It’s not uncommon for a laying hen to go broody, especially in the early spring and summer months. For those who need to refresh your flock, try allowing the hen to sit on a clutch of eggs (usually 10 to 14), and let them hatch out naturally into fluffy baby chicks. Acquire a rooster, so that the eggs are fertilized, or try purchasing or trading for some fertilized eggs.
Put the feed and water right in front of the box for her throughout the duration of her setting, but be sure it is located where she can’t knock it over into the eggs. But some hens do have enough mothering instinct to provide healthy, adorable, fluffy baby chicks to add to the flock.
How long does it take for a chicken egg to hatch naturally?
The incubation period for chicken eggs is 20 to 21 days, and increases up to 30 days for other poultry. After sitting for some days, a broody hen can be given some newly hatched chicks and, if they are accepted, the original eggs can be removed and replaced with more chicks.
How many eggs does a hen lay before she sits on them?
So how many eggs does a hen lay before she sits on them? A hen will typically lay 12 eggs (this collection is known as a clutch) before she sits on them for incubation. She’ll then proceed to sit on these eggs for 24 hours per day, for 21 days straight, in order for them to hatch.
Can it take longer than 21 days for a chick to hatch?
No. Various things will influence hatch times – the age of the eggs, the health of the mother hen, fluctuations in the incubator temperature … Sometimes chicks hatch a little before 21 days, sometimes it can be several days after. Don’t give up on your chicks until 26 days have passed since they were set.
How long does it take for a chick to break out of its shell?
When everything works as it is supposed to, once a baby chick has pipped the first hole in the eggshell it will come out on its own in no longer than 24 hours. Unless there are visible signs of injury to the chick, like blood, do not try to help it hatch before the 24 hour mark.
Many of us get the hatching bug and long to hatch out some of our chicks after all. They are very fuzzy, cute, and endearing. In our guide below, we cover everything you need to know about hatching eggs; from setting up the incubator to what to do on hatching day, we have it all covered.
Anyone who has seen a broody hen in action knows she will defend her nest with a mothers devotion mind your fingers! If you choose to use an incubator rather than a hen, it has some advantages and requires your attention daily (at least) for 21 days and beyond.
If your area is prone to power outages, then have a plan B in mind a couple of hours shouldnt be too bad, but any longer could be disastrous. Please bear in mind eggs do not travel well yes, Im repeating myself, but this is important to realize. Those eggs have to get from the farm to the Post Office, sorted (not gently either) into the appropriate bin.
They are picked up by the mail carrier and taken to the nearest post office, where you will collect them at the airport. I dont know about you, but after a long plane ride, I always feel a bit scrambled so do your eggs. If you are hatching more expensive or rare breeds slightly, a step up to something like a Brinsea may be better for you.
Incubator (with turning rack) Thermometer Hygrometer Candling device Water Paper towels The first thing to do is plug everything in and make sure the incubator and turning tray are working. While you are waiting, make sure you read and understand all the instructions that come with the equipment.
It gives tips and tricks, sensible advice, clear, concise information, and a section that tells you what went wrong. I would not be without it. So, you have your incubator running, temperature and humidity are set, water trough filled now to place your eggs! A turning tray makes it easy to put your eggs, but how do you position them?
Before placing your eggs, they should all have been checked over for hairline cracks and any shell deformities. Eggs that are difficult to tell top from bottom or long and narrow should not be used as they are less likely to hatch. You will need to check the temperature and humidity in about an hour to ensure that everything has stabilized; adjust your settings accordingly and recheck if necessary.
You should do daily visual checks to ensure the water level is ok, and the temperature and humidity are correct. You may have to adjust the air vents on your incubator to maintain proper levels. The chick is getting into position, ready to pip the shell and emerge, so it needs to be left quietly to align itself.
Good luck with your hatching adventures, and send up some pictures of your chicks too!
Once you have your eggs – you need to decide if you are going to incubate them underneath a chicken or using an artificial incubator. To incubate an egg naturally, you will need to have a hen which is prepared to sit on the eggs for a full three weeks. This is called a broody or sitting hen. The eggs in the nesting box is called a clutch or setting. If a hen was doing this without human intervention, it would generally go broody when it has built up around a dozen eggs. If you have a large number of eggs or are incubating the eggs to sell then it might be worth considering using an incubator.
The hen will turn the egg regularly during incubation to ensure that the embryo doesnt get stuck to the shell membrane, gases move around and the temperature is evenly distributed.
Once a hen goes broody and starts setting on eggs, it takes about 21 days for the eggs to hatch, which is the same amount of time it would take in an egg incubator.
They need their eggs to hatch on a single day, maybe within a 12 hour period, so they can ship the chicks. Effectively, large hatcheries are thus selectively breeding for a narrow hatch window.
A broody hen (one that is in the mood to set on eggs) can save you a lot of work, and I think the chicks raised by her are smarter and better able to take care of themselves. Chicks that are hatched in an incubator then reared in a brooder under artificially produced heat arent going to have all this extra training from the hen. The housing also needs to be secure enough that animals like skunks cannot dig under it and eat the eggs or the chicks.
Finding a Broody Hen
Buff Orpingtons are a breed known for their broodiness. The photo above is a Buff Orpington mama hen with several of her chicks. She will not only hatch all her chicks, but she will also care for them through cold nights, meaning there will be no need for her owner to fuss with a heat lamp. The chicks shown above are a mix of Speckled Sussex and Buff Orpingtons.One thing to note when mixing breeds is that it’s possible to do this successfully with two purebred chickens, but if the next generation interbreeds, it may lead to some very unsatisfactory results.Also, some hens just aren’t good broodies. They yield a smaller hatch rate or have some failed hatches with this method.
Care of a Broody Hen
Just let her sit on the eggs in the nest box, but know that it’s best to move her and the clutch of eggs to a larger nest box that measures at least one-foot square. A nest box of this size will allow the hen to turn around, move a bit, and set up for the chicks. She will ensure that, once they hatch, the chicks will have enough room to access food and water within reach of the nest box. At that point, she will be cozy and will not want to be moved. She will most likely peck if anyone tries to move her. Make sure that the floor of the nest box has soft cushioning like shavings or straw. And you will want to make sure that she can’t be messed with by the other hens. Put the feed and water right in front of the box for her throughout the duration of her setting, but be sure it is located where she can’t knock it over into the eggs. She will only get off the eggs once a day to poop, eat, and drink.Chicks take 21 days to hatch, and a clutch of eggs can take a few days to completely hatch. Mark the date on your calendar.Any adjustments that need to be made should be done at night when she is sleepiest. She will defend those eggs and baby chicks as best as she can, and she can peck quite hard.Right around day 21, the little peeps of baby chicks will be audible. It may be a while before the farmer will get a good look at them. They tend to stay under mama for one or two days. And remember, some will hatch and then the rest may hatch over the next two to four days. After this time, the rest of the eggs are probably not viable. Go ahead, and try to remove any remaining eggs from under the broody hen if possible.
Where To Find Fertilized Eggs?
If he is performing his duties, your hens should be laying fertilized eggs.You don’t have a rooster, what’s next? Do you have a friend that would give or sell you some fertilized eggs?If so – go and fetch them yourself and bring them home as gently as possible. Eggs do not travel well.Your third choice is to buy from a breeder or hatchery that sells the eggs you want. Please bear in mind –If you are hatching a rare breed and have paid a lot of money for the eggs, it’s very disappointing to have few if any hatches, and it’s not always fair to blame the breeder.For example, you buy your eggs from California, and you live in New York. Those eggs have to get from the farm to the Post Office, sorted (not gently either) into the appropriate bin.They are then taken to the airport and flown to your nearest airport.They are picked up by the mail carrier and taken to the nearest post office, where you will collect them at the airport.I don’t know about you, but after a long plane ride, I always feel a bit scrambled – so do your eggs.You will need to let them sit for at least 12 hours in a cool place with the pointed end downwards. Candle them if you like to see if the yolk is still intact.On a personal note, I have never had success with shipped hatching eggs.Since these eggs are from a different environment, it is worth sanitizing the eggs, so they don’t bring any ‘nasties’ with them. You can use a sanitizing solution and water to do this.
Setting Up an Incubator
We have a complete guide to incubators here.If you are hatching out ‘barnyard mixes’ and will be diligent about temperature and humidity, one of the cheaper circulated air (forced air) incubators may do you very well.Some of my best hatches have been with these cheaper models!If you are hatching more expensive or rare breeds slightly, a step up to something like a Brinsea may be better for you.Remember, you don’t need lots of bells and whistles on the incubator. You want something that will do the job well and that you can easily use and understand.
How To Incubate Hatching Eggs
There is a shortlist of requirements for your incubator, so here is your checklist:The first thing to do is plug everything in and make sure the incubator and turning tray are working. Leave it on for several hours to make sure it comes up to temperature and humidity.While you are waiting, make sure you read and understand all the instructions that come with the equipment.Although your incubator may have a thermometer and hygrometer already built-in, it’s wise to double-check with another thermometer/hygrometer. You can buy cheap digital ones online for under $10.00.You will use the water to fill the water chamber as directed by the instructions – paper towels are for the inevitable mess.Go to book –
What To Do On Hatching Day
Day 18 is known as ‘lockdown’ day. This is the day when you make sure the egg turner is turned off and set the eggs on the level surface tray of the incubator.Once you have checked that the water level is sufficient and ventilation is at the right level, put the lid on and leave it alone!Please do not open the lid. Move the incubator or jostle it around. This is a critical period. The chick is getting into position, ready to ‘pip’ the shell and emerge, so it needs to be left quietly to align itself.For more information on what happens after hatching, read here.
FAQs about Hatching Eggs
It will vary by species – chickens are 21 days; ducks are 28 days; turkeys about 28 days; guineas 28 days and geese 30 days.No, but they are usually all done with 24-48 hours of the first pipping. Some hatches can last up to 4 or 5 days, though.The egg exploded because it had bacteria in it. The best you can do is clean out the incubator thoroughly (keep the eggs warm), and if eggs are contaminated, clean them off as best you can without removing the ‘bloom.’With chicken eggs, you should set your incubator to 99.5°F.
Variability in hatch time
EspeciallyI would expect eggs from large hatcheries to hatch in a narrower time window, closer to the ideal of 21 days.This is because, in order to be efficient, large hatcheries need aThe result?Effectively, large hatcheries are thus selectively breeding for a narrow hatch window. Offspring that are slow to hatch will not become breeders if the hatchery is hatching their own replacement stock. Over time, I would expect that selecting for a narrow hatch window would tend to produce chicks that hatch more closely to the 21-day ideal.
Which is Better, Natural or Mechanical Incubation?
It depends on what you’re trying to do.A broody hen (one that is in the mood to set on eggs) can save you a lot of work, and I think the chicks raised by her are smarter and better able to take care of themselves. She keeps them warm. She teaches them to eat. She teaches them how to find food. A good broody hen will even help them learn how to hide from predators. Chicks that are hatched in an incubator then reared in a brooder under artificially produced heat aren’t going to have all this extra training from the hen. So there are some very real benefits to hatching under a broody hen.That said, broody hens just aren’t all that predictable. At least many of them aren’t. You don’t know exactly when they’ll go broody. They’re more likely to brood during spring, but exactly when they’ll start is unknown.Second, not all broodies will stick with sitting all the way through to the hatch. Third, some of them will hatch your chicks fine, but they won’t take good care of them. And fourth, some broodies eventually get tired of raising chickens and become brutal toward them or toward some of them.Broody hens ought to be housed separately so they can set and hatch undisturbed by other hens, and so that they can raise their young without the risk of other chickens harming them (which they can and will do at times). So having enough housing available can be a limitation. The housing also needs to be secure enough that animals like skunks cannot dig under it and eat the eggs or the chicks.If you have a good broody hen, that has the potential to save you some work and raise better-taught chicks for you. But an incubator can work very well and is more predictable.