some eggs didn't hatch - apparent dead bodies in eggs - why?


11 Years
Apr 2, 2008
my broody hen has been sitting on nine eggs. I think I totally screwed up. she was in the main henhouse and one chick hatched on sunday night and another on monday. so yesterday, we started to worry that the chicks would be at risk around the other hens in the main henhouse.

that's how we got the apparently very bad idea to move her into our brooder. We had had another broody hen and her babies in there, so that's why we couldn't relocate broody #2 until after her hatch began. we were sad because a third baby was dead in the nest, only partially hatched with the shell still attached a little bit.

anyway, we moved the hen and her two live babies and the remaining six eggs into the brooder. I felt two of the eggs moving in my hand as we moved them. there were no pips.

well, the momma hen sat on her nest at first but then, last night, she was off of it and the remaining eggs were cold. then she sat back on it. then this morning she was off again. of course, none of the remaining eggs are moving. I can shake them gently and feel what is apparently heavy little bodies thudding against the walls of the egg. it's very sad. I won't open one to look inside. that would freak me out.

anyway...first, why didn't all of the eggs hatch at the same time and, why didn't the two moving eggs at least pip?

I think we totally screwed up this hatch. I feel so guilty. But that said, our other broody didn't get as many hatching (9/14) as we'd hoped. The remaining five were, again, that heavy body feeling thudding against the walls of the shell. Not sure why that is happening so much with our eggs.

Do you think it's possible that shells can be too thick and cause a problem? Not sure...

rancher hicks

Free Ranging
14 Years
Feb 28, 2009
Syracuse, NY
Based upon what I've read broody hens must circulate her eggs from the outside to the inside so each egg develops at the same pace.

Unlike the incubator that keeps all the eggs at the same temp, moisture etc. etc. still it seems those eggs can hatch within a period of days give or take. 21days is not an exact time, it would seem.

Now with a broody hen it may be that she doesn't circulate each egg regularly and just like with all other traits brooding may not be exact with each hen. This is of course my opinion.

Now with your case, the last few days would be a crucial time of yolk absorbtion. Which is probably why some are writing "the yolk is hanging". Chicks it seems can take hours to hatch, I think even 24, and who knows what's going on in those hours. Maybe some final yolk absorbtion. Breaking out is hard work and they need to rest in between pips.
Unfortunately you moved your hen before all was done. Chicks are really vulnerable to chills and cold so they most likely got cold and died. Also unfortunately you believed the "other hens will kill the chicks" is a hard and fast rule. I don't believe it is.

So what to do? Next time have a broody pen and if your going to move her do it in the beginning. Some hens are better mothers, so don't take it to hard. One thing I'm learning is that it's best to stay out of it and have faith all will work out.

Try not to feel too bad, I just lost 4 birds due to my own naivete', ignorance. Trust me it will get better. Peace and God Bless

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