• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Raising chickens from egg?

 
Steven Baxter
Posts: 254
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I know absolutely nothing about this subject. I was reading an article about putting eggs in an incubator keeping it at exactly a certain temperature, turning the eggs every so often. Any ways it seemed like so much time consuming work.

Can't the person raising the chicken from eggs just let the momma chicken do all the work? Does the momma chicken turn the egg, like a human would be turning it in an incubator?

I have seen baby chicks hatched and raised in the wild, is it possible to just let the chickens raise them?

What do they eat when a human raises a chick compared to what they would eat if momma raised the little ones?
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
88
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've seen who knows how many chicks hatched and raised by chooks, but I've never laid eyes on an incubator.
I think that kind of mechanisation is more to do with churning out chicks on an industrial scale, especially as hybrids have broodiness bred out of them.
As you say, why pay money for gear, power, etc when there's a bird over there -> whose entire biological meaning in life is to make more chooks?
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Pie
Posts: 8820
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
611
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Incubators are for poor souls like me who haven't managed to find a breed of chicken that will go broody.  We have to cheat, buy in eggs of other breeds, have them sent vast distances to us, hatch them in the incubator, and then hope that at least some of the resulting chicks won't have had all their natural instincts bred out of them. 

It's much better if you can just let a momma-hen do it, but you have to get yourself a momma-hen somehow!  She will turn the eggs just the right amount, teach the chicks how to forage, keep them at the right temperature and snuggle them underneath her to keep them safe.

We have just had our first hen go broody - here she is, to my mind the most beautiful chicken I ever owned (just because she's broody - she's actually highly reminiscent of a crow...)



Unfortunately, she's also highly intelligent and a good flier, so we've no idea where she spends all day.  She just appears once a day for a quick bite to eat and a drink, makes lovely clucky broody noises, then waits til no-one is looking and disappears again.  I don't hold out much hope of her surviving three weeks 'in the wild' with so many predators about and I'm determined to find out where she's hiding her eggs and put them somewhere a bit predator proof, but she's equally determined not to give me any clues as to where she's hiding up. 
 
Steven Baxter
Posts: 254
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks. What does broodiness mean?l Also what is a chook (a momma)? I tried to find it online. It has something to do with the hen nesting?
I came across this website it seemed informative at a quick glance.

http://www.backyardchickens.com/

Nice picture btw! 
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Pie
Posts: 8820
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
611
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
'Broody' is when the hen's hormones and natural instincts tell her it's time to start sitting on her eggs and raise her brood of chicks.  They change their behaviour and become incredibly fussy, fluff up their feathers, start sitting on their eggs and refusing to come off them, and they make lovely clucky noises, unless you try to pick them up in which case they look at you as though you were some sort of idiot and make an indignant sort of clucky-growly noise at you while fluffing their feathers up even more.

Maybe it's only a UK term, but it's a good one. 

'Chook', I believe, is the Australian word for 'chicken'.  As far as I know it's any kind of chicken, male, female, broody or not broody.  But I might be wrong.  We need an international chicken dictionary...

I could take a photo of the incubator for you too if you like - it's not so pretty but at least it doesn't disappear when my back's turned, unlike that chicken!
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
Posts: 382
Location: South West France
24
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Broodiness just means that a hen has the tendency to sit on her eggs to develop the chicks inside. Some breeds aren't broody at all and will just keep laying eggs without ever showing the compulsion to "go broody".

We use very broody breeds like small bantams or bantam crosses to sit on eggs from other breeds. Once the hen starts sitting simply replace her eggs with the eggs of your choice - the number of eggs depending on the size of the hen.

This little hen has a mixture of Marans, light Sussex and Orpingtons - seventeen in all !



We've raised thousands of of chicks and sometimes geese this way. The hen won't mind sitting a week longer to hatch goose eggs and she is really proud of her huge "babies".

 
 
Steven Baxter
Posts: 254
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It won't be necessary to take a picture of the incubator Burra. Thanks though.


Irene- Those little chicks are so cute. I didn't know you could use other chickens to hatch different eggs.
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
Posts: 382
Location: South West France
24
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Burra Maluca, sorry, I didn't see your excellent explanation before I posted.

Oracle, the hen doesn't really mind whose eggs she sits on. They are such good mothers and I think they just love having chicks ! 
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
88
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A bit of a semantic detour...
"Chook' is what I'll call an Australasianism. The only time NZers and Australians used to say 'chicken' was when referring to the food they were about to eat, as live birds were fowls, hens or chooks. The egg-laying 'chicken' has only relatively recently become common here as we absorb international word usage (particularly American).
I like using local words, even when I could 'translate'. I'm aware it confuses sometimes, but hey, it sparked a conversation! I think it's cool to get a bit colloquial sometimes: after all, we're from all over the world
 
John Polk
master steward
Pie
Posts: 8018
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
269
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think Burra Maluca's definition of 'broody' is the best I have ever seen!  Broodiness is basically a hen's natural instinct to be a mother, but modern egg production farms look at it as a 'fault' in the breeding line.  They don't want mothers, they want 'egg machines'.

I know Paul hates to see the word "fact" here, so I will just say that it is 'commonly believed' that hen raised chix are better foragers, and more likely to be broody as they mature, than will be an incubator raised chick.

I worked (seasonally) on a large egg farm in South America, and they were the exception to the rule.  Every year, they replaced about 9,000 hens, and ALL of their hens were raised on their farm by their own hens.  They wanted to have control of their end product, rather than take their chances with outside sources.  To them, a broody hen got a trip to the breeding houses rather than to freezer camp.  They had one pullet lay her first egg, and she went broody...Grampa  said "give her to the cook", but instead, they moved her to the breeding pens...she died at 12 years, after having brooded over a thousand chix...in three generations of owners, she was the only farm animal to ever get a name (La Niñera...the Nanny), and to get a marked grave.
 
