• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Hatching abandoned eggs without an incubator  RSS feed

 
Bethany Dutch
Posts: 210
Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
21
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So I had gotten a barred rock hen this February who went broody last month at 5 months old. I was really surprised but I thought I'd watch her and see how she did. She was off in the bushes but we found her spot and were kind of monitoring her.

She laid eighteen eggs of her own (had two guinea eggs also). That girl was patient!

The other day I was driving home and saw her with a couple black balls of fluff out on the road. I counted four babies. Four babies out of twenty eggs is a horrible hatch rate so I went to check her nest.

There was a dead baby with dried membrane all over it at the edge of the nest. It had ants and flies on it so from what I could guess, she had hatched it out a few days prior and today was the day she decided she was done sitting next to the dead body and took her other 4 out.

And then I saw there was an egg that had been pipped so I picked it up. It was totally cold (or, as cold as it could be in 90ish weather, but definitely too cold). And then it peeped at me!

I took it into the house and set it in a small bin with some sawdust on the "warm spot" on my range. I have a propane range and there are two pilot lights between the burners underneath the metal top. They create hot spots that help me keep baby chicks warm (without electricity). In a pinch I can remove the grates that I set pots onto and put a bin or pan there on the hot spot and it warms it up nicely as long as I have a buffer of sawdust or something. I brooded 6 orphans earlier this spring that way.

Anyway so I set the egg onto the sawdust. And then I realized... she had twenty eggs. Five babies (one dead) and I had just grabbed that one egg.

So I ran back out to the nest and grabbed all the eggs. Candled them and found that some were infertile and showed no development, two others were pipped, and the rest showed fully developed babies. But all the eggs were cold. She had left them probably that morning, so at least 10 hours.

So of course I grabbed all the eggs that had development, and put them in the bin.

That first baby zipped out of it's shell almost as soon as it got warmed back up. Three days later, I ended up with a total of five live babies. I had two eggs that never did anything, and one that died in the shell after pipping. I think it ended up TOO close to the hot spot and got overhot

Anyway I have to say I was really surprised. I mean I kinda expected to be able to hatch the ones that had already pipped but several days later I had more. And I've had enough chickens to know that usually they only hatch over maybe 3 days or so and I'm positive that she hadn't left the nest too early (the babies with her looked fluffy and alert, like 2-days old at the very LEAST).

So not sure why she had such a weird hatch. Maybe because her eggs were smallish still, or maybe just inexperience and maybe she left the nest too often. By my estimate, her first baby probably hatched about 6 days before the last one did. The babies had two possible fathers, although I don't think that's the issue since I can tell by the looks of the baby who it's father is and all of her babies have the same father as the very last egg that hatched.

Anyway - just thought I'd share. The moral of this story being, of course, that this "temp & humidity" requirements really should be more like guidelines. I mean - I always knew that they were, because it isn't like hens are 100% correct about humidity and temperatures, but never would I have thought I could finish the last three days of incubation on a warm spot of unknown temperature, just kinda going by feel. And now you know! Just in case anyone comes up against this situation. If you're also off grid, a rechargeable hand warmer works great as a warm spot for brooding just a few chicks and I bet it would work great for helping them hatch too.

Since I had a few eggs that didn't hatch and I'm pretty sure it was due to the warm spot being TOO warm sometimes I probably wouldn't do this unless I absolutely HAD to. But it's still good info to have.
 
Marcus Billings
Posts: 68
Location: South Central Indiana
13
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Bethany,

Many times young and old hens will leave the nest too early, or even not early enough.  By this I mean that if they have unhatched eggs that will not hatch for whatever reason, they will stay on the next and the chicks will hop out after a couple of days feeling the instinct to feed and drink.  This is a problem if she does not go with them and start taking them in.

Other times one hen will push another hen out and try to finish the hatching, but not having started the set herself, her timing is off and she might leave before all the eggs have hatched.    I had an olive egger  that started this after she was older.  She was very dominant and pushy and would push a broody hen off her set and then as soon as one or two chicks hatched, she would take them out too early and leave the other eggs.  She was also terrible at showing her chicks how to use the ramp into the coop and would lose some night if I wasn't there to put them in. 

A good mother hen is a wonderful thing.  My mixed breed hens are the best mothers.  I've had problems with pure bred broody hens not really knowing what to do.

Congrats on saving those five.  I like to check eggs that a broody hen has left also, just in case. 
 
