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Letting chickens hatch their eggs

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by rockinRfarms, Nov 3, 2014.

  1. rockinRfarms

    rockinRfarms Hatching

    Nov 3, 2014
    Im new to breeding chickens and have always just collected the eggs for consumption.
    I recently purchased a rooster and some hens that I would like to breed. I am going to keep them seperate from my others. My question is do you have to collect and incubate the eggs or can you allow the hens to sit on them and the eggs to hatch naturally?
  2. Yorkshire Coop

    Yorkshire Coop Moderator Staff Member Premium Member

    Aug 16, 2014
    Yorkshire, UK
    My Coop
    Hi :welcome

    Glad you joined the flock. It is totally up to you how you get your chicks. Both methods have their own rewards. With an incubator you get to decide when you want to have chicks. With a broody hen you have to wait for her to become broody.

    A broody will look after her chicks and show them what to do as long as you can provide her with a safe place. If you incubate you have to provide the heat for them when they have hatched and a safe brooder box for them.

    I find incubating rewarding as you can acctually see them hatch in the incubator and rearing them is great fun too.

    If you are going to incubate your self you can collect the eggs up over a week or as many as you need and store them in egg cartons pointy end down somewhere cool before setting them in an incubator.
    Good luck :frow
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2014
    1 person likes this.
  3. Aphrael

    Aphrael Songster

    Jan 21, 2013
    If it is possible, I would highly recommend trying both ways. Both have some cons, but they are both lots of fun and such a great learning experience.
  4. LanceTN

    LanceTN Chirping

    Aug 31, 2014
    I recommend having the chickens hatch and raise your chicks. They'll do it better then you will and will take away many of the headaches. You don't have to build or purchase more places to contain chicks and you don't have to worry about the flock accepting them.

    So either wait for one of your hens to go broody or if you want to regularly hatch and don't have broody breeds consider adding a hen of a breed known to go broody often.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging 9 Years

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    If you want to control when they hatch and have much control over how many, you need to use an incubator. You can’t control when or how often a hen goes broody no matter her breed. And hens have a limited capacity for the number of eggs they can cover. Eggs and hens come in different sizes. Some bantams can barely cover 4 regular sized-eggs. I’ve seen a full-sized hen cover and hatch 18 of her own eggs when she hid a nest. I’ve seen a full-sized hen have trouble covering 12 eggs the size she lays. To incubate successfully a hen needs to be able to comfortably cover all the eggs.

    I prefer having a broody hatch the eggs and raise the chicks with the flock but I need about 40 to 45 chicks a year for my table. My flock is fairly small and my broodies can’t handle that. I use an incubator early in the spring for maybe 20 chicks and my broodies normally handle the rest later in the year.

    There is a lot of debate on here about whether leaving eggs in the nest will cause a hen to go broody. I think this is part of your question. I’ve tried adding one golf ball a day or marking and adding a real egg a day to a nest until I got a dozen in there, then left them for a few weeks to see if a hen went broody. Nope, did not happen although my hens go broody. One time when I was gone on a trip the person that was taking care of the chickens was supposed to take all the eggs for herself. She did not do it. When I got back late one night the nests were full of eggs and a couple of hens were on them, acting kind of broody. I tossed the eggs the next day and both those hens quit acting broody and continued laying eggs. Maybe if I’d left them they would have kicked over into full broody mode. I’ll never know. One time I built up a bunch of eggs in one nest and a hen went broody, in a different nest.

    I think if a hen is thinking about going broody having a nest full of eggs may help put her over the edge into full broody mode, but she has to be a hen that goes broody to start with and she has to be thinking about it. Many of us have had hens go broody on empty nests so having eggs in the nest is not a requirement for them to go broody.

    Whether or not a hen goes broody depends on her genetics. Hens from production breeds tend to not go broody a lot. In a production flock a broody hen is not laying eggs but she is taking up space and costing money by eating until she starts laying again. It takes special handling to break her from being broody. Broodies are just generally permanently removed from the flock and incubators are used to hatch eggs. After a few generations of this you get a flock where the hens tend to not go broody. You can still get a broody hen from any breed, but some breeds are more likely to go broody than others. You can also get a hen from any breed that will never go broody.

    All the eggs need to start incubation at the same time, whether in an incubator or under a broody, so they will hatch at the same time. Instead of leaving the eggs in the coop in the hopes that one will go broody, I suggest you collect the eggs every day so predators won’t find a treat in there if they visit at night (especially snakes). When a hen goes broody, start collecting the eggs you want her to hatch and give them all to her at the same time when you have enough. Even if you leave a bunch of eggs in the coop to try to entice one to go broody I suggest you collect fresh eggs for her to hatch and toss the old ones when you have enough to start her. Or cook the old eggs and feed them back to the flock.

    Good luck with the adventure! Glad you joined us!
  6. rockinRfarms

    rockinRfarms Hatching

    Nov 3, 2014
    Thank you so much, your answer was very informative and exactly what I was looking for! My only question is what is a good sign that a hen is being broody, and is there a certain time of the year that they are more likely to be broody than others?
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging 9 Years

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Chickens have been domesticated, we provide adequate feed year around, and they lay year around so it is possible they could go broody anytime. If you provide lights in the winter to keep them laying, that increases the chances of them going broody in the dark days. It is much more likely they will go broody in warmer weather though. For mine it is normally late spring and mid-summer, but I have a few early spring and late summer.

    There are a lot of signs a hen might be broody. She might spend a lot of time on the nest, fluff up and growl if you approach her nest, defend her nest by pecking you, walk around all fluffed up and making a pucking sound, or feathering her nest by plucking a few breast feathers. Those are signs she might be broody, not necessarily that she is to be trusted with eggs. I’ve had hens display practically all those signs and not be truly broody. My test is that the hen has to spend two consecutive nights on the nest instead of roosting in her normal spot. One night is not enough, it has to be two consecutive nights.

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