Should I Let Her Hatch Eggs?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by danielkbrantley, Apr 30, 2016.

  1. danielkbrantley

    danielkbrantley Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've got a few chickens and one of them has gone broody. I thought it was just an occasional thing, but she just stayed on the nest all night. When I opened the coop, she was still sitting there, hissing at me, ready to peck me if I came for her. If this info helps, she lays green eggs - kind of smallish. At least smaller than the brown and pinkish eggs I get from my other chickens (buff Orpingtons and black Australorps).

    The question is: Should I let her hatch a few eggs out? Making this more complicated is the fact that I don't have a rooster. A neighbor does, however, and is willing to give me a few eggs to let this chicken lay on. That's assuming this process could actually work.

    I don't want the whole flock going broody, but I wouldn't mind a couple more chickens in the flock - especially if one of the hens is going to raise them.

    So...if I get a few eggs from my neighbor, what are the chances that a) the egg will be fertilized, b) I will get it under my hen quickly enough for the egg to have a chance to turn into a chicken, and c) the rest of my flock won't go broody.

    Any help is appreciated.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I have never seen where one hen going broody causes any other hen to go broody. Them going broody is a hormone thing, largely affected by their genetics. Some hens go broody a lot, some only occasionally, and many not at all. There is a lot of discussion on what might cause a hen to go broody but it’s just not consistent. If some of your other hens go broody it will not be because this one did. It will just be coincidence.

    Buff Orps and Black Australorps are known to go broody. You might want to build a broody buster to be ready. That’s a raised cage with a wire floor where you lock the broody hen with food and water but no nest of any kind. With the cooler air hitting their undersides they usually break from being broody in three or four days. That cage just might come in handy if you need to isolate a chicken for some other reason. When that happens you often need something like that quickly. It’s good to be prepared.

    Letting a broody hen hatch chicks for you and raise them can be a lot of fun. Hens have been doing that for thousands of years, ever since there have been chickens, so it can work. There are lots of different ways you can go about it, leaving them totally with the flock or isolating them for portions of the process. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of them. In my opinion, no one way is right where the others are wrong, it’s just which way you choose.

    If you decide to let her hatch with the flock, get all the eggs you want her to hatch, mark them (I use a black Sharpie), and start them all at the same time. Then check under her after the others have laid each day and remove any eggs that don’t belong. There are different reasons to remove extra eggs but if you remove them daily you can still use them without finding any surprises inside.

    It sounds like you might be afraid of her. Some can be pretty vicious while protecting their nest, but a lot aren’t. Wearing long sleeves and gloves might make you feel better. When I was a kid my job was to collect the eggs, including any under a broody hen. Most were not bad but a few would really peck hard. But no way was I going to tell my father I was afraid of a chicken. You do what you have to do. I did not have long sleeves or gloves either.

    Since I don’t isolate my broody hens I’ll let others talk about that if they wish.

    Should you let her hatch some chicks for you? First, my test to see if a hen is truly broody is that she has to spend two consecutive nights on the nest. There have been plenty of times that a hen displayed a lot of signs of being broody but didn’t really fully commit. They quit. But the two consecutive nights test works really well for me.

    You never know what you will hatch. I regularly get 2/3 or so of one sex and it can be of either sex. It’s pretty rare that I get a 50-50 split. But the odds are extremely high that you will get some cockerels. What do you plan to do with cockerels? My last broody hatch last year had seven cockerels and two pullets. Sometimes it is the other way around. You don’t know how many eggs will actually hatch either.

    What are the chances your friends eggs are fertile? Probably pretty high. A rooster only has to mate with a hen once every two weeks or so to keep her laying fertile eggs. Some roosters may have trouble keeping 3 or 4 hens fertile but many can easily keep over 20 hens fertile. You can always crack a few eggs and look for the bull’s eye. If the ones you crack are fertile, the ones you don’t crack should also be. This link has photos of what to look for.

