When to "pull the plug" on a confused broody

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by Hummingbird Hollow, Jun 26, 2018.

  1. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Songster

    1,499
    144
    211
    Jul 1, 2011
    Colorado mountains
    Last year when one of my hens went broody, I set her up in a separate enclosure with a quiet nesting box where she successfully hatched one of 6 eggs (it was a young rooster and I blamed his age for the low fertility rate). When the hen decided she was done being a mom and it was time to integrate the baby in with the flock I was told by folks here that it would have been better if I had allowed the hen to hatch her eggs in with the rest of the flock, because she would have guarded the chick and the integration would have happened more naturally.

    So this year when she went broody, I tucked 6 freshly laid eggs under her and left her in with her flock. We've had all sorts of drama including other hens laying in her nest and sometimes me checking and finding her happily sitting in the wrong nest box. I marked all 6 eggs with a sharpie and in the morning when she gets off the nest to feed I've pulled any new eggs out of her nest and when I find her on the wrong nest, I've prodded her over to the correct nest.

    Two weeks ago one of her eggs broke, probably stepped on during the time other hens were shoving themselves in there and I was saddened to find a fairly formed chick in the broken egg. I've lost track of how long she's been sitting, several of the marked eggs have gone missing and the sharpie has warn off the rest, so I'm not sure how many of the remaining 4 that are under her are from the original 6 and how many were added later.

    She is still determined to hatch those eggs, but I'm wondering at what point I just take whatever is left in the nest and throw it away.

    Can I check the eggs she has under her for viability somehow? Daddy is a Blue Ameracauna and the eggs she has under her are all Wellsummer's. I think they'd make nice babies if any were to hatch.

    Other advice?
     
    Cyprus likes this.
  2. Cyprus

    Cyprus Master of the 'never give up' attitude

    13,326
    52,641
    1,207
    Jan 19, 2018
    My Coop
    Candle them.
    Really, you should box off her nesting box so she is still in the coop, but other hens can't use it.
     
    song of joy likes this.
  3. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Songster

    1,499
    144
    211
    Jul 1, 2011
    Colorado mountains
    I've just watched a few videos on candling. It seems a good way to tell if the egg has a chick inside, but how do I tell if it is a viable chick or whether perhaps it has died?
     
    Cyprus likes this.
  4. Cyprus

    Cyprus Master of the 'never give up' attitude

    13,326
    52,641
    1,207
    Jan 19, 2018
    My Coop
    If it is viable it will be moving and you will see veins.
    If it is dead there will be BOTH no veins and no movement. Just a dark blob or a ring of red known as a blood ring.
     
    C3 mommy likes this.
  5. song of joy

    song of joy Crowing

    1,191
    649
    251
    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    For the next hatching attempt, I'd highly recommend isolating the hen from the rest of the flock during incubation, hatching, and for the first week after hatching. This is the approach I've used for several years, and it completely eliminates the problems you mentioned (broody hen switching nests, other hens adding new eggs to the nest, having to pull additional eggs, hens breaking the eggs while climbing into the broody's nest box, etc.). It also gives the hen peace during the hatching process, and ensures that early-hatched chicks do not fall prey to or get injured by curious or aggressive flock members while the mamma hen is still trying to hatch out the rest of the eggs. It also gives the chicks several days to learn about eating, drinking, listening to mom, and following mom - without interference from other flock members. When the chicks are around a week old, I remove barriers and let the hen integrate the chicks with the flock. She is very protective at that stage, and other flock members will typically give her plenty of space to avoid her wrath.
     
    chickengeorgeto likes this.
  6. The best way to handle integrating a new chick is to allow the hen to incubate in a quite pen inside of the larger coop. That way there are no hens gifting your sitting hen with more eggs. Then once hatched let the hen & chicks live with and run with the rest of the flock. Mama hens do all their children's heavy fighting for them. This results in well behaved chicks who are well accepted into your flock.
     
  7. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Songster

    1,499
    144
    211
    Jul 1, 2011
    Colorado mountains
    Thanks for the advice. While I've been raising chickens for over 7 years now, and have had several hens who go broody, it's only been two summers with an adult rooster. I'll have a plan ready in advance next year, figuring out how to make a part of the coop protected.

    Do you feed and water your broody hen inside the protected area? This girl seems to like to get off the nest every other morning when I come to open up and feed the flock. She eats, drinks and often takes a dust bath before returning to the nest. Many mornings I don't have time to wait around until she is back on the nest. Would you suggest I just keep her confined the whole time?
     
    Cyprus likes this.
  8. Cyprus

    Cyprus Master of the 'never give up' attitude

    13,326
    52,641
    1,207
    Jan 19, 2018
    My Coop
    Yes and yes.
     
  9. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Songster

    1,499
    144
    211
    Jul 1, 2011
    Colorado mountains
    So I watched some videos and went about candling the 5 eggs that were under the broody hen this afternoon. Unfortunately they are all Wellsummer eggs, so they have a very dark brown shell.

    One seemed completely dark, couldn't see any light through it. Several had dark blobs, around the size of a quarter or a half-dollar. It was hard to tell whether there was movement, maybe with one. I didn't see that air space at the bottom that was shown in one of the candling videos I saw, but don't know if this was due to my lack of experience, the dark color of the egg or something else.

    I'm ready to chuck all the eggs and give up for the season, but would be very sad if I pulled the plug too soon and killed a viable chick in the process.
     
    Cyprus likes this.
  10. Cyprus

    Cyprus Master of the 'never give up' attitude

    13,326
    52,641
    1,207
    Jan 19, 2018
    My Coop
    Would you be able to take pictures of the eggs you are candling?
    My gut is telling me that the completely dark egg is likely not viable. If it moves like a liquid when gently twirled it is rotten. I don't know how I feel about the other eggs. Pictures would be needed.
    The lack of air cell is concerning. You should be able to see one.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: