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Moving Broodies

 
Alison Thomas
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Location: France
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I have 3 hens all sitting on eggs that were put under them 19 days ago. Currently they are in separate nest boxes in the main hen house but we've no way to provide secure cover for the chicks if they stay there. Our hens come out of the hen house and free range over a couple of acres for the day. So I decided that we needed a seperate secure area for the broodies and their chicks but hubby has only just finished it (day 19 - grrrr). Will it still be OK to move the broodies today ON their current nest boxes to the new quarters?
 
tel jetson
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Location: woodland, washington
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if they've been there that long, I would wait to move them until the eggs hatch, but moving them now would probably be fine, too.

moving broodies at night is generally considered more likely to be successful than daytime moves, and my experience aligns with that.
 
Alison Thomas
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Right, next stage. We had a couple of hatchees the day before yesterday and yesterday one of the hens hatched both of her two eggs with no more to come. I'm guessing that she could now move to her new quarters with her chicks? The other two hens each had 3 eggs. One of them has a chick and still two eggs, the other still has 3 eggs. I only lifted the hens very quickly so I have no idea if the eggs have pipped. How long should I wait before deciding that the eggs were not viable? Or will the hens decide that? If not, how do I deal with the poor broody that has no chick?
 
Tyler Ludens
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The hens will decide when they no longer want to try to hatch the eggs. It may be a few days. They will eventually lead the chicks away from the old nest. It can be risky to move chicks between hens because sometimes the new hen will see the chick as "wrong" and attack it.
 
Alison Thomas
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Thanks Tyler - I'll trust good 'ol Mother Nature then.

An 'interesting' situation has occured however. The hen with the 2 chicks is now mothering 3! And the hen that had the one chick got off her own nest to 'help' hatch the eggs of the 3rd broody (they have shared the sitting on each other's eggs all the way through). I put her back on her own two remaining eggs and she seems happy enough to stay there. Is it normal for them all to 'share the care' ?
 
Jay Green
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Yep! And you may find that one hen gets left with the whole brood when you integrate into the flock. I had two hens parenting some chicks together but one finally just joined the flock and the other took over full time parenting. Seems like there are dead-beat parents even in same sex couples, huh?
 
Alison Thomas
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Just thought I'd update...

All 3 hens are mothering the 3 chicks and woe betide anyone that tries to come near! I'm amazed at how ferocious they are when protecting those little ones. They all took it in turns to try to hatch out some more but it wasn't to be so they scattered the eggs about and I took them off for composting. Initially mothers and babies were all in the hen coop, protected from predators but the chicks kept squeezing out and the mothers couldn't get them so we took a deep breath and let them all out. They are all quite happily free-ranging now and it's lovely to watch the mothers teaching them about foodstuffs, and scratching and dust baths - a constant chattering from them all So for all my fretting it's all worked out very well following Nature's way. Thanks for everyone's help and hand-holding.
 
d.a. vatalaro
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Location: Zone 8b, semi-arid
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Congrats on the hatching out and free ranging! Like yourself, I've found that the momma hens do an excellent job of protecting the chicks, and no need for a separate brooder pen.
 
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