    Fertile Egg Photos
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/16008/how-to-tell-a-fertile-vs-infertile-egg-pictures

    Eggs can easily be stored for over a week and still be hatchable. In good conditions they can be stored over two weeks. Just don’t keep them in high temperatures like over 80 degrees of cool temperatures like in the refrigerator. People do hatch plenty of eggs kept in these higher or lower temperatures but your odds are better if you can keep them somewhere in the middle. The “ideal” temperature to store them is around 55 degrees but I keep mine at room temperature, usually in the 70’s, and they do fine. You don’t have to be in a rush to get them under the broody, but sooner is usually better than later.

    I know it can be stressful, especially the first time when you don’t know what is going on. But try to relax and let the hen do her job. A broody knows what to do a lot better than we do.

    Good luck!
     
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  3. danielkbrantley

    danielkbrantley Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you so much! She's been staying on the nest every night for the last week or so, so methinks it's time to slip some eggs under her! And I have decided to isolate her. All my hens (there are just eight) lay in the same box. Because she was taking over this box, egg production has dropped dramatically. She'll let a few in beside her every day, but because she's such a jerk right now, most won't risk snuggling down beside her. Here's hoping they get back to laying like normal and I can get some new little chicks out of this!

    All the best and thanks again.
     
  4. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    The flock will still be laying. The eggs are likely under the broody. They will lay an egg right on top of her and let it roll to side then she moves it under her. She will also pick up eggs between head and neck to move to her nest. Staying on nest at night doesn't say much to being broody but all day does. She will only get off the nest once or twice a day to feed and poop if brooding.

    Almost forgot. Brood poop is unmistakable. Almost the size of a baseball. If your seeing that in your run then there is no question you've got a brooding bird. They only poop once a day so it adds up and it stinks.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2016
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I’ve had hens stay acting broody and stay in the nest all day except for their daily constitutionals but not stay on the nests at night. I’ve had hens stay on the nest for one night and not go back the next. I know we are dealing with living animals so anything can happen and we all have different experiences but so far I have not had a hen spend two consecutive nights on the nest and not stick it out to hatch eggs. So two consecutive nights is the test I’ll continue to use and recommend. Of course this assumes the hens do not normally sleep in the nests. There are always qualifications to anything.

    It sounds like you are still getting some eggs, so you may be checking under her. In that case I’d look for a hidden nest. Under stress they will cut back laying, you may be experiencing that, but they may have found another place to lay. With chicken behaviors it’s hard to be definite.
     
  6. Puddin Fluff

    Puddin Fluff Overrun With Chickens

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    Great advice from Ridgerunner and Egghead_Jr.

    I currently have a broody girl sitting in with the flock. I leave her there, mark the eggs with a sharpie (I put a circle all the way around so it is easily visible at a glance) and remove new eggs each evening. I find that if I put my hand under her breast and lift her up a bit, I get a good view of the eggs and can easily pull any unmarked ones.

    My girl often tends to do her broody run when another hen gets in the nest to lay. The laying hen provides a temporary cover for the broody eggs. It seems to work for her.

    I have found that I need to block the other hens out around day 18 so that as the eggs begin to pip and hatch, there are no squabbles in the nest. I had an unfortunate incident where I blocked the others out too late and the hatchlings were trampled by the visiting hen.

    That being said, I candle tomorrow night to pull any quitters and then the cage goes up on Wednesday to keep out the visitors. Day 21 is Saturday so hopefully I will have some fluffy butts running around soon. :)

    Good luck!
     
  7. danielkbrantley

    danielkbrantley Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Very cool!

    Well, mine has been sitting on the nest nonstop and has taken to the egg I put under her. Wish I put more than one, but one it is.

    That said...do I need to do anything else? She has access to food and water (which she almost doesn't touch at all) and hasn't pooped much - though when she does, it's impressive. Do I need to candle or should I only do that if it doesn't hatch within 21 days? If I do need to candle, what day should I do it?

    Thanks again!
     
  8. Choco Maran

    Choco Maran Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would do nothing let the hen do all the work.
     
  9. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I'm in this camp as well. Some folks are more hand's on, and like to candle, etc. I just let nature do it's thing, mark the calendar and hope for the best.
     
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    You could do some things like candle but you don’t have to do anything as long as you isolated her like you said you would. I’m also in the camp of the less I interfere the less harm I do.
     

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