Hatching Eggs: Letting Nature Do Its Thing (Sophie’s eggs have hatched!)

She’s done it!  Sophie, our very first hen to sit on fertilised eggs, has managed a hatch and is now a proud mum.  Here she is:

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You’ll note here Sophie is hovering over one chick.  There’s a reason you only see one chick in the picture; after sitting on a nest of six eggs, Sophie hatched just one chick successfully.  Having never hatched eggs with a broody hen before, we decided this first time to let nature run its course and allow Sophie to do whatever she wished – figuring nature would probably do a better job without novices like us interfering.  We let her sit on whichever eggs she chose and basically left it up to her to control the whole process.  The only thing we did was to provide her with fresh food and water and a few days before the hatch relocated the other chickens and Minty the rooster.

Honestly, we weren’t entirely sure when her chicks were due to hatch (despite knowing chicken eggs take 21 days to incubate) as the first few days Sophie ‘sat’ on eggs she was up and down quite a lot, wandering around the yard.  It was difficult to determine when exactly the sitting period began.  We were very surprised one evening to see her off the nest, sitting on the ground, with only a broken egg shell left behind.  As she didn’t move a lot I worried she was ill and had abandoned the eggs.  When the kids and I checked on her the next day we were very surprised to see one little black chick running around her feet.  All I can think is that after the first chick hatched Sophie followed it off the nest and abandoned the other eggs, letting them go cold.  I’ve read that a chicken will stay on eggs for 24 – 48 hours after the first chick hatches and then after that time will abandon any unhatched eggs and take the hatched chicks for their first walk.

We would’ve put the remaining eggs in the incubator but it was already full of other eggs we’d been incubating for a few days.  Hubby gave the unhatched eggs a day or so in case they hatched but no such luck.  He checked the eggs before discarding them and all of the eggs except one contained a developed chick, which was a little sad.  But I guess at least we know the problem doesn’t lie with our rooster.  I’m guessing the issue is that the eggs were not all the same age (the other hens most likely continued laying eggs around Sophie and she subsequently added to her clutch meaning that the eggs were at different stages of development i.e. not all of the chicks were developed enough to be ready to hatch within 24-48hrs of the first egg hatching).

After this experience, I think next time one of our hens goes broody we will step in and collect eggs, adding all the eggs at the same time so they all hatch at once.  Sophie was quite diligent in getting off the nest each day but if the next hen isn’t we’ll get her up to make she eats and drinks.

And now for the good news….

Introducing Sophie’s Chick – Speckles

Sophie may have only hatched one chick but it’s pretty adorable, all black and fluffy and energetic.  The kids have named it Speckles and so far it looks identical to how Sophie looked when she was a chick…well, all except one little detail….See if you can spot it:

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Look very closely at Speckles’ outer leg…See those teeny tiny white fluffy things lined down her leg – feathers!  Our fluffy-footed rooster, Minty, has passed on his fluffy feet to Speckles.  The kids are over the moon.  We’re betting this one will be a rooster too (apparently first year layers and roosters yield a greater percentage of roosters than hens) but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

We’re still waiting to see if the eggs in the incubator hatch (the automatic turning mechanism didn’t seem to be working properly the first five days).  We’re up to Day 19 today so in two days time (Day 21, hatching day) we’ll have a better idea.  Wish us luck.

Have a great week,

Julie

3 thoughts on “Hatching Eggs: Letting Nature Do Its Thing (Sophie’s eggs have hatched!)

  1. Ooh how exciting! What a cute wee dude! I’m sorry I’m calling it a dude already, it’s just that it looks so much like my Leggy boys did and has a white spot on it’s head, typical of barred chicks, and, like my Legolas-Mr Bingley situation, if only the mother is barred any barred offspring would be male and solid colours would be female. I could be wrong though! Love the little fluffy feet. 🙂
    Everything is a learning experience. It’s definitely good to add all eggs at the same time, both for the sake of the chicks and the mumma. Plus, by collecting them you can decide which hens’ eggs to hatch if you can tell the difference! I like that you have an incubator too and hope it gives you some