Saskia Symens
Posts: 122
1
books forest garden trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Bura Maluca
I have a friend who raised chicks to chickens and they all "went broody" as they became adults and laid lots of lovely eggs. Then they stopped (and they weren't malting or anything), and they never got back to broody even after several months. Curious I questioned my friend as to what could have caused this. She told me she stopped putting her kitchen waste in the hen pen but composted it instead for her vegetable beds. Hm...  She didn't feed the chickens any additional grain or nothing. They were just scratching around on a piece of grass meadow eaten short by her other animals.
Incidentally the kitchen waste was also where the used egg shells went. My idea is the chickens didn' get enough Calcium for egg production. Presumably other nutrient deficiencies might have similar effects.

Your story struck me in that the only broody chicken is also the one that escapes the pen and -probably- finds some tasty snacks elsewhere. Maybe you need to look at the chicken's diet?
Just a thought... 
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Pie
Posts: 8820
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
611
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It's possible, but even when they were all loose everywhere we still didn't have any broodies.  I suspect in this case it's more down to genetics and we've managed to get a throwback to something with stronger instincts.  We're constantly working on improving the diet for the poultry, but I think we still have a way to go to be honest. 

She was a second generation from some bantam cross commercial layer eggs that a friend gave us.  It could be that the first generation were too influenced by the 'commercial' genes, but now we've crossed the first generation offspring we're having a few throwbacks.  All the first generation were white, too, but we had all kinds of colours turning up next time round, including my black broody beauty!

We found her, by the way.  A few months ago some wild critter, we think an Egyptian mongoose, managed to pull some wire away from the quail run and kill all but one of our quail.  We took the survivor out and he's now living in a cage in the house.  But my dear little black hen managed to squeeze in through the tiny gap into the run, find a nice snuggly place in their sleeping quarters, and is now sitting on 16 eggs!  I'll see if I can risk lifting the lid long enough to get a photo later...
 
Saskia Symens
Posts: 122
1
books forest garden trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A picture of her brooding would be lovely! And the chicks of course when they come out 
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Pie
Posts: 8820
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
611
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here she is - giving me the evil eye for disturbing her...



Tomorrow I'm going to see if I can candle the eggs because 16 is just a few too many for her and I'd rather remove any I know to be clear to give the others a better chance.  It's absolutely bone dry in there too, so I might spray a bit of water on, or drip some into the straw of the nest. 

Does anyone know if chickens can sweat?
 
John Polk
master steward
Pie
Posts: 8018
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
269
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
No, chickens do NOT sweat.  Excess moisture is passed, a little in the manure, but mostly through the lungs (by heave breathing).  That is one of the reasons a chicken house needs good ventilation.
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Pie
Posts: 8820
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
611
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for that John - in that case I'll definitely find a way to add a bit of moisture to the nest.  The whole place is dry as a bone and those eggs are likely to need a bit of help. 
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Pie
Posts: 8820
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
611
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
She did it!  Six lovely little chicks, and she's a very proud mommy 

I candled the eggs a week or so back and removed three that were clear so she would find it a bit easier to keep the remaining eggs warm, and I dripped a bit of water around the edge of the nest every couple of days as the 'broody box' was sitting in full sun in bone dry 40C (104 F) plus heat and I thought they might dry out. 

She hatched five out herself with no problem, and after she left the nest this morning I broke the rest to see what was going on.  Five were clear, which isn't very surprising as we got rid of the cockerel half way through when she was laying and the replacement cockerel had to be removed as the girls tried to eat him alive.  One chick had died in shell, probably due to not enough moisture, and one was frantically trying to break out before he cooled off too much after mum had decided to leave the nest.  I broke that one out and then spent a lovely couple of hours sitting in the sunshine cuddling him and keeping him warm until he'd dried out and fluffed up, then popped him back in the nest (it was about as warm as an incubator by this time) and kept an eye on him every now and then til he'd found his feet and made friends with the rest of the family.  By this evening he had bonded with mum and had learned to snuggle under her, so I've left them to it. 

Photos to follow...

I feel that using a broody is a much better way to raise chicks, but without the incubator I wouldn't have been able to reach the stage of ever *having* a broody to use.  It's a bit like a compost  heap - a well designed, mature system doesn't need one.  But sometimes they're needed to kick start things along a little. 
 
Saskia Symens
Posts: 122
1
books forest garden trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yay! Cheering for you and the proud mummy... 
And I don't need to add we're all impatiently waiting for the pics? 
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Pie
Posts: 8820
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
611
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here she is - not exactly the most photogenic creature on earth, but she does have a lovely fluffy brood and today they had their first little explore in the great outdoors. The little 'patchy' coloured one on the right is Pip, the one I had to help out of the shell and cuddle til he dried off.  Well done Bruxa - you're a star. Better than those silly old incubators any day... 

 
                  
Posts: 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I can't see how any other way make sense in a permaculture setting.  Incubators use TONS of power comparatively and mother hen generally does a better job.  Why spend time and energy trying to replicate a process that nature does better anyway?  There are other ways to incubate eggs, Asia has been practicing them for centuries. (Hot manure, packing eggs with heated rice in a tube etc.)  BUt unless you are trying to increase your numbers very quickly, you don't need them. Congrats on your new brood!
L
 
Saskia Symens
Posts: 122
1
books forest garden trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yeah, nice looking chickies! 
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic