September 16th we began to see some activity out of the broody hen, Buff Red. She began standing, sitting, moving about in the nest and really paying attention to the eggs under her. Or so it seemed. The weather turned hot, in the low 90’s while most of the previous weeks were mid 70’s to low 80’s. So was something going on, or just different behavior due to the warmer weather? It was Day 18, still a bit before the Day 21 hatch day. We decided that at 3 days before the due date and the comments about not turning eggs in the incubators if being used for the last few days, that it was something with the eggs and not the heat.
Then on the 17th, Day 19, the broody one stood up enough that we could see one of her eggs had a small hole in it where it was pipping through. The hen pecked at the hole a bit, then sat back down.
We read that the chicks will pip through the membrane into the air pocket in the egg and begin peeping inside the egg before pipping through the shell. It must have been that the broody hen could hear the peeping in the egg the day before and that must have been why she was exhibiting the different behavior.
Day 20 and we see the first of the chicks appear out from under the hen. We could not see any of the actual hatching. When a chick would appear out from under the hen, the chicks were all dry and ready to go. Over the course of the day, we saw 6 baby chicks.
On Day 21, the expected hatch day, we saw another baby chick, so a total of 7 different chicks we could identify. That would leave 4 eggs that she would still be setting on.
As one of the chicks managed to jump from the nest onto the chicken coop floor, a 2 foot drop, and clearly not able to get back in, it was time to move the hen to the brooder cage. The hen pecked at me just a bit when I started the move. Surprisingly, she was quite content with the situation when I moved her. The nest boxes are plastic dish pans, so it was a matter of unscrewing the screws used to attach the boxes to the frame. The hen did not seem to mind the presence and noise of the electric drill I used to remove the screws.Yes it was close to her, only my hand on her back kept the drill from touching her. Then I moved the entire box, hen, chicks, eggs, etc., all at one time.
It only took her a moment to reorient herself to the new location down close to the floor, and all was well.
As I moved the nest to the new location, I was able to get a closer look at what she had going on. I was able to get a good head count – for certain we had 7 chicks and a quick count confirmed 5 eggs – an even dozen. One of the blue eggs still had not hatched, but one did.
Then I reported to Kris there were in fact 7 chicks and 5 eggs remaining. Kris says, how can that be? We had counted 11 eggs in the next. The math didn’t add up. But I was sure of my count. Perhaps it was a piece of egg shell turned in a way that it looked like a complete egg. I had removed all the broken shells from the nest just before I made the move, so I didn’t think that was the answer. I went and did a recheck. confirmed, 7 hens, 5 eggs. I checked the photos. She was sitting on 11 eggs the previous week.
Some hen must certainly have got on the nest when no one was looking and slipped an egg in on the nest all the while going unnoticed.
Day 22 – We see another chick! Now we have 8 new baby chicks. Broody hen though still sitting on the eggs and being patient, even with all the baby chicks hopping around. They of course have found the feeder and waterer and are busy filling their gizzards. Broody hen too, can reach the feed and water and has indulged herself in a much needed meal and drink.
About half way through the day, she gets off the nest and went down the run a little ways to do her business. It was huge, and of course, 21 days of stored up odor, all released at one time.
While she was briefly off the nest, we could see that she hatched out the remaining blue egg. We were hoping the blue eggs would both hatch. With a Welsummer rooster in the mix, the dark brown and blue might mix to give us some green color eggs. Well, the blue eggs had to hatch, and with both hatching, we are now hoping at least one of the two chicks from the blue eggs is a hen. Time will tell.
The broody hen continued to sit on the remaining 4 eggs for the remainder of the day, but the next morning, was spending time in the run with the chicks as Momma Hen and no longer had any interest in the eggs on the nest.
I removed those four, knowing one was in the nest less than a week, and put the flashlight to the shell to candle the eggs. All four eggs were infertile.
So of the original 11 eggs, we got a 72.7% hatch rate, and of the fertile eggs, a 100% hatch rate.
We are quite excited and happy with our first batch of baby chicks from our first broody hen.