Not sure what to do with broody hens?

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by KrystalRose, Feb 5, 2015.

  1. KrystalRose

    KrystalRose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have 3 hens that are wanting to be broody, a buff orp and 2 easter eggers, and I do want to let them hatch some eggs. This is my first time doing this so I am not sure what to do. They have been sitting steady for several days now so I know they are dedicated. One of my girls moved boxes today after sitting for the past 5 days or so on the same eggs, her previous eggs were cold when I discovered this as it is 40-50 degrees outside right now so I am assuming they are no longer viable right?.

    I think I have a plan but I want to know what you more experienced chicken owners think, I want the eggs to all hatch on the same day or so, so I am thinking of taking away all their eggs, waiting a couple days so maybe they will start laying again? and then setting them in an isolated broody area so they cannot accidently move to a different nest again. Then collecting eggs and putting them all under them at once so they are all on the same hatching timeline.

    I have read that you are supposed to make sure they are dedicated, I have had them be wishy-washy before this time. Then I have read that you are supposed to put a handful of eggs under them all at once so they will hatch at the same time so the mom doesn't abandon the un-hatched eggs.

    Any comments, tips, previous experience will be appreciated. I hate taking away the eggs they have been sitting on, and I would love to get chicks from these 3 hens so I hope they will start laying again.

    Just an FYI, I have 15 hens total with 1 rooster, so I know some of the eggs wont be fertile. I have 6 normal nesting boxes that they use. I also have a separate small area I use for chick raising that I am planning to use as their brooding area, that is about 2.5x5 feet.
     
  2. TOOCLOSE

    TOOCLOSE Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You can keep the eggs under the hens that they are already sitting on! Get your pencil and mark the date on them as well as put a circle all the way around the egg. This way you don't have to turn it over to look for the date! :) You can check each day to see if there's any new ones. I learned early on to separate all my setters from my layers though. The layers would stand in waiting for the setter to get up off her eggs. They'd jump in, lay their egg and then take off! LOL Chickens are some true clowns at times.

    TC
     
  3. KrystalRose

    KrystalRose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the response! Am I right assuming that the eggs that got cold after being sat on for 5 days or so are now no longer viable? I threw them under her just in case they were still good.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I’ve had a broody hen go back to the wrong nest. When I found the eggs, they were very cold to the touch. I put the hen back on her eggs and she hatched 11 out of 11. I don’t know how long your hen was off her eggs or how cold they actually got. They may or may not still be viable. You might try candling them in a few days to see if you can see anything. No one can tell you for sure how viable those eggs are. I wish I could.

    I don’t know enough about how those eggs got under the broody hens to start with. It sounds like you maybe did not collect the eggs for several days? I don’t know when the hens went broody and what eggs they have been sitting on for how long. So again, not knowing what happened and the history of those specific eggs, I can’t tell you anything for sure about whether you should remove them and start over or not.

    Personally I would not allow those hens to all set eggs and hatch together. Many people have multiple broodies without a problem but occasionally the hens may fight over the eggs or chicks. The eggs or chicks can be damaged or killed in these fights. What I suggest is you either break all but one from being broody or isolate them from each other.

    When a hen goes broody she stops laying. She is not eating or drinking a lot so she needs to use her energy reserves to stay alive when she is spending all that time on a nest. Before a hen even starts laying she stores up extra fat in case she goes broody so she does not have to spend a lot of time off the nest looking for food. If she were also laying eggs when broody she would not make it through an incubation. She just doesn’t have that kind of reserves.

    Broodies have been hatching chicks with the flock for thousands of years. People have been incubating eggs since the ancient Egyptians. I’m sure people have been isolating a broody for thousands of years. There is nothing wrong with any of these methods, but people’s history or conditions may point them a certain way. There are risks and benefits with each method.

    If you let a hen hatch with the flock mark each egg you want her to hatch so you can tell which ones belong. I normally use a black Sharpie but have used a pencil. If you use a pencil get one with soft lead so it leaves a dark mark. A broody hen will stop laying but other hens might lay in her nest. You need to check every day after they have finished laying and remove any eggs that don’t belong. You can still eat them as long as you check every day.

    If you isolate a hen, you need a space big enough for a nest, food, water, and some room for her to go poop. It does not have to be real big. Your space sounds great. A broody hen should not poop in the nest but no chicken understands to not poop in water or feed, so you may be doing some cleaning. One of the big risks in moving a broody is that she might break from being broody. Your best chances of keeping her broody and getting her to accept the new nest is to move her at night.

    Good luck! You are in for an exciting time.
     
  5. KrystalRose

    KrystalRose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hmm, so maybe I should take all the eggs that have been under the broody hens, candle them, select all the ones that look the most viable and stick them under just the broodiest hen in my separate brooder box.

