    Not sure what you are asking? If the rooster is doing his job and everybody is healthy, the eggs should be fertile, so if you want to hatch chicks you could collect the eggs and put them in the incubator... you probably want to collect them every day and store them for a week or so until you have as many as you want to incubate at once. If you mean will your hens go broody now that you have a rooster, they will go broody when they want, with or without a rooster. Most breeds will lay a lot more eggs than they can brood, and some breeds will almost never go broody.
  3. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    Before you start hatching eggs, first get everything in order. Then collect the eggs as soon as they are laid. If the weather is very cold collect them 2 or 4 times daily. Keep two or three well marked sacrificial eggs or dummy nest eggs in each nest. Hens have notoriously poor math skills. Mark each egg with the day and month on which it was laid. Each day remove the oldest eggs from your egg collection or cachet, refrigerate and eat those. Replace the oldest eggs that you refrigerate or eat with a like number of fresh eggs laid that very day. This way with 6 hens, you always have a ready supply of fresh eggs on hand to incubate when ever a hen starts setting. Do learn how to properly store eggs that are destine for hatching. I can not stress this enough.

    Have your nests and maternity pens already set up, preferably on the earth or ground, because eggs incubated by a hen hatch better there because of the higher humidity. Have some (two or three anyway) tightly covered, small movable pens ready to house your hen's nest and that allow her enough room to come off the nest, eat, drink, and maybe have a dust bath before she takes to the nest again. Three feet by three is the minimum, 4 X 4 X 3 is better. Sitting hens by nature are as reclusive as a rattle snake, and for what ever reason sitting hens are jealous. Don't take a chance on another hen intruding on your sitting hen, setting hens fight now and this can ruin or break a whole clutch of eggs, with my luck it is always just days before they are due to hatch. So rig up a blind on one side of the maternity pens to keep other hens in the run from staring at or making rude hand jesters at your brood hen, this reinforces her sense of security. About every third day you can tell if your hen has left the nest to eat an drink because her bowls will move and the smell is as distinctive as the bowl movements are large.

    When a hen takes to the nest and she has sat tightly for 3 days, move the nest, hen and all during the dark of night, without disturbing the hen, and put nest and all in your small "maternity" pen. Give the hen a feed and water cup, with food and water. Above all put the maternity pen someplace where water doesn't collect when it rains. If you have room in your run or coop that is great. Then during the dark of the same night (preferably without the help of a torch or flashlight) gently remove all the nest or sacrificial eggs from beneath the hen. Those sacrificial eggs may be rotten, (that is why you want them well marked) and just as gently replace them with no more than 15 of your freshest and most perfect hatching eggs. This is no time to get teary eyed about chicks that may have been. NEVER and I mean never set misshapen, thin shelled, very small, very large, checked, long, dumpy, short, soiled, wrinkled, slender, double ended, rough textured or cracked eggs. The shell defects mentioned above are often the result of contagious diseases and by setting these eggs you are condemning your next generation of chicks to an early death from these same diseases, even if the suspect eggs never hatch.

    Any conscience setting hen will keep her backside planted on the nest for 3 days or so at a time. Make sure she has food and water available to her at anytime she comes off the nest. I like to feed my sitting hens nothing but scratch feed. My thinking is that it is slower to digest, higher in calories, and it keeps the hen's appetite sated longer, and besides they like to eat it. Also if a hen only eats once ever three days or so, in my opinion there is little chance that she will get fat. Also scratch grain doesn't draw as much water from the atmosphere, clump, and mold as readily as pellets or dry mash does once it is exposed to the atmosphere. Did you remember me telling you to have a tight dry top on your maternity pen that will shed water? Good, I was just checking!

    If you don't already have a proper physical plant you can hatch more chicks with a mechanical incubator, than you can ever hope to raise or house as adults. So if you are a new-bee to the chicken game, I'll tell you now that hatching your eggs under a brood hen and letting her raise the peeps while you sit back and sip a cool drink, is much more enjoyable than taking on three additional full time jobs: one as a brood hen, two as Old McDonald, and three as a carpenter, all three in a futile attempt to catch up with the piping pace of even a 42 egg Hoverbator incubator.

    Just a reminder, mother hens are notorious for coping an attitude once she has chicks. She will not understand that you mean her brood no harm. Any man, woman, child, or small pet that gets to close to a mother hen may get a violent reminder to keep your distance. If this happens, DO NOT blame the hen if she sacrifices a few of her chicks in what to her is a brave and valiant attempt to protect the rest from harm. If this happens, the blame is on your head and on your head alone.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
    2 people like this.
  4. gander007

    gander007 Chicken Obsessed

    Big time X2 what else needs to be written
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Only you can decide if you want to incubate or not. It can be addictive, and what's cuter than a baby chick, but you need to be responsible about it. The two biggest issues are do you have a place for the birds to grow out until they're able to join the adult flock at around 4 months old, and what are you going to do with the 50% roosters you hatch out? These things need to be thought out in advance, I can't count the posts here about "I hatched a bajillion chicks and now I have half a bajillion roosters and I can't keep any of them but I don't want anyone ever to eat a single one of them so where is the happy ever after green pasture home for unwanted roosters", or even "I hatched all these chicks but can't put them in with the flock cause I tried and the hens killed one, but they're too big for the brooder and I have no place to keep them for another 2 months". Think ahead, and hatch appropriately.

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