Incubating in the winter - doable or crazy?

K0k0shka

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I wasn't planning on this and recognize that it's not ideal or even recommended, but these are unusual circumstances. So, our favorite chicken died for no apparent reason, the family is very sad and we have one last chance to have him "live on" though his progeny. I don't know if it's possible to preserve the eggs until spring and how viable they would be... I've heard of people hatching frozen eggs, but more like "they froze briefly before being collected", not "they were deep frozen for months"... Unless somebody on here has experience hatching eggs that spent months frozen? So, if we can't preserve the eggs, our only other option is to hatch them now, at the start of winter in the Northeast. Again, I know this is not ideal and I'd rather do it in the spring, but the timing just is what it is. This would be purely for sentimental reasons (the kids really loved that cockerel). We have enough capacity in the coop and run to add to our flock of 5 and were planning on hatching eggs from him in the spring anyway, to keep a couple and eat the rest, so this was already in the plans. The change now is that we have to do it in the winter instead of in the spring.

The last batch of chicks I hatched were brooded in our house, so I'll do that again, in a bigger brooder so I can keep them inside longer, let's say a month. Last time I kept them in for 3 weeks (in the spring) and everybody really enjoyed the experience. No problems with dust or smell, and the kids loved having the chicks right by their bedroom. Then I'm thinking of putting them in the basement for another month or so. It's not heated so it's cooler than the upstairs, but doesn't get as cold as outside either - hangs around the 50s - so that can be a transitional space for them. And then by late February or early March I can start transitioning them to the outside, for short periods at first and then longer... I'll section off part of the coop and part of the run with wire so the resident chickens can get to know them without beating them up.

Would this plan work? Anything else I can do to make it go smoother? I guess a lot would depend on what kind of winter we get, but at what point do you think I should start getting them accustomed to the outside? Any advice from people who hatched in the winter without a broody hen?

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Ruby Rogue

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It should work fine as long as you keep your incubator in a room with a stable temperature, which isn't possible for me, I live in a drafty old house. You may have to plan for keeping them inside a bit longer, or supplementing heat outside to acclimate them. I think it's a good idea to keep a part of him alive at least for the kids. How many eggs are you going to set? They next ones laid should still be viable for a couple of weeks at least.
 
May 22, 2020
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Your hens should definitely still be fertile for at the very least the next 7 days. Sometimes up to 2 weeks, but I wouldn't want to set eggs myself with a 50/50 chance. It would be hard on the kids, when you have to dispose of the "quitters/unfertile" eggs during the incubation process. Study up on how to store them and rotate them properly until you set them to incubate. Do not introduce another rooster until you have all the eggs you want. Hens can eject the sperm, and then their eggs would be fertile from a new roo. If I can think of anything else helpful, I will add to your thread. :) Best of luck, keep us informed.
 

K0k0shka

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It should work fine as long as you keep your incubator in a room with a stable temperature, which isn't possible for me, I live in a drafty old house. You may have to plan for keeping them inside a bit longer, or supplementing heat outside to acclimate them. I think it's a good idea to keep a part of him alive at least for the kids. How many eggs are you going to set? They next ones laid should still be viable for a couple of weeks at least.
Thanks for the input! The temperature in that hallway is fairly stable. I had to do a lot of tweaks to the incubator last time, had it wrapped in blankets and what not, because it’s just a finicky styrofoam thing. But I had a good hatch rate regardless. I’m planning on setting 10 eggs or so.
 

K0k0shka

Crowing
Premium Feather Member
Jul 24, 2019
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Boston Area, MA
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Your hens should definitely still be fertile for at the very least the next 7 days. Sometimes up to 2 weeks, but I wouldn't want to set eggs myself with a 50/50 chance. It would be hard on the kids, when you have to dispose of the "quitters/unfertile" eggs during the incubation process. Study up on how to store them and rotate them properly until you set them to incubate. Do not introduce another rooster until you have all the eggs you want. Hens can eject the sperm, and then their eggs would be fertile from a new roo. If I can think of anything else helpful, I will add to your thread. :) Best of luck, keep us informed.
Thanks for the advice! The kids will be fine - our last hatch was a 50/50 chance because the eggs were shipped, and indeed we did lose 50%, then we had to butcher all but one of the males after they grew up, so by now the kids are accustomed to the cycle of life side of things. The goal is to get 2-3 females out of this whole thing, and the eggs and incubator are free, so we can take some losses.
 
May 22, 2020
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Thanks for the advice! The kids will be fine - our last hatch was a 50/50 chance because the eggs were shipped, and indeed we did lose 50%, then we had to butcher all but one of the males after they grew up, so by now the kids are accustomed to the cycle of life side of things. The goal is to get 2-3 females out of this whole thing, and the eggs and incubator are free, so we can take some losses.
I am so glad to hear that. I wish you the best of luck on this journey!! I hope your hatch rate is good and you get girls.
 

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