What went wrong with my hatch? And would a broody eat dead chicks?

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by Morrigan, Jul 31, 2014.

  1. Morrigan

    Morrigan Crowing

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    I've had a really disheartening hatch and would love some advice and insight as to what went wrong. I have two main questions, really.

    First, did I have a "bad" broody or was it just too darn hot and dry to hatch properly. She had 10 eggs and only 2 hatched into healthy chicks. 1 hatched but was deformed (I had to put her down). And, that's it. 3 eggs I know for sure were rotten, although all were fertile and had developed to some degree. The other 4 I think started to hatch, but the chicks didn't make it (more on that later). It has been between 90 and 100+ degrees throughout the entire brood, with temps spiking over 100 on day 21. Very dry (humidity 8 to 15%). Was she a bad broody and didn't turn the eggs right, etc., or would even a great mother have struggled with these temperatures? She seems perfectly fine with the 2 live chicks, and was gentle with and tried to care to the deformed one as well.

    Second, would a broody eat a chick and shell if it died during the hatch? Today (end of day 22), I cleaned out her nest to remove what I could smell were rotten eggs. Earlier in the day, I had also noticed a partially hatched egg in the nest that obviously had a dead chick sticking out of it. I expected to find that egg or maybe a dead chick under her. But no; it had vanished into thin air. I only found 3 eggs. 4 eggs were simply gone -- no shells, no dead chicks, no feathers, no blood. Nothing. I know for certain she went into day 20 with 10 eggs under her. I've spent a fair amount of the time in the coop lately -- setting out ice, refreshing water, looking for heat-stroke, watching mom to make sure she was ok with her chicks and I never anything amiss. Although she is in the main coop, no other chickens have gone anywhere near her nest; in fact they even stopped using the nesting boxes next to her. I really don't think another chicken snuck into her nest and ate eggs from out under her. I think she must have ate them herself. Is this normal? I could see her not wanting rotting, dead chicks in her nest.

    I'm baffled and wondering if this broody is off. She hasn't tried to harm the 2 chicks that I can see.
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Crowing

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    She sounds fine to me, the excessive heat and low humidity are likely culprits, but so is whatever caused such obvious deformity. For every deformed chick you see you can probably assume some were too deformed to continue to develop (dead in shell chicks) or to hatch. Externally non-visible deformities or abnormalities can stop successful hatches, never mind ones you can't see.

    It's normal for both broody and newly hatched chicks to consume eggshells, it's where chicks get their very first grits from, and it's how the hens recycle calcium and clean the nest and make it safer for soft, new chicks.... But eating the corpses, not normal. I would bet that she picked them up and took them off the nest, I've had a few hens with enough instinct to remove rotten eggs or dead chicks far from their surviving clutch, none of them ate them. They appeared distressed by them, not inclined to eat them. At any rate the other hens in your coop are the likeliest culprits for consuming the rotten eggs and dead chick/s. That's kind of normal I guess, though mine never wanted anything to do with dead chicks even though they'd eat dead rats, snakes, smaller birds, etc.

    I would check the breeders of that clutch and possibly not breed them again unless you know it was a chemical usage/exposure within a few months of breeding that caused the deformities.

    Best wishes.
     
  3. Morrigan

    Morrigan Crowing

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    Thank you so much Chooks. It certainly is possible she removed the dead chicks from the nest and another chicken carried it off to eat. I know my chickens will tear into any dead lizard I drop in the coop.

    The deformity is troubling. I'm not sure deformity is the right word. The chick had all the right number of limbs, but could not stand at all, and would fall over with a really arched back. I tried to stand him up, but there was no way it could even sit normally, much less walk. After 2 days when it had rolled from the nest and could get back, I decided to put it out of its misery.

    I'm the "breeder" of the clutch. I've got 7 BO and 3 Sussex hens, all from a hatchery. Our rooster is simply an extra roo that a neighbor had. I was told he was an Ameraucana. I wanted an BO rooster, but "Duke" fell into our laps and has been a very gentle rooster, both with us and the hens/chicks, so I've been reluctant to replace him. The primary purpose of chicks was to be meat chickens anyway. This is my third hatch. The first was in the spring and my broody sat on 4 eggs -- 2 proved infertile (Duke was still working up the pecking order then) and 2 hatched into healthy chicks, that have grown into healthy chickens. That same hen went broody in June and again sat on 4 eggs, but her last week of the brood was characterized by 100 + temps as well. 2 of those eggs were infertile or never developed. 1 hatched dead, the other died in egg at what looks to be at around day 17.

    All of my chickens are healthy and in a coop and large fenced run so I'm not sure what they could have been exposed to. One thing I thought about after seeing your post, is that I did use a sharpie to mark the eggs on the last 2 clutches. That could have been a bad idea and I'm kicking myself for doing that right now.
     
  4. chooks4life

    chooks4life Crowing

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  5. Morrigan

    Morrigan Crowing

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    Very helpful Chooks. I will definitely try graphite pencil the next time. Hopefully our hens are done being broody until things cool off. I'd like to go through a large clutch in normal temps to see if some of these same issues persist.
     
  6. Morrigan

    Morrigan Crowing

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    Oh, and I meant to add. This morning our hen had led the two little chicks off the nest and was showing them around the coop. It's super hot today so that's worrisome, but other than ice and fans, not a whole lot I can do.
     
  7. [​IMG]
    This 23 week old pullet hatched out her chicks and the temp's were 115 F in the day and down to 105 F at night hatched 1st week of July 2014 .....





    [​IMG]
    She had a few ...........
     
  8. chooks4life

    chooks4life Crowing

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    They're probably better off strolling about than nesting. Chicks lose temperature pretty rapidly, if out and about they're far less likely to overheat, same for her.

    Best wishes with them.
    lol, that is a lot of chicks!

    Wonder if she'll 'abandon' sooner due to the numbers? Whenever I had a hen with too many chicks they got abandoned smaller due to the numbers.

    Best wishes.
     
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  10. chooks4life

    chooks4life Crowing

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    Ah well, such large clutches generally do fairly well without a mother at a younger age than smaller ones do, at least in my experience, there's more eyes to be vigilant and more bodies to snuggle at night.
     

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