Olga Booker
Posts: 87
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Great post Bethany!  I too, have been in a similar situation when one of the mama hens decided to kill her new born chicks as and when they were hatching - go figure!  Anyway, I saved one of the newly hatched chicks and took the rest of the eggs in the kitchen.  I wrapped them in a thick woolly jumper on top of a hot water bottle and near the range.  For 2 weeks I was the proud mother of 4 chicks and oh boy, what a delight it was!  They definitely thought I was their mama and every night they made such a racket and would not go to sleep until I picked them up, put them in an old woolly hat, sat down on the sofa and put the hat on my chest.  They would then gently come out, mess about for 10 minutes, making gentle noises, settle down around my neck under my hair and calm down.  After half an hour, I could gently put them back in the hat and back in their hot water bed and not hear them again till the morning.  Around about the same time, another hen had hatched 10 new chicks and I knew her to be an excellent mother, so one night I slipped my "babies" under her.  She never noticed.  For a long time afterwards, two of them still came on my shoulders at feeding time and tried to nestle under my hair, except that by then they were fully grown chickens!.
20130608_195417.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20130608_195417.jpg]
 
Jim Fry
Posts: 139
Location: Stone Garden Farm Richfield Twp., Ohio
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I keep a wire sided dog carrier (maybe 5'x3 1/2'x2 1/2') in the chicken coop. Whenever a hen goes broody, I put her in the cage with some hay for a nest and water and feed. If she settles down and sets, I collect eggs from the other chickens to put under the broody hen. That way all the eggs pretty much hatch at the same time, and the hen can't leave the nest for food or drink (they generally eat and drink very little) and then forget where the nest is. By caging her it also protects her from any predators. As soon as the chicks hatch, I take them from her, so they don't wander off or get stepped on. I have a large wood box we put in the house with a wire screen over top and a heat light. I put their food and water at one end of the box and the lamp at the other. Then the chicks can choose the most comfortable (heat wise) place to sit/rest. When they are big enough to regulate their own body temperature, we put them back out in the coop in the "dog" cage until they are big enough to care for themselves in the flock. Every time we use this method we get lots of chicks, most every time we don't there is poor result.
 
Bethany Dutch
Posts: 210
Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well - an update on the chicks...

The first day or two they seemed a little slow and lethargic. I'm not sure why - overall they seemed healthy enough but they just slept a LOT. I went and got some electrolytes and probiotics for them and that seemed to perk them up fine. I suspect they were a little slow because of the cold hatching conditions.

AND what's funny is - two of my other hens went broody. One of them is a 7 year old hen that loves to sit on eggs but will absolutely not take any orphans in (though I did try, but she rejected them). And the other was my new Silkie that I got at the same time as their original mother. I swear seeing baby chicks makes their broody hormones go in, because this isn't the first time some of my hens have gone broody about 5 or 6 days after chicks appear.

Anyway - the Silkie is a very gentle hen and I had a great silkie proody previousy, so they are outside in a crate with her. She keeps alternately trying to escape to run back to her nest spot, and then mothering the chicks. I hope in a few days she will settle in completely to mother them, since I don't really want to do it myself! My kids love having the babies around though.

Olga - that's exactly what my daughter does! She will walk around with chicks in the hood of her sweatshirt. Actually I think that's partly why the silkie I mentioned is so gentle and sweet - because she spent the first few months being toted around in barbie cars and sweatshirt hoods. (No, I'm not kidding about the barbie car 😂)
 
Olga Booker
Posts: 87
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the update, Bethany. It's great to hear that they survived!  I never had a Barbie car so I could not tell you if it would have made a difference with mine
Bad joke apart, let us know how they get on.
 
Bethany Dutch
Posts: 210
Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Olga Booker wrote:Thanks for the update, Bethany. It's great to hear that they survived!  I never had a Barbie car so I could not tell you if it would have made a difference with mine
Bad joke apart, let us know how they get on.


I think I've actually got a picture floating around here somewhere, I'll post it if I find it 😂

Anyway - the silkie has finally settled in as their mother. She's not quite as attentive as I suspect she would be if things had progressed normally, and it took a few weeks before she really bonded all the way with them, but if I kept her locked in the broody coop with them, she'd take care of them and keep them warm. If I let her out, she'd at first go back to her brooding spot, and then when she finally became "un-broody" she'd still just go walking around and not really notice the babies weren't around. I think the babies themselves also had lost some of their "follow mama" instinct because the first few days of their life were spent with humans.

I just let them out today after a full week of confinement and I'm happy to say she has completely taken on the job as their mother - she hangs around them and doesn't try to go to the normal roosting spot, but tonight she came back with them into the broody coop like I'd hoped. And they have seemed to regain the "follow mama" instinct and start pitching fits really loudly if she goes out of sight. I'm glad she's now nesting with them,  because our weather took an abrupt turn for the colder side... and now my OTHER broody hen (the 7YO) has eggs that will be hatching in about a week. She's not the most attentive mother... so we will see if those babies survive.
 
Bethany Dutch
Posts: 210
Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Actually now that I think about it, the good news is, she was a great "auntie" until she became mama. So even when she was not broody (laying eggs even) she still allowed them to snuggle up with her at night, and took care of them, showing them the ropes. I love silkies for this reason. My mom had one and she did the same, you could give her babies and even if she didn't go into full mama mode, she'd still let them snuggle under her to keep warm and she wouldn't be mean and aggressive like some hens are to random chicks.
 
Olga Booker
Posts: 87
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Good news!  Thanks for the update Bethany.
 
Those are the largest trousers in the world! Especially when next to this ad:
Composting Chickens Comic (e)Book - The Ulitmate Guide to Compsting with Chickens - Digital Download
https://permies.com/t/66064/digital-market/digital-market/Composting-Chickens-Comic-Book-Ulitmate
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!