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Broody chicken, probably fertilised eggs - HELP! What next?
29

handlemecarefully · 30/04/2008 11:03

Have had chickens for about 3 years. They are stunningly healthy given that I know sweet FA about chicken keeping .

Acquired a cockerel about 8 - 10 weeks ago.

Now one chicken is broody. Could she be 'with child'? I guess there is no guaranteed that the cockerel has done his business with her, but it is a possibility isn't it? I think I should proceed on the basis that the eggs are probably fertilised.

WHAT DO I DO NEXT? I've never been a midwife before... I could google it but why bother when you are going to give me a checklist

Presumably I have to give the chuck her own accommodation now (so she is not blocking the nesting box for the others, and so that if chicks do hatch they will be protected in their own house and run)?

How long does she sit on the eggs before some hopefully hatch?

What do I do once chicks arrive?

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handlemecarefully · 30/04/2008 11:06

This won't stay in Active Convo's for long without a 'bump', so excuse me bumping

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handlemecarefully · 30/04/2008 11:13

Where are the chicken keepers when you need them? I am both excited and apprehensive!

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TheDuchessOfNorksBride · 30/04/2008 11:47

Collect as many other possibly fertile eggs as you can get, store them tip down in an egg box, turn them 180 once a day and keep the box somewhere cool and away from sunshine (cellar, under the sink etc).

Leave broody where she is for the time being. If she's still broody tonight then she'll probably last the full 3 weeks. Usually best to move her at dusk but if she's determined she won't care if it's midday as long as she gets to sit back on her eggs.

Make her another nest elsewhere - cardboard box in a corner of the henhouse or in a vermin-proof outhouse will do, or a rabbit hutch perhaps. Nice straw nest, put some eggs in it. Put broody on. Some people put their broodys away from the other hens, others leave them where they are or you can give them their own house within the shared run.

She'll need to come off the eggs once a day, anything up to 30 minutes is fine, to poo, eat & drink. Keep the water & food far enough away from the nest so she has to get up, otherwise she'll start pooing on the eggs which might ruin the hatch.

Er, and hope for the best. She may continue to lay whilst sitting. Just keep an eye on how many eggs she's on - as it's her first time I'd only let her sit on 9 at the most (odd numbers of eggs make better 'oval' shapes for her to sit on). If one egg gets pushed out then she knows it's duff so take it away. If it's gotten cold it will spoil anyway.

Do you have a candler? (Brinsea do a good one for about £20 from Scats but I expect they're are much cheaper ones online). If broody lets you, you can look at the eggs at 7 & 14 days to see if they're fertile. I'll do a link later to a great set of pictures that shows you what's a good egg and a bad egg!

More later - off on pre-school pick-up!

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TheDuchessOfNorksBride · 30/04/2008 11:48

And I'm very - I've had to buy an incubator to get chicks because all the new hens I bought last year are rubbish!!!

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MehgaLegs · 30/04/2008 11:51

Everything DoN said.

You can collect any eggs from your three hens they don't all need to be hers so the chances are some may be fertile, especillay if the rooster has a favourite.

It takes 21 days officially to hatch but it can go either way.

If she sits count the day after she sits as day 1 as the eggs will all be up to temp.

Good luck.

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handlemecarefully · 30/04/2008 12:28

Wow - that's fabulous Norky, thank you so very much

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handlemecarefully · 30/04/2008 13:15

Ok perhaps I spoke too prematurely

Have just been down the chicken house to encourage the broody to leave her post for half an hour to get some food and drink and found that no encouragement was required. All 3 chickens (and cockerel) were scratching around the pen. Checked nesting box and 1 of the 4 eggs was broken (what does this mean????), I removed it and put some fresh straw in there.

So the broody who has been sitting faithfully in the nesting box for some 36 hours or so seems to have upped and got off. It may be she has taken it upon herself to have a half hour breather and will resume her position in a little while - but the omens don't seem good, especially with a broken egg.