    Now to pick the mama, my choices are between 2 easter eggers and a buff Orpington, I have heard that the Orps are good mothers but since the easter eggers aren't supposed to be broody even, I wonder how good a mothers they will be? Although, worst case scenario I have a heat lamp already set up in the brooder box and I would just kick out mom.

    Well nothing ventured nothing gained, if this doesn't work out, I can always try again.
     
  6. KrystalRose

    KrystalRose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    How many eggs do I dare put under 1 hen?
     
  7. AmericanMom

    AmericanMom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The Orp is a larger breed bird. I have a Molted Java, about the same size as a Buff and I always giver her 10-12 eggs.. She has always hatched out 10 or 11 just fine... Some people put more, some less.
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Eggs and hens come in different sizes. A small bantam may have trouble covering four regular sized eggs. A larger hen can do a lot better. There is no hard and fast answer. I’ve seen a full-sized hen hatch out 18 chicks from a hidden nest so she probably laid all of them. I never found her nest so I don’t know how many eggs she started with. I’ve had a full sized hen have trouble covering more than 12 of her own eggs.

    I normally give a broody hen 12 eggs, but adjust that to the hen and conditions. The hen needs to be able to cover them all with just a bit of extra space for safety. If an egg gets pushed out from under the hen, it can cool off and die. Then that egg gets pushed back under her and another egg gets pushed out. It’s not a good cycle. If you hatch with the flock, that’s another reason to check under her each day to remove any new eggs the other hens may have laid.

    Another issue is that the chicks grow pretty fast. If the hen can cover all the eggs she can cover all the chicks when they hatch. If you are up at the limit, in a week or two she will not be able to cover all of them. In summer this is not much of a problem, they manage that quite well. If one on the outside gets cold it pushes its way under her and a warm chick gets pushed out. But in winter with colder nights it can be a problem since the chicks get cold a lot faster. So in winter I’d reduce the number of eggs some.
     
  9. KrystalRose

    KrystalRose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well here goes nothing! I got my brooder pen all set up with fresh straw and a little box for her. I am going to attempt to go out tonight and candle the eggs that are under the hens and pick the 12 or so most hopeful and transfer her to the brooder area with those eggs. I have decided to let my EE be the mama, she has a large body for an EE and can cover more eggs than the broody Buff Orp I have believe it or not! Plus she doesn't seem to mind when I mess with her while she is sitting or me checking on the eggs, which is nice. This way I have all day tomorrow to see how she is adjusting to the brooder before I go back to work.

    I know all these eggs weren't laid at the same time, I am going to try to candle them to get the closest together hatch wise. Will she abandon the eggs that haven't hatched after the first day or so?
     
  10. Kev

    Kev Overrun With Chickens

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    If you are not sure all of the eggs were 'started' on the same day I would recommend collecting a fresh batch and put all of them at once under an isolated broody hen that has been sitting tight at least a couple days if it's in a new location.

    A hen normally leaves the nest within a day or two after the FIRST chick hatches. They will not wait for the late eggs to hatch, even if some are pipped or in process of hatching. This is the primary reason for suggesting a totally fresh batch under a broody hen in this situation- this is the way to go for maximum number of chicks.

    Not all hens accept a move. You have three broodies.. I would have moved one, leaving two on the original nest, to the isolation pen with a batch of 10 eggs and see if she sticks to the new nest.... If she does, I give her a fresh batch of eggs for her to hatch out.

    If she refuses the new nest, you can leave her in for a day or two to make really sure and/or to break her broodiness before trying to move a second hen and see if that one accepts the move.... (this is why I don't really recommend putting a batch of eggs you want to hatch in the new nest right off.. in case the hen sits then quits or tramples in a fit)

    Another thing you may consider- if there is an simple and easy way, pick one hen to stay broody and block off the nest from all other hens. It can be something simple like a wire frame over the nest front. You do have to remove the hen for her daily toilet break.. this is best with hens that are not "nest warriors"- turning into Tasmanian devils when you try to handle them because they are likely to break the eggs in the process. Do not leave food and water in the nest and never take them out.. they NEED to get out to stretch, exercise and poop..... I prefer not to have food in the nest for the simple reason it could attract pests that could bother or harm her. Also in this situation, the hen usually stays on the nest so you can give her a fresh batch of eggs to hatch right off..

    Personally I have found single hens per nest to have a much better hatch rate compared to nests with more than one broody. Especially if the hens are not able to make separate nest bowls where the eggs stay in for the duration(which happens if they have rough material like twigs or weeds).. if the nest is basically 'flat'(as in nest box with shavings or old/thin layer of straw) and rolls between the hens too easily, very often some eggs get chilled or become exposed to suboptimal temperatures, resulting in some eggs getting outright killed or staggering in development rates. Occasionally you do hear of two hens bringing off astonishing number of chicks but those are exception not the norm and goes back to whether the hens were able to make basically separate nests in the same location.
     
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