Hatching Eggs - An Incubator or a Broody Hen

"Once you have made up your mind to go ahead and try hatching eggs, before you get your hatching eggs, you must decide whether you would like to hatch them in an incubator or under a broody hen.

It is of course lovely to see a mother hen with her chicks, watching them sit on her back and then hide underneath her. She will be able to teach them what and how to eat, just as nature intended. In addition you have hired a professional, so you don't need to worry about the power going out and ruining the eggs in your incubator, or getting the temperature and humidity just right. Once they are hatched the mother hen will keep them warm, so you can forget about a heat lamp.


However you will need to consider the following:

The Hen will need to be Broody

You cannot just make a hen go broody on demand and it is unusual for a hen to become broody apart from in spring and early to mid summer. Not all hens will go broody and in fact most types of hens that have been bred for egg production wont, as they have had the 'broodiness genes' bred out of them.

Equipment 

Although you will not need to buy an incubator if you use a broody hen, you will still need to buy some additional equipment. Most notably you will need to provide a separate nest and run for the broody hen and her chicks. It is not advisable to let her hatch her chicks in the coop with the rest of the flock, especially if they all use the same nesting box for laying . The other hens will crowd in on the broody hen, potentially damaging her eggs as they compete for space.

We recommend that you provide your broody hen with a safe brood coop where she can sit on her eggs in peace and hatch her chicks. Plus, if the chicks hatch in the main coop with the rest of the flock, the other birds may well attack the newcomers. Number of eggs to be hatched

Another reason why people do not use a broody hen to hatch eggs is that it limits the number of eggs that can be set. Bantams can't easily hatch more than six or seven large eggs at a time. Large birds may be able to hatch 10 or 12 at the very most, depending on the size of the bird and the size of the eggs. If you are hatching in quantity and especially when you are hatching shipped eggs, which will have a low hatch rate, you may wish to try incubating two dozen or more at a time. Obviously if this is the case one broody hen will not suffice.

Using a combination of Broody Hen and Artificial Rearing 

You can of course use broody hens to incubate eggs and then rear the chicks artificially if you are short on houses and pens for the broody hen and her offspring. Some people use a broody hen to incubate eggs for the first week of incubation, this being the most difficult period, or use her to rear the chicks you hatch in the incubator by placing chicks underneath her at night once she has been sitting for a while."

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