Broody hen ????greenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
I've got a hen that's broody. She's setting on about 18 eggs right now and I think they're all hers. She's been this way for about a month. Now to the questions.
How long do the eggs take to hatch?
Since she lays them one at a time, will the chicks hatch over a period of as many days as it took to lay the eggs?
I've been to farms where the hens just did their thing and reared the chicks themselves. Are there any good reasons why I shouldn't do the same?
-- john (email@example.com), July 19, 2001
Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch, give or take a day or two. Yes, if all the eggs are hers, they will hatch one or two a day. After two or three days she will give up and get off the nest so the chicks that have hatched can get food and water. We have used an incubator and hens to hatch eggs, and find the natural method MUCH more preferable. No worries. The next time you notice a broody hen and want her to hatch some eggs, you might want to save up the eggs and put them under her at one time. Leave a couple of sacrifice eggs or some golf balls under her till you get your hatching eggs together. We have found the most reliable hens to hatch and raise chicks to be Silkies. You can count on them to set several times a year.
-- Paula (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 19, 2001.
One thing to add to what Paula said....I have always put my broody & her nest in a rabbit breeder cage inside the coop amongst the flock.
I find that until the chicks are approx 2 wks of age, the momma hen has a difficult time defending all of them and the chicks are too young to escape from an ill-meaning chicken. When the chicks turn 2 wks, i let everyone out to mingle with my flock under my careful supervision for the 1st 30 min. or so to make sure momma does a good job protecting and there are no chickens that are looking at the babies with a vicious eye.
When the chicks hatch, be sure to provide some chick starter and shallow water for the new family.
Hope all 18 eggs are fertile and hatch without problems! 18 chicks and a momma hen will turn out precious pictures!
-- Buk Buk (email@example.com), July 19, 2001.
If she truly has been on the eggs for a month, you are not likely to get a hatch. Sometimes if the weather is extremely hot, or extremely damp, they just spoil. Did you mark down the date? If you don't get a hatch (these are chicken eggs, right?) in four weeks, you usually want to remove those eggs before they start exploding. (Been there, and it's not pretty to clean up.)...Usually all of the eggs(or most of them) will hatch about the same time, even though she has laid them over a longer period. The incubation period simply won't start until she decides she is ready and begins to sit on them. Once she starts sitting, she stops laying...If you have mistimed, and you do get a hatch, just be sure they can reach food and water, and momma will take care of the rest. Broody hens with chicks are lots of fun to watch.
-- mary (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 19, 2001.
IF she's fertile (been mated), then she probably didn't really start setting a month ago - just building up a clutch. As noted above, when she had what she thought was enough eggs then she stopped laying and started setting. Hatching time would be about 21 days from then, with some variability.
Also as noted above, putting her with her clutch in a small coop is a VERY good idea. If you don't have something suitable, you can easily knock together something with a triangular cross-section - triangles for the ends, joined by two bottom rails and one top rail, covered with wire netting or whatever. If there isn't some form of shelter within the coop put in a wooden or hard plastic box on its side (so she has a roof, and three walls - floor optional) for her and her eggs. Make sure that by the time the chicks hatch the bottom of the walls of that coop are covered with something chickens can't get through. This is not only to protect everyone, but if she's used to eating and drinking there (shallow dishes chickens can use as well) then she won't abandon the eggs after just a few have hatched. She doesn't have anywhere else to go, so she'll mostly stay on the eggs for a few days after the first have hatched, and most of the ones which could hatch will do so. If you leave things long enough, she'll scratch the rest of the eggs out of her nest anyway.
-- Don Armstrong (email@example.com), July 19, 2001.
If the hen has truly sat for a month, toss the eggs. The eggs should hatch 21 days after the hen starts setting. I've had hens set on a clutch of 20 eggs and hatch them all. I don't have and don't want an incubator. Mama nature does a great job; much better hatching rates than a 'bator!
-- ~Rogo (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 20, 2001.
Sorry, guess I wasn't thinking. They do stop laying when they start setting. We have had a couple of clutches hatch gradually with the rest of the eggs finally abandoned, but I think there was another hen laying eggs in the nest after the hen started setting.
-- Paula (email@example.com), July 20, 2001.