seeking confirmation on brooder-incubating plan

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by GretchenM, Oct 18, 2011.

  1. GretchenM

    GretchenM Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 7, 2011
    I hope you all will bear with more newbie questions! I did look through the forum and grabbed some pieces of information but wanted to get some confirmation from some of you more experienced folks that you think my plan is a good one!

    We have 29 hens sharing 6 nest boxes. The "boxes" are 5-8 gallon barrels (like from Home Depot) hanging from the roof of the coop, so they're about 5 feet off the ground. One of our Barred Rocks started brooding about 2 weeks ago. Others are still using her box, though, because I'm getting 5-7 eggs a day from that box, clearly from different hens (color, shape, etc.). Yesterday, I marked 6 and left them with her -- we want to see if she will hatch them and raise them.

    So here are my questions:
    1. Does it matter that some won't be her same breed? Should I separate her out before letting her keep eggs so I know they're hers?
    2. Given the location of the boxes so high up, as well as the number of hens in the coop (plus 2 roosters), I'm thinking I'll go ahead and try to separate her out now; I don't see how she could get baby chicks out of that nest way up in the air once they're ready! I think it will be easier to move the entire nest box rather than move just her, but she'd have to be in it. Any thoughts, anticipated problems?
    3. We let our chicks out to range during the day. Clearly, she's on the nest most of the time, but once we separate her out to her own digs, should I open her door to let her out if she wants? I don't guess it would matter if another hen lays in her box since I have her eggs marked.
    4. Once the chicks hatch, do I keep her closed off for a couple of days to keep other hens from attacking the chicks, or do I keep her door open so she can lead her chicks out whenever she's ready?

    Thank you SO MUCH for your thoughts and advice!!! this is an invaluable group!
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    1. Does it matter that some won't be her same breed? Should I separate her out before letting her keep eggs so I know they're hers?

    She will hatch and raise turkeys, ducks, whatever eggs you give her. Do not worry about whet breed the chicks will be.

    2. Given the location of the boxes so high up, as well as the number of hens in the coop (plus 2 roosters), I'm thinking I'll go ahead and try to separate her out now; I don't see how she could get baby chicks out of that nest way up in the air once they're ready! I think it will be easier to move the entire nest box rather than move just her, but she'd have to be in it. Any thoughts, anticipated problems?

    I've seen a hen get chicks down from a 10 feet high hay loft. Mama says jump and they do. Accidents can and do happen, but I would not be overly concerned abut her ability to get them down. If you want, you can put soft bedding under them when they start to hatch. That probably won't make it any easier on the chicks, but it will make you feel better knowing you tried to help.

    Still, moving her is not a real bad idea. There is always the chance you will break her from being broody if you do that, but there are risks in anything you do. Moving the whole nest is a decent idea. What I would suggest is to prepare a pen where you can put the nest and have enough room for a feeder, waterer, and room for her to go poop. You'll probably need to occasionally clean that poop out, so you'll need some access. But lock her in there. Don't give her the option of trying to go back to her old nest location, even if the nest is gone. It will also keep the other hens from laying in her nest. Move her at night, with as little light and commotion as you can manage. Try to have the area she is going to as dark as possible, especially her nest. That seems to help her accept the new location. It is not a bad idea to keep her nest pitch black for the first day if you can. Broodies go all day never leaving the nest except once to eat, drink, and go poop, so isolating her in the nest in the pitch black for most of the first day is not really being cruel. To her, it is probably calming.

    3. We let our chicks out to range during the day. Clearly, she's on the nest most of the time, but once we separate her out to her own digs, should I open her door to let her out if she wants? I don't guess it would matter if another hen lays in her box since I have her eggs marked.

    You can try letting her out after a few days. Many people do. She may stay on the new nest or she may try going back to the old one. If you try this, I suggest doing it when you can be around for the first couple of days and make sure she goes back to the right nest. What will sometimes happen, whether you move her or not, is that another hen will move in to lay in the nest while the broody is taking her daily constitutional. When the broody is ready to return to the nest, it is occupied so she finds some different eggs to set on.

    You are right. If you do let other hens have access to her nest, you need to check daily and remove any strange ones. If you collect them daily, they are still good to eat.

    A thought on this. I'm not sure how you selected which eggs to mark and give her. They really need to have been under her the same length of time. Otherwise you can get a staggered hatch. What this means is that some eggs hatch earlier than others. The chicks can stay on the nest for two or three days living off of the nutrients and moisture in the egg yolk they absorbed, but Mama will eventually abandon any eggs not hatched to find her babies food and water.

    4. Once the chicks hatch, do I keep her closed off for a couple of days to keep other hens from attacking the chicks, or do I keep her door open so she can lead her chicks out whenever she's ready?

    Different ones of us do this differently. Hens have been successfully raising chicks with the flock for thousands of years. You are dealing with living animals so anything can happen. Sometimes there are tragedies. Usually a broody will protect her chicks. Often a rooster will help take care of the chicks and protect them. Occasionally another hen that is not broody will even help out. But sometimes you get a broody that is not good at protecting her chicks and sometimes you get another hen that will go out of her way to attack the chicks. Usually it is not a problem, especially if Mama has enough room to work with, but occasionally it is bad. I cannot tell you exactly what will happen in your circumstances. No one can.

    I don't isolate my broodies, but let them hatch with the flock. I wait until the hen brings her chicks off the nest, then I lock her and the chicks in an enclosure for a couple of days, just long enough for the chicks to learn to eat and drink without interference from the older hens. The chicks also get a little quicker in those couple of days. Some people on this forum are probably horrified that I let them out to mix with the flock after just a couple of days, and some people are probably amused that I coddle them that much.

    One word of warning if you do isolate the hen and chicks. Make very sure that the chicks cannot get out of the enclosure where Mama cannot protect them. The chicks are in danger if Mama cannot protect them.

    A quick story. I had one broody that was really bad about going out of a gate and turning back along the fence Some of her chicks would follow her out, but some would not make it out the gate before she turned, so they would try to follow her along the fence. They could not get through, the broody did not understand the concept of gate, so she was desperately calling to her chicks to join her and they were stuck on the wrong side of the fence. That is a potentially dangerous situation. But I did not have any other adult hens that would go out of their way to attack the chicks. The rooster would see what was going on and go with the chicks to help protect and take care of them until Mama figured things out. The third time I saw that, as he was settling down to watch the chicks, he sighed looked hard at the Mama as if to tell her to get with the program. This broody only had 4 chicks. Another one had 15 chicks and never seemed to have this problem. Different broodies have different abilities.
     
  3. GretchenM

    GretchenM Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 7, 2011
    Thank you SO MUCH for the very detailed response! I feel much much better about the whole situation now! ;-) I like the idea of isolating the chicks with mama for a couple of days, just to be sure they don't get in trouble if nothing else, e.g., drown themselves in the grown-up waterer. We'll figure out what to do and let you know. It won't be till next week, as we're out of town this weekend and I certainly don't want to move her before we leave for two days, if we decide to move her.

    I am learning SO MUCH with these chickens! (We've had them only 9 1/2 months.) And enjoying almost every moment of it!

    Take care,
    Gretchen
     

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