New to this broody hen, egg hatching thing!

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by Chickaroos, Aug 4, 2013.

  1. Chickaroos

    Chickaroos Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 6, 2012
    LONG story short, two months ago we found out we have a roo, in our family of 14 backyard chickens. About two weeks ago two of my hens went broody. We are so excited to have babies! So as we get closer to the time of hatching, I have a few questions...

    Right now the hens are laying in the same box with eachother, its also a place where almost all the other hens like to lay, so the number of eggs under them is crazy! There are at least 3 1/2 dozen and growing!!! So obviously there are going to be some hatching going on in the next couple weeks. So I guess im wondering, after some babies hatch, are the hens going to leave the half grown eggs with embryos growing? or will my hens stay broody after their chicks hatch and just keep the cycle going?

    Is there a good/nice way to get the other hens to lay in a different place? because obviously I dont want hundreds of babies running around over the next few months, and my family and friend would really like to eat their fresh eggs again. lol....

    Once the chicks hatch, will they be safe and taken care of? will the other hens bother them? what about the roo, will he be kind of the babies? I have a coop with a heat lamp that I can keep them in, but IDK if that would be the right thing to do...

    ANY other tips PLEASE fill me in!
    THANK U so much for reading :)
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    That uproar is what happened to me the first couple of times I had a broody hatch eggs. So now I separate my broodies while they are sitting on the eggs, to avoid the uproar you are seeing. Then I move them and their chicks in with the rest of the flock a day or so after the hatch. The mama will stay on the nest for several hours after the first chick hatches, probably overnight, then she will abandon any unhatched eggs to raise her chicks. She will take the chicks to eat and drink, teach them to forage, etc. They don't need heat or anything else from you, except chick feed, which you can also feed to the rest of the flock. For the calcium needs of the layers, just put out some oyster shell in a separate dish. The chicks won't pay much if any attention to it, but layer feed can seriously harm chicks during their first several weeks. Roos are sometimes quite fatherly; mine always ignored the chicks. The other hens will probably try to go after the chicks, but a good mama will protect them.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2013
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Sorry, but you have a mess. It’s probably not going to end real well. You’ll probably get some chicks to hatch but it won’t be anything like you expect. Having two broodies makes it even more complicated.

    With two broodies you just don’t know what will happen. They are living animals. They don’t come with guarantees. A lot of people have that and it often works out fine. The two may work together as a team to do a great job raising the chicks. It’s possible one will try to kill the ones that hatch under the other hen. They may fight for control of the eggs or chicks. Eggs and chicks can get damaged in these fights. There are just a tremendous amount of things that might happen.

    There are several things you can do about the two broodies. One is to keep going as you are. There is a reasonable chance they will work as a team. I won’t criticize you at all if you choose that way forward. It’s a reasonable action.

    You can try to separate the two broodies. Build a separate place where you can lock one of the broodies with a nest, room for food and drink, and room to go poop. But lock her in there where she cannot go back to the old nest. The risk here is that she breaks form being broody. If you move her at night with little light and commotion and have the new nest in a fairly dark area (or at least fairly dark in the nest) there is a reasonable chance she will accept the move.

    If you do this, I suggest you try candling the eggs and split them based on development you see. Try to get the ones with the same development together. That’s probably not going to be real easy for you but just do the best you can. With the due date spread out like that you are never going to get it right anyway. There is a section up in the learning center at the top of this page that talks about candling and has photos.

    When they hatch you can try letting them roam together after they bond with their chicks. They may fight for control of the chicks, may work together to raise them, or may just ignore the others. Or you can raise them separately and integrate them later after the broodies have weaned their chicks. There are a lot of possibilities and unknowns with two broodies together.

    Eggs take about 21 days to hatch after incubation starts. If eggs are added after the start, the late eggs probably won’t hatch. There is a day or so of possible overlap but anything over two days really doesn’t have a real chance. When the chicks hatch the hen has to decide when to take the chicks off the nest to find food and water. A newly hatched chick has absorbed the yolk so they can wait two or three days before they have to leave the nest, but the hen will practically always choose the living hatched chicks over the ones still in the eggs. What you have is called a staggered hatch. They can be pretty rough.

    One thing you can do is take the chicks as they hatch and dry off and put them in a brooder. You can even take one of the broodies with them so she can raise them. If you take the broody hen, you do not need to add any heat. Perhaps the other broody will stay on the nest and hatch some later eggs. There are different ways to work this to try to get more to hatch.

    You have another problem and the real reason this often doesn’t work well. When you get so many eggs the hen (or in your case the hens) can’t cover them all, some get pushed out, get cold, and die. Then they get moved back under the hen and others are pushed out to die. Other hens seem to love laying with a broody. They will just keep adding eggs unless you lock the broody where they can’t get to her nest. What you should do next time you have a broody is to collect all the eggs you want her to hatch and start them all at the same time. Mark them so you know which belong under her. Then check under the broody every day after the others have laid and remove any fresh eggs. They are still good to eat as long as you remove them daily.

    Broody hens have been raising chicks with the flock for thousands of years. You are dealing with living animals so yes bad things might sometimes happen, but usually they don’t. The broody hen is so protective and has such a bad attitude the others get tired of having their butt whipped if they threaten her chicks and learn to leave her babies alone. Some hens are more aggressive than others but many won’t go out of their way to bother the chicks anyway. The big risk comes in when the chick gets separated from Mama where Mama cannot get to the chick to protect it. A dominant rooster is much more likely to help Mama with the chicks than harm them. Again, you are dealing with living animals so anything can happen, but I really don’t worry about a dominant rooster around young chicks.

    It’s likely your first experience with broodies won’t turn out so great. But once you learn what to do, it can be a great experience. Try to look at this as a learning experience and try to salvage what you can. Your next try will go much smoother.
  4. Chickaroos

    Chickaroos Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 6, 2012
    THANK you so much! Everything you said has crossed my mind. Since this is the first time with a roo and broody hens, we might just let things go the way they are, simply because we are already so far in (the eggs are on day 13 with their broody mommies! ) If by chance we do get a chick or a few out of this, I know the steps and things i will plan on for next time!
    Again THANK YOU for taking the time out to share your info with my family and I !!!!!!!!

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