I will check later to see if she has gone back up there. In the mean time my friend's husband has arranged to drop off another small hen house and run to me this evening (they no longer need it since they don't have chickens any longer)- so the broody can have it (if she still is broody). If she has given up on the project, at least I'll be all systems go should one of her sisters go broody I suppose!

Daft question - do some hens appear to go broody for a couple of days and then abandon the whole thing?

Another daft question - I can't tell my 3 hens apart so looking at them now I am not sure which one of them it was exhibiting the broody behaviour. How do you tell yours apart - can you get rings or something to put around their legs?

Sorry for the essay!

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handlemecarefully · 30/04/2008 13:17

Norky, I might go the incubator route if she doesn't sit back on the eggs (as I will be bitterly disappointed). Which one did you get and how did you go about the process (how does it differ from a chicken incubating eggs)?

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handlemecarefully · 30/04/2008 13:37

Meghalegs - you've gone the incubator route before haven't you?

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MehgaLegs · 30/04/2008 13:39

Wet weather always starts my broody off. It may have been the wet weather kept your in the nest box and set her off.

If she is broody her comb will be deep red - can you compare combs on the three?

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MehgaLegs · 30/04/2008 13:41

Yes, last week my first hatch. 16 babies, three of whom I gave to my broody as her eggs didn't hatch (although the chicks were fully formed in the shells )

It is great fun but I did get a bit flappy on hatching day.

I bought a cheaper incy - a hovabator, big polystyrene thing. Had to turn eggs manually and top up water twice a week but I quite enjoyed the hands on approach and was very proud of my babies.

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MehgaLegs · 30/04/2008 13:42

Chick pics still on my profile. Can't believe how much they have grown in just a week.

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handlemecarefully · 30/04/2008 13:55

Wow - have looked at your profile. The chicks are luvverly - well done you (and Lulu!). I shall go and brave the inclement weather to check their combs.

Incidentally have been googling incubators - according to Practical Poultry forum users the Brinsea Octagon 20 is very good, but it's about £250!

There is something in the air because I am feeling broody too -for babies that is!

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MehgaLegs · 30/04/2008 14:00

I know. They are £££££. We went for the cheap one (ours was about £55) as we couldn't afford more at the moment but I was pleased at how successful it was.

The more expensive models are probably easier to use, digital temp control etc. I found it really hard to get the temp right at first, and as the chicks grow they produce heat so the heat has to be turned down a little. I enjoyed it though but it all depends on how much time you have too I guess.

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TheDuchessOfNorksBride · 30/04/2008 16:53

HMC - sorry she's got up. One of my hens did this a couple of times, sat for a day and then wandered off. Grrr!

So incubators! I've just bought the R-Com 20 Pro from P&T Poultry (very good online site and they're very good at answering questions).

It only arrived yesterday so I've set it running in a spare room to check that the temperature and humidity levels are OK and will stay the same. It's all digital buttons and LED screens, very high tech! I will put the eggs in tomorrow lunchtime and then bite my nails for 3 weeks. DC4 is due in 4 weeks so it's a bit of a race...!

I can't tell some of my hens apart, where possible we can say 'the biggest white one' or 'the one with the bald head'! Coloured foot rings are probably more reliable but I've no idea how easy they are to put on or buy etc.

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MehgaLegs · 30/04/2008 19:31

hmc if you want some coloured leg rings we have a fantastic smallholders supply shop here and I can get you three and post.

CAT me if you'd like me to get you some.

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handlemecarefully · 30/04/2008 21:28

Good heavens Norky - I admire your stamina for new projects when so heavily pregnant. Good luck with the forthcoming happy events!

Meghalegs - that would be terrific - have sent you a CAT

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MehgaLegs · 01/05/2008 09:29

Have replied hmc.

DoN I think you are nesting in a very literal way . Good luck with the incy.

