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Is it worth using my hens to hatch eggs?

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by GimmeCake, Sep 20, 2013.

  1. GimmeCake

    GimmeCake Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I was going to hatch some Silkie bantams, but I realized building an incubator (or buy one, but it's approx x4 the price for what I'd get) would be a bit hard and a bit costly ($40ish, not bad, but that's $40 worth of potential coop improvements). So I had an idea, why not use a hens to brood my eggs? They seem like decent mothers. I actually put in egg in there to make sure they know where to lay eggs, and they actually took care of it by putting straw around it and making sure it's out of the way (until they ate it, but I put golfballs in, now of which they've taken care of and I never seen them pecking at them, so I'm not worried). There are two Wyandottes, two Plymouth Rocks, and two Dominiques. For the most part, would investing in about $60 worth of fertile Silkie eggs be worth it when in care of these chickens? I'm worried the broody one may decide to stop brooding half way through leaving my chicks to die inside the eggs. I'd take out the chicks shortly after the hatch and put them in the brooder, as I don't trust my hens to take care of the chicks outside, when I could make sure they're safe. But in general, is this a good idea? Too risky?

    They are technically pullets at the moment, and have yet to lay an egg. Of course I'd want to wait about a month after laying begins to ensure nothing goes wrong.

    Thanks in advanced!
     
  2. Pyxis

    Pyxis Dark Sider Premium Member

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    Well, hens really do make the best mothers, and they have better hatch rates than any incubator you can buy or build. Even supposed non broody breeds can be good mothers. Case in point:

    [​IMG]

    Lemon, my red sex who was never supposed to be broody at all, currently has eight chicks that she has raised since they were hatched. They have never seen the inside of a brooder.

    The breeds you listed are known to be broody occasionally, so if one did go broody, I don't see why you couldn't let her hatch the eggs.

    However, do not just buy eggs for them after they've been laying for a month and expect that you'll put them in the nest and they'll hatch them for you. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Going broody is a total hormonal process, and there's no real way to 'make' a hen go broody. I couldn't even get my silkie to go broody when I wanted her to, and they're a super broody breed. Going broody depends on many things, like the temperature and the length of the days and a bunch of mystery factors that are known only to the hen. I always get most of my broodies in summer. I get the rare broody in the early spring or even winter, but that's an unusual occurrence in my experience.

    So what I'm saying is, by all means, let a hen hatch them for you. But wait until she's already broody to buy the eggs if that's what you want to do. In fact, when I get a broody hen and I'm laying down money on eggs for her to hatch, I won't even think of giving them to her until I've allowed her to brood golf balls for a week and I'm sure she's committed. Don't just buy eggs for them and assume that because you put them in the nest they will sit on them and hatch them for you; you'll very likely end up out your money.

    So in conclusion (sorry for the super long post), yes, hens make excellent mothers and are better at hatching and raising chicks than we will ever be. If you want to give a hen eggs, go right ahead. But wait to get them until she's already broody. If you want the chicks within a certain time frame, you're better building the incubator and hatching them yourself, since you can never guarantee when a hen will decide to hatch.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  3. GimmeCake

    GimmeCake Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the reply! But one thing though is if I waited a week for her to be broody, won't she eventually get tired of sitting there and stop brooding? Since eggs typically hatch after 21 days, I don't see why a hen would sit there for 40 days waiting for them to hatch. So if I waited a week to make sure she's committed to brooding, waited another week to get some fertilized eggs, then put them under her, would she still be broody long enough to hatch? I've only seen a broody hen once, but I don't remember how long she sat on some eggs (although she was old and alone, doubt she would have stopped brooding).
     
  4. appps

    appps Overrun With Chickens

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    Broody hens without fertile eggs to hatch have been known to sit almost to the point of starvation because nothing hatches to tell them to stop. An extra week won't be a problem, they don't have a very good internal clock telling them when its supposed to be hatch time.
     
  5. Pyxis

    Pyxis Dark Sider Premium Member

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    x2 My silkie, when she was broody and I didn't want her to be, once sat for three months. I gave her eggs after the first two months just to get her to stop, lol.
     
  6. GimmeCake

    GimmeCake Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I actually can't get eggs for a few months, and I have a current flock that I'm going to integrate soon, so I have the option for them to also be broody, which would leave options out such as a broody Orpington.

    What I was going to do was was put golf balls in a nest or two and check every day when I go out to get the eggs if there are any broody hens. I'd probably wait until a Orpington, a Australorp, or a Dominique sits on there (those are actually the more broody breeds out of what I have, and are known to be better mothers). Then in a week if she's still sitting I can order some eggs and put it under her at night when she doesn't know that I'm switching the eggs (of course she'd be up, but I doubt she'd know exactly what I'm doing since she'd be tired).

    Would that plan work fine for hatching some eggs? alsoI wanted to fit about 12 Silkie Bantam eggs under her.
     
  7. Pyxis

    Pyxis Dark Sider Premium Member

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    That should work just fine :)
     
  8. lizgarf

    lizgarf Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Perfect timing to read your response, Pyxis! I have a couple bantams that go broody frequently. I just had my first sudden loss of a hen, and, perhaps to help cope, I decided to order some hatching eggs to put under one of them, Frida, who just started going broody again. It seemed odd for September, but she's full-on into it. Anyway, the guy I ordered them from had assured me he would ship yesterday, which meant I would receive them today, but he actually delayed in shipping them until today, and I won't get them until Monday. This made me worry that I might lose the window with Frida's broodiness, but it sounds from your post that it shouldn't matter. I have been able to break my broodies within a couple weeks in the past by closing off the nest, putting them outside frequently, etc. Does that mean she may snap out of it herself, or if she's setting on some non-fertile eggs now, and I don't bug her, will she keep going through the 21 days after Monday? I suspect she may get some help from my other frequent-brooder, who was hanging out in there with her this evening. (which also makes me lean towards wanting to not separate her out from the other 3 hens, who may help brood, but in any case, all get along well - any thoughts there?)

    OK, that was a bit of a ramble - but any thoughts or assurances you can offer about this little delay in the egg purchase would be most welcome!
    --Liz
     
  9. OllyOwl

    OllyOwl New Egg

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    We have about 30 chickens and some get into their maternal side to brood.

    About 3 months ago one of the chickens decided to brood.
    My mom placed about 6 fertilized eggs from our other chickens and 1 DUCK egg into the brooding chickens nest.
    She sat on them for a while, but then cracked and ate most of the chicken eggs, but didn't eat the duck egg.
    She finished when the duckling hatched along with about 2 chicken chicks!

    What sight to see 2 chicks and a duckling following around their brooding mother.
    Imprinting indeed!

    Most of the other chickens have accepted the duckling as part of the community.
    The duck is now grown and is larger than most of the chickens. :)

    I have never seen something like this, but my mom said it work, and it did.
     
  10. Pyxis

    Pyxis Dark Sider Premium Member

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    You should be okay. I've only ever once had a broody break before the hatch without me tossing her out of the nest and locking her out, and that was my fault too - I changed the coop and left it without bedding overnight and she was early enough in her brooding that it disturbed her and she broke. Later that same hen hatched five chicks for me. Anyway, what I mean is, you should be okay. I've never had a broody break herself after sitting only 21 days.

    Oh, and I have a broody now too! She's hatching some salmon faverolles for me that I'm going to take and raise myself, and some ee's and black sex links that are for her. It's her first year laying and her first time broody. I let her sit a week before giving her the eggs. She already kicked two that were no good. They just seem to know these things :)

    Oh, and also, I never separate out broodies. I just let them be. I might seclude the broody and the chicks after the hatch, depending on how many she has to keep track of, but I let her sit wherever she decides to. Moving them can make them break on accident, and I prefer not to chance it.
     
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