Incubator vs broody hens?

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by BonDEEroo, Jan 14, 2018.

  1. BonDEEroo

    BonDEEroo Songster

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    I am pretty inexperienced with incubators. On my first attempt, I followed the instructions faithfully, only to battle excessive humidity and irregular temperatures, and I was disappointed to achieve only a 50% success rate on a batch of shipped fertile eggs - and one chick was disabled.

    We recently went on holiday for a week. The friend who let the chooks out and put them away each day didn’t collect the eggs. When we left we had 2 broodies sitting on 5 and 4 eggs. On returning, we found a total of 31 eggs under 4 broody hens.

    By swapping the eggs around under different broodies as the hatching began, we got 27 successful hatches out of 28. The one egg that had been rejected got broken accidentally and had obviously failed to develop.

    The last 3 eggs went into the incubator with about a handful of water in the bottom (nowhere near the recommended amount). This gave a perfect steady temperature and humidity of 40-45%. I was sure they were duds, but each one hatched, one a day, and were put under the broody girl with the last chicks that had hatched (she’s a brilliant mother).

    Result: 30 hatched out of 31 under broody chooks (with a little help from the incubator), which is nearly 97%.

    Here is a picture of the youngest (an Araucana cross):

    660F9830-436B-4E00-8100-DFB447C75731.jpeg

    All 30 are doing well. The cheeping in the hen house each morning is deafening!
     
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  2. happyhens1972

    happyhens1972 Songster

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    At the end of the day, there really is no substitute for nature....she's being doing a grand job for millennia and our pathetic attempts to emulate her efforts are always going to be left wanting, HOWEVER, there is also so much to be said for a really good quality, reliable incubator. My R Com 20 Max has given me a hatch rate to match your broodies with shipped and home-laid chook eggs and with shipped quail eggs, which are apparently notorious for low hatch rates. I literally just turn it on, fill up the water chambers and off it goes. 21 days later (or 19 for my quail)...great hatches!! I always check the incubator setting before I set the eggs... the temp against a medical thermometer (and myself) and humidity against two other hygrometers but as yet, it's never been inaccurate. I also only ever candle twice....once at 5 to 7 days to check fertility and again at 18 days, before we go into lockdown so I can get rid of any quitters. I think many people over-candle, in their excitement, curiosity and enthusiasm and, thereby, compromise their own hatches.

    I hope I am not jinxing my current eggs by saying all this but again, had 15 eggs set...one was infertile so has been removed at the 7 day point and the rest are developing beautifully. Come on R Com, do your thing!!!

    Oh and congratulations on your broody-hatched bubbas....a great result indeed :jumpy
     
  3. The Moonshiner

    The Moonshiner wicked chickens lay deviled eggs Premium Member

    One thing to also consider is you mentioned you had shipped eggs in the incubator.
    Imo 50% is a great hatch rate for shipped eggs. Others might say its average.
    For me I'd feel pretty successful for that hate.
    Hovabators have always been a plug in and go incubator be me. I use the ones with wafer thermostats and they have been real steady.
     
  4. JedJackson

    JedJackson Crowing

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    Completely agree. A 50% hatch rate for shipped eggs is excellent for either an incubator or natural hatch.

    More and more I prefer using good broody hens to incubate rather than a machine. It's just easier, and the hens will do the job of caring for the chicks so you don't have to. But you have to have good, reliable setters and mothers and it really helps to give them their own little separate area both before and after the hatch.
     
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  5. BonDEEroo

    BonDEEroo Songster

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    Thanks for the comments. The beauty of broody hens is no dust and mess from the brooder. And the chicks are probably happier with a good mother hen.

    Agree too with separating them - one of my broodies “adopted” some chicks from another broody and was aggressive to that hen and her 2 remaining chicks. Thankfully the rooster stepped in to stop the aggression, protecting the 2 little ones. (He’s one of the shipped eggs and I’m so glad he made it!)

    I’m looking forward to hearing you get 14 out of 14, happyhens1972!
     
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  6. song of joy

    song of joy Crowing

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    Wow! With that many good broodies, who needs an incubator? :highfive:

    Your 50% hatch rate for shipped eggs is quite good. It beats the 0% hatch rate I had a few years ago with shipped eggs!
     
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  7. happyhens1972

    happyhens1972 Songster

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    Me too bonDEEroo! Mind you, the lady I got the eggs from told me AFTER I'd set them, that she had concerns over the food she'd been using and had had poor hatch rates and several with curled feet so my RCOM has got some work to do to get round that!!
     
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  8. song of joy

    song of joy Crowing

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    It sounds like she wasn't giving them a breeder diet. If the breeders don't have proper nutrition, the chicks can suffer from a variety of defects due to nutritional deficiencies. This becomes less of an issue if the breeders can free range and offset nutritional deficiencies by eating green vegetation and insects.
     
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  9. Welshies

    Welshies Crowing

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    I definitely think there's something to be said for both the incubators and the broodies.
    Incubators are great for large-scale productions or backyard flock owners wanting some profit. Chicks earn more money than hatching eggs do, and a large volume can be hatched out at a time using an incubator, versus a broody. The egg production also remains at its optimum level. Incubators are a must-have for quail breeders, like me. However, they can be tricky for beginners and an unneccesary cost for backyard flocks. They are often very expensive. IMO 50% is a great hatch rate for shipped eggs.
    Broodies are handy. There's no hassle of egg turning or incubator calibration. However, there can be issues with dead chicks, abandoned eggs, and malnourishment on the broody. Brooding eggs is hard on a hen's body, so I avoid this except when expanding my own flock. On the other hand there is no mess whatsoever.
     
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  10. Sublight

    Sublight Songster

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    I have done both. I started out with a incubator, and will never go back, unless I need to hatch a LOT of chickens.
    For maintence of a flock, in my opinion, there is no substitute.
    I built a "broody pen", which is just a little 1.5 x 1.5 x 4ft pen, where she has a box, feed and water.
    All I do is when one goes broody, I pull her out, put her in the box, and when I have enough eggs, I place them under her. Then fill up the feed/water once a week until the eggs hatch. I dont care if it rains, or is cold, etc. Momma has them eggs handled, and will take great care of the babies.

    It is soooo much easier, and the babies are cute. My whole family loves to see nature take its natural course.
     
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  11. Welshies

    Welshies Crowing

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    I do agree that nature is adorable. There's nothing like watching a momma hen teach her chicks about life.
     
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