I have a shed full of very lively, all consuming chicks. Their wing feathers are getting quite long now. I thought they were going to look like RIR but at the moment they are rather pretty beige and black speckles.

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oiFoiF · 01/05/2008 09:34

aww meghalegs your chicks are soo cute

hmc sorry fro gate crashing as I know fig all about chickens

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handlemecarefully · 01/05/2008 12:16

Broody is very firmly back in the nesting box on top of her eggs. Perhaps she didn't get off them for very long yesterday pm and resumed her post quite quickly....? Must admit I wasn't closely monitoring!

Anyway - only 3 measly eggs under her. I've put a local appeal out in the neighbourhood (amongst school and pre-school parents - some of whom have chickens and cockerels) for fertilised eggs. If I acquire some fertilised eggs through this route in the next two days, will it not be a problem shoving them under her? What about differential hatching times - supposing the first 3 hatch and any subsequent ones just aren't ready and are 1 / 2 days 'behind'...will she abandon subsequent ones after first 3 (god willing) hatch?'

Sorry for all the questions. Learning a lot from you Megha and Norky - (you are definitely A listers in the chicken topic)

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MehgaLegs · 01/05/2008 13:58

How long has she been sitting on the three? It really is best to start them all off together.

When I put the three live chicks under Lulu she sat on them for nearly two days and I realised she needed to get them out and fed and watered but she was staying put as there were still eggs under her too. (Which we knew were infertile but we wanted to keep her sitting a few days longer for the chicks)

As soon as I took th e eggs away she was up and out.

If you can get some more eggs under her today you might be alright.

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handlemecarefully · 01/05/2008 21:43

Hi Meghalegs; 2-3 days. One of the other chickens laid an egg today and I popped that under her. I won't be tempted to add to the stock now, it does sound like it could get complicated / messy.

She is now installed in her own hen house (donated to me by a friend), separate to the others so not blocking their nesting box or getting jostled by them.

Now it's a waiting game I guess. I don't think I have the nerve to candle the eggs in a few days time (in case I cause some damage) so I'll just have to wait another 17/18 days or so.

Have been lifting her out of her nesting box and off her eggs at 7.30 and then again at 19.00 to feed and poo. Hope that is a sensible thing to do.

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mixformax · 01/05/2008 23:16

I've added extra eggs to a broody before now (on day 2 I think) but you are supposed to do it at night so she can't see you as she is supposed to be able to tell! Easier said than done - you try crawling into a dark henhouse and encountering the business end of a broody! Tip - gardening gauntlets come in handy...

On the subject of incubators - I have used a Brinsea Octagon 20 successfully with hens, ducks and geese. Can only fit around 4 goose eggs in at once though :0

They are good cos you don't need to lift the top at all - you turn the eggs by rotating the Octagon - left side, bottom, right side, bottom etc... So the humidity and temperature doesn't fluctuate at all. Good visibility though the clear top too for when it all starts happening.

Meghalegs - you did really well to get so many chicks out of a poly incubator!

A candler is a good investment too - I got one off Ebay

All this has got me broody too now. Had to give up my birds to friends last year when I sold my farm post divorce. Maybe I should find a small corner of this garden?!

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MehgaLegs · 02/05/2008 20:20

hmc - that sounds sensible. I reckon just leave her to it now and carry on with getting her to poo and feed twice a day. It's funny Lulu did it automatically but in the past I have had broodies who have refused to budge.

I got you some leg rings today by the way, will post in morning.

mfm - am preening about the hatching from a poly incy comment - thanks . I was a woman obsessed though, I turned the eggs 3 times a day and really kept an eye on the water level. I think tey were very good eggs too, from Smart chicks, would recommend if anyone is thinking of raising some table birds.

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TheDuchessOfNorksBride · 03/05/2008 14:25

mehga - I've seen the adverts for Smart Chicks' Sasso's, nice to have a recommendation. I may well use them in future but I'll see how my mongrels get on first. Only 18 days to go...

hmc - it all seems to be going well.

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