1. If this is your first time on BYC, we suggest you start with one of these three options:
    Raising Chickens Chicken Coops Join BYC
    If you're already a member of our community, click here to login & click here to learn what's new!

Questions on my Broody Hen, Edna, and her Nest

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by Flutterbee, Aug 11, 2014.

  1. Flutterbee

    Flutterbee Chillin' With My Peeps

    140
    13
    78
    Aug 11, 2014
    Virginia
    Is there anyway to tell how long until the eggs are ready to hatch? I'm not too sure when Edna started sitting, I know it's been at least eleven days (August 1st is when I really noticed it). Last night, I candled a few of the eggs and saw some dancing babies inside, (they looked to be the size of marbles) so I'm not sure if I'm looking at chicks due August 20th or 21st? Does anyone have any advice? It's been a few years since I've had a hen hatch some chicks.
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

    4,905
    586
    286
    Apr 8, 2013
    Australia
    Haha, the dancing babies... Yeah, I candled someone's eggs for them recently and the chicks were headbanging and somersaulting. The range of movement they had within the egg I am not entirely sure is healthy... One was literally banging its head against the shell nonstop.

    Sounds to me like your date guesstimates is about right, maybe a bit early, I think if you candle them every three days or so you'll quickly know how close to hatch they are.

    Best wishes.
     
  3. Flutterbee

    Flutterbee Chillin' With My Peeps

    140
    13
    78
    Aug 11, 2014
    Virginia
    Thank you so much! So you think it's okay to candle the eggs? Edna doesn't seem too bothered with me going under her. She puffs up and croaks a little, but that's about it. I don't want her to stop sitting or anything. That's my biggest fear.
     
  4. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

    4,905
    586
    286
    Apr 8, 2013
    Australia
    If she's not showing signs she's just short of fleeing the nest in hysterical panic, then chances are she'll be fine. If she raises herself in preparation to run, she should probably be reconsidered as a mother since that willingness to abandon the clutch is not a sign of a devoted mother. If she reacts that way to you she'll react that way to other things too.

    Sounds to me like she's stable and well balanced though, not crazy or enraged or terrified.

    I've always candled my eggs at will and the out of hundreds of hens only two or three have reacted badly and that flightiness or aggression also tainted their mothering capacity, until I did not allow them to mother any longer for the sake of the chicks. To be fair I make sure they all trust me and are handled regularly, it's not like I'm walking into a coop of never-handled hens and expecting tameness from them.

    I don't give hens second chances if they fail to mother properly, it's not worth the loss of chicks it takes to let a hen 'practice' at the expense of their lives. Some hens who fail to mother the first time will learn it gradually over successive clutches, but generally relearning lost instincts involves harmed or killed chicks.

    Candling at night time is generally best for visibility, and reduces the chances of her fleeing the nest if she's so inclined. I always talk to my animals, makes things more peaceful than just doing things to them without a word spoken. They won't understand the words of course, but our harmless intention is conveyed by tone just fine, going by my experiences with both domestic and wild animals.

    Best wishes with your chooks.
     
  5. Flutterbee

    Flutterbee Chillin' With My Peeps

    140
    13
    78
    Aug 11, 2014
    Virginia
    Thank you so much! I really appreciate your words of wisdom. I'm really anxious with this batch of chicks because my mother says it's the last time I can do this (while living with my parents, I'm in college) so I really want everyone to make it. It's okay for the hen to get up and eat? Edna stays in but if I go to the coop and throw bread to the rooster and other hen, she hurries off of her eggs to snag a few pieces.
     
  6. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

    4,905
    586
    286
    Apr 8, 2013
    Australia
    Ah, well, hope all turns out well for you and your chooks... Yes, it's perfectly fine and normal (and desirable) that the hen will leave the nest long enough to drink, eat, and possibly dustbathe often enough. If she only sits 24/7 during brooding, she loses condition and I've found it's an indicator that she will not mother well or for long, as it's a symptom of incomplete instincts; probably the fact that she runs herself down too much also provokes her to leave the chicks abnormally early in order to regain condition.

    As long as she can get back to the nest in a timely manner it'll be alright. The real risk there is not that the eggs go cold, since all they do then is go into a metabolically dormant state awaiting temperature rising again before they resume developing. Provided they don't get frozen, they can go stone cold overnight though winter for the entire incubation period and still live to hatch; I found that one out by accident via a few sneaky hens with illicit nests and incomplete maternal instincts --- they'd return to the coop to perch every night, after freeranging during the day (or so I thought) so until the chicks were actually hatching and I found the nests, I didn't realize that they'd been incubating by day only. The nests were out in the forest, lol...

    Incubation can actually take up to a month to complete when the eggs are only given staggered periods of warmth and left cold inbetween. Cold is nothing to freak out about, but most of us were initially taught that a cold egg is a dead egg, so many people end up throwing live eggs thinking they're dead. They're not, they're totally able to cope with going completely cold.

    The real risk with a hen leaving the nest is that some are low in maternal capacity and this can break them off the brood --- not that there's much you can do about it if that's the sort of hen she is; there is a physiological feedback loop involving the brooding hormones (and the unique physical/metabolic and mental state they induce) and a nerve in the hens' breast area. Contact with nest, eggs etc stimulates that nerve, which stimulates brooding hormone in turn.

    Hens in normal physical/mental states (this depends almost entirely on breed and family line, not other factors) will be fine to go do the necessary things to survive daily and will reliably return to the nests, but for a small percentage, leaving the nest is the end of the brood as their feedback loop is abnormally fast and that brief time off the nest cuts it short.

    In some hens it appears absent entirely, possibly being how we managed to breed broodiness out of some breeds. Some hens will simply appear to stop producing the brooding hormones after an abnormally short period even if they never left the nest at all, suddenly stopping brooding and getting back to life as normal.

    Some hens won't ever emerge from the broody state, conversely, and will literally move off a hatched clutch to go find more eggs to sit on. Sometimes culling is the only thing you can do to stop them because if they remain in that brooding state indefinitely they run down physically to the point where they lose their minds and starve to death. I had one hen unable to break out of brooding for over 6 months, tried everything but eventually had to cull her, she was a physical and mental wreck and nothing was helping her or stopping her.

    Now that I know more than I did back then, I know that a vet could have cut that nerve in her breast to save her; that practice has been used in the turkey industry to stop meat females from brooding.

    There is always a risk in using an unproven mother; it's impossible to guarantee what elements and degrees of maternal instinct she possesses. It's like a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle and there's no telling which pieces any hen holds until she has shown you. Hopefully your hen turns out well. It's a good sign if she leaves the nest to eat, drink, take care of her health, but sits tight at other times.

    Best wishes.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by