Today we have our first chicks! Very cute and entertaining, who needs TV?!!
Two of our chicks hatched on day 21 but there were still 9 eggs. The mother hen was sitting for 2 more days and we became concerned that she was still brooding rather than caring for the new chicks. On day 22, we picked up some of the eggs and listened for “cheep, cheep” noises, and tapping noises which indicate the chick is trying to get out. Sure enough, we heard signs of life in one! So we waited till day 23 and were happy to see a new chick in that morning. It is still very weak as it is 2 days younger than its siblings and is struggling to keep up – so Lowenna named it Hope!
As the mother hen was still sitting broody on the rest of the eggs rather than moving around to care for her small chicks, we were becoming concerned for the 2 day old chicks. We know that they can survive a couple of days without food as they have eaten their yolk so they are ok for a while as they wait for their siblings to arrive. But not too long! So we removed all the eggs, most were empty and rotten, and some had dead, underdeveloped chicks in them. After about an hour, the mother hen snapped out of her broodiness is now clucking around, showing them how to eat and drink, so we feel we did the right thing.
As its our first time its been a learning curve – here’s what we’ve learnt to do better next time.
When a hen is broody we will isolate her from all the other hens as they tend to climb on top of the broody hen and lay their eggs in her nesting box, which she incorporates into her clutch.
This causes us 3 problems:
1) We can’t take the eggs to eat as she is sitting on them and we don’t know which are which.
2) Chicks take 21 days to hatch, and if there are eggs being added in the days after the brooding started in earnest, the chicks will not be ready in time. The mother hen will continue to sit rather than care for her new chicks.
3) If there are too many eggs under a hen, she cannot keep all of them underneath her properly which means some will not incubate properly and die before hatching.
We’re enjoying our 3 this time, but hoping for better things next time with better management.