Meet Dr. Mark. Dr. Mark is, among other things, the fella who helped put Cuddles out of her misery. Literally. He knows his stuff this guy. Dr. Mark is a vet who also happens to be a chicken enthusiast and judge. So you know when you go to a fall fair and there’s a bunch of chickens or goats in a ring and you pick your favourite based on how much they’re squawking or drooling or pooing? Well Dr. Mark is the guy who actually judges the poultry. I’m not sure but I don’t think your chance of winning is based on pooing. At least not a lot of points are given for that.
I’ve convinced Dr. Mark he should be a part of The Art of Doing Stuff and he’s agreed. So if you have chicken questions, send them to me. I’ll go through them, pick the best and send them to Dr. Mark for upcoming posts here on the site.
But since it’s my blog and my idea and my Dr. Mark, I get the first question for him. And here it is! Or more accurately here they are. They’re all based on my curiosity about using my broody hen Josephine to hatch fertilized eggs.
Dr. Dr. Mark,
1. If I have a broody hen. Can I stick fertilized eggs under her instead of using an incubator?
“Hey Karen! You’re great and my favourite client in the world and everyone should send you potato chips and Gucci moccasins all the time, forever. (I may have taken a bit of artistic license with that opening comment) Of course you can use a broody hen instead of an incubator. Not only do you not need an incubator that way but also you won’t require a brooder to raise the chicks in either. Hens will all vary in their nurturing and brooding abilities and some breeds will never set reliably on their eggs, such as varieties found in the meditteranean breeds like leghorns. . If the female insists on setting she will usually be capable of hatching her eggs. Chickens are also not particular as to which hens eggs they brood, or even which species. Not uncommon to hatch ducks and pheasants under broody hens.”
2. What about a dinosaur egg? Could I hatch a dinosaur egg under Josephine? Nevermind. Do I need to do anything special, or just stick the eggs under her and hope for the best?
“You need to provide her with a nest box that she can get in an out of easy without soiling or cracking the eggs and with lots of deep litter. The box should be kept in a dim lit, low traffic area so that she is encouraged to continue sitting for the duration of incubation, 21 days in chickens. The hen should also be treated prior for parasites as they will definitely take advantage of her brooding and lack of preening activities. Some broodies such as silkies have such a drive to set that they often forget to come off of the nest and will require some intervention. The hen will always produce a large fecal mass when departing the nest, this needs to be cleaned up immediately and produced outside of the nest box for obvious reasons.”
3. Should she be kept away from the other chickens while she’s broody? She tends to brood in one of the nesting boxes.
“She should also be placed in a pen by herself so other hens do not try to get in the nest with her and end up breaking her eggs. The eggs should also be candled at 7 days to see if they are developing and eggs that are not removed to prevent contamination from gases and possibly worse ……..breakage.”
4. Once the eggs hatch what is her job to do and what is mine?
“Once the eggs hatch provide her with a clean pen and proper drinking vessels for chicks so they do not drown, placing colored marbles in the water vessel will encourage chicks to peck at it. It is always a good idea to dunk their beaks in the water initially until you see them drinking regularly. This is more important in incubator chicks as mom is good at encouraging them to eat and drink. Provide commercial chick starter on newspaper ,mom will guide them to it. Hard boiled eggs broken up are great starter food for chicks as well and she will encourage them to eat this.”
5. Do I need to keep the new mother and her new chicks separated from the other chickens or should I let everything happen naturally and hope the new hen protects her chicks?
“Best to keep mom away from other birds, chickens can be quite nasty to one another. The least amount of stress on mom the better. She will also be in a weakened state after brooding and should not have to spend energy protecting her chicks. In the wild hens brood away from the flock and only bring their chicks back around after they are up and running and fully mobile. Birds in large enclosures or free range are usually less stressed and able to coexist better then in tight small confinement.”