Hatch Chicks Without Wasting Eggs

| 2/14/2020 9:23:00 AM

new chicks

Though it may be hard to believe, spring is coming, and chick season with it. If you have never hatched your own chicks before, you might want to give it a go this year — and if you have hens that go broody, letting them sit and rear chicks the natural way may save you a whole lot of hassle in monitoring an incubator's temperature and humidity. Neither will you need to provide a heating lamp later on. A good broody hen will have an excellent hatch rate and will care for the chicks, teach them to forage, protect them, and keep them warm.

Many guides advise letting a hen accumulate a clutch of eggs on which she will eventually sit, but this method has proven wasteful and ineffective to us. Though a hen may lay in the same spot and accumulate a clutch, there's no guarantee she will actually go broody anytime. The eggs that are piling up in the nest may become spoiled or broken. Or the hen might try to cover too many eggs and the hatching rate won't be that high. In the meantime, you'll be wasting good eggs you could have used.

Here is a method we have been using successfully for several years:

Collect all eggs every day. Discard any that are cracked, too dirty, or odd-shaped — those are not good for hatching and had better go into an omelet.

Keep eggs that are meant for hatching in a cool, shady spot (not the refrigerator) and turn once a day. Maintain an ongoing rotation so that all the hatching eggs you have at any given time are not older than one week. Freshness will ensure best results. Eat any that had been laid over a week ago — it's still much fresher than any store-bought egg.

2/18/2020 12:21:04 AM

Anna, I have a problem with other hens jumping in the nest the minute the broody hen leaves for a minute. I've even seen two hens together in nests. Any suggestions?

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