Noob, no clue what to do?

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by SophiaChick, Jan 22, 2016.

  1. SophiaChick

    SophiaChick Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 22, 2016
    We adopted 2 hens and 1 rooster last spring (chicks when we got them). I didn't think they would start laying eggs until this spring. To our surprise one of our hens went broody 2 days ago. She is sitting on 16 eggs! We are in Georgia January winter weather and she is outside in her coop. I put a heat lamp in there today thinking that will help.

    I have so many questions:
    What do we do. Just let her do her thing? Are they all hers or can some of them be from the other hen? Do I need to check the eggs to make sure they are ok? If any do hatch do I leave them in there with her? Do I take them out? What if they are all roosters can they live with my other rooster? Can Cochin and Sex link breed together? It goes on and on.

    I tried searching up broody chickens in winter but with all the information out there I am so confused.

    Any advice would be great!
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Oh, so many questions. But first, relax. You’ll be OK.

    You might want to read this. She was in Michigan and you are in Georgia. The weather is different, but you can see how she managed in her weather.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/947046/broody-in-michigan-winter

    You do not need a heat lamp, the hen will keep them warm. One question though, how well is she covering them? If she is not covering them all, the ones that are exposed can cool off and die, then be brought back under her while another one cools off and dies. You usually don’t get good hatches if she cannot cover them all. Also the chicks grow pretty fast. If she has a bunch she may not be able to keep all of them warm. If it were me I’d remove half the eggs and just leave her 8 to work with. That’s enough in winter.

    Those eggs can be from either or both hens. A broody hen will try to hatch her own eggs, any other chicken’s eggs, turkey, duck, or goose eggs, door knobs, ceramic eggs, and if she doesn’t have any of those she imagines she does. A lot of times other hens will continue to lay with the broody and the broody lets them. These late additions can’t hatch because she will abandon the nest when the first chicks hatch. What I suggest is to mark the eggs you leave with her, I use a black Sharpie. Then, once a day fairly late, check under her and remove any eggs that don’t belong. As long as you remove them every day they are still good to eat. Just don’t leave them overnight.

    If you read through this forum you will find we do these things all kinds of different ways. Instead of letting the hen hatch with the flock like I do, some people build some sort of cage and isolate the broody so no other flock member can get to her nest. After they hatch I leave the hen and chicks alone, hens have been raising chicks with the flock for thousands of years. Others may isolate the broody and chicks from the flock for various lengths of time. Some people tale the chicks away from the hen and raise them themselves. There is no right way or really wrong way, just the way you choose to do it.

    If you read that thread above you can see that the hen can keep them warm in a Michigan winter, let alone yours. You do not need that heat lamp.

    The multiple rooster question. You are dealing with living animals, there is no clear cut answer. Some people do keep multiple roosters with very little drama. For others it can be a disaster. I think a lot of that has to do with how much space you have but luck is also involved. My general suggestion is to keep as few roosters as you can and still meet your goals. That’s not because you are guaranteed problems with more roosters, just that problems are more likely.

    There is another part to that. There are no magic ratios for hen to rooster ratios that guarantee success or guarantee failure. But it is better to have more females than males. You will often see the ratio of 10 hens to one rooster. That ratio does nothing for roosters fighting, over-mated hens, barebacked hens, anything like that. You have one rooster and two hens. Are you looking at a disaster the way they interact? I don’t think so. But I’ll say it again, I recommend you keep as few males as you can. Your odds of having problems drop dramatically when you have fewer roosters. With you one may be the perfect number, especially with just a few hens.

    You are exactly right. You have no idea what sex the chicks will be. I hardly ever have a hatch where it splits 50-50 male to female. 2/3 or even ¾ of one or the other sex is more normal and it can be either sex that outnumbers the other. Many people fail to think ahead to what they are going to do with cockerels when they hatch. You can try to let them run with the flock, it’s possible it could work out, but you need to have a plan B ready because you may need it quickly. So what are your options? You could butcher them and eat them yourself, try to sell them but more likely give them away on Craigslist, or put them in a bachelor pad. If you house them in their own coop and run with no females to fight over they normally get along fine.

    Breed is a manmade thing. Chickens do not recognize breed, they just recognize me Tarzan, you Jane. Any rooster will mate with any hen.

    Hopefully this is enough to get you started. Good luck!
     
  3. SophiaChick

    SophiaChick Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 22, 2016
    Wow Thanks! That helps a lot! I still feel like a heat lamp will ease my mind. I woke up last night from a dead sleep with a nightmare over the baby chicks. I really didn't think that having chickens would give me this anxiety![​IMG] These are my daughters chickens (9yrs old) she gets really attached. I tried to explain to her that we will be lucky if one hatches. I guess I will just keep an eye on her and her eggs and if we have a baby I will bring it inside.

    One more question?

    Do you think I should try to candle them to see which ones are good and take out the bad ones tonight? I haven't even tried messing with her eggs. I'm honestly scared of her, she is a very protective mama.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    How long has she been sitting on them? How dark are the shells. Some people can see development as early as three days in a white or real light shelled egg. It takes a strong light too. It’s a good idea as long as they are far enough along and you can actually see something.

    When I was a kid one of my chores was the gather the eggs every day, including checking under broody hens. Most broodies were not that bad but some were really vicious. But I still checked. No way was I going to tell my father I was afraid of a chicken!

    Try wearing gloves and long sleeves. That can help.
     
  5. SophiaChick

    SophiaChick Out Of The Brooder

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    They are light brown in color. I'm not sure when they were laid. I noticed her missing 3 days ago. My husband went to check on her then to make sure she was still alive 2 days ago and I checked when I saw her out and about yesterday morning. Thats when I found out what she has been up to. So I'd say its been anywhere between a week to 3 days?

    Is it possible she lay 16 eggs in 3 days? Heck! I don't even know how many eggs to expect from her in a day. I read in the winter they don't normally lay eggs. Again this was totally unexpected. Yet we are totally elated to see this happen no matter what season it is! Its our first possible hatch!

    .
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    No, a hen will normally only lay one egg a day for a week or so, skip a day then do it again. They are either all hers or both hens have been contributing.

    Rarely you will have a hen lay more than one a day, but the second egg is usually not quite normal. A hen only makes so much egg material a day, say shell material for example, so if her internal egg making factory messes up and forms a second egg it’s normally thin shelled. She has been stashing eggs for a while.

    You can try candling but you may not see much.
     
  7. SophiaChick

    SophiaChick Out Of The Brooder

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    We candled 4 just now. She wasn't as vicious as I thought she would be. She was growling at me. As far as I can tell 3 out of 4 look very dark inside and were very warm to the touch.

    Guessing by the egg a day then she has been brooding for over 16 days-ish? So maybe the first hatch will be in a week?

    I am assuming they are all hers. I looked up the different egg colors of breeds. Internet says sex link lay brown eggs and cochin lay whitish eggs. They are all brown.

    Her nest is about a foot off the ground. Should I be worried about a babies falling? And if I decide to bring the baby in how many days should I wait? Do it immediately or wait ?

    Again Thank you for all your input! You have been helpful!
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Incubation does not start when the egg is laid, that’s a fairly common misconception on here. Incubation starts when the hen goes broody and stays on the eggs. That way they all should hatch about the same time.

    How big is her nest, or more importantly, is she sitting right up to the edge. A baby chick will crawl up on its Mama’s back while she is hatching the later eggs. If she is sitting so close to the edge that the chick misses the nest when it falls off you can have problems. But if the chick would hit the nest, no problems. I’ve seen a broody hen get chicks out of a ten feet high hay loft. One foot up is nothing. You just don’t want the chick falling out until mama tells it to jump.

    As usual there are different ways to take the chicks. You can take them as they dry off or wait until the hen abandons the nest and brings them off. There is no right way or wrong way, just the way you choose to do it. One word of warning though. The chicks sometimes crawl up under Mama’s wings. Be careful how you handle the broody. You can crush a chick by picking her up of you are not careful. I’ve done that.
     
  9. rebrascora

    rebrascora Overrun With Chickens

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    Hi

    Ridgerunner has given you excellent advice. The only thing I will add is that the eggs don't start to incubate until the hen starts to sit on them full time. Basically they are dormant until they get 24hrs of constant heat and that triggers them to start developing. When a hen starts to go broody, she lays an egg a day (give or take) until she has a nest full, then she stops laying eggs and starts the incubation period. That way however many eggs there are, all start developing at the same time and the chicks will hatch approx. 21 days later. So if she has been coming in to roost up until 3 days ago, your eggs are only on day 3.

    I would reiterate that 16 eggs is far too many for a first time broody and even more so in winter. By removing half of them you will greatly increase the chances of the others hatching and the sooner you do that the better. I would advise you to do that straight away, taking all the ones from around the outside of the nest. If you take them in the house and crack them into a bowl, you should see if they are fertile as there will be very slight signs of development. At this stage, you are not going to find anything resembling a chick, just the start of a network of veins. Treat it as an educational process with your daughter and compare with a regular egg so that you can both learn together..

    Where is her nest? If it is not in the hen house, is she safe from predators? I'm not sure what you have in your area but even rats can pose a threat and take chicks. Is there any way you can make her nest more predator proof. The next being a foot off the ground is not a problem in itself. The only concern is that when the chicks hatch out, one or two may fall out of the nest before the others are finished hatching and not be able to get back. Again this is more likely if there are too many eggs/chicks in the nest. I like to shore up the sides of the nest to ensure this can't happen, as it's horrible to find one cold and dead the next morning. I would advise against bringing the chicks into the house after they are hatched as you then create a problem reintegrating them back into the flock and make them soft. Leave them with their broody hen and enjoy watching the fun and games of broody rearing. Of course it may be that your broody hen freaks out when the chicks start hatching, so have a back up plan in case she doesn't have a mothering instinct.

    I think that's all I can think of at the moment. The important thing is to reduce the size of the clutch, mark the eggs that are left and make sure the nest is secure from predators at this stage.

    Best wishes

    Barbara
     
  10. SophiaChick

    SophiaChick Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 22, 2016
    Thanks Barbra,

    I however was way off on the date she went broody. The first baby hatched about a day after I made this post so I had no time to remove any eggs. I am a bit confused again tho.... as to the time line of hatching. I understand it should all be around the same time but the first one hatched 6 days ago and the most recent hatch was 2 days ago. She is still sitting on the remaining 7 eggs. Do I need to leave them be? How long should I wait before I know for sure that they are not going to hatch? I don't want to mess with them and end up killing them but I also dont want her to be sitting on rotten eggs and have the burst on the babies.

    Also, I decided to let the babies stay with their mom. She is doing a great job at it! They are in a coop inside the bigger coop. I have it blocked off from the other chickens but I let them in to visit every once in a while. I also put up a 2x4 to keep the chicks from falling but still allowing mommy to get up and stretch her legs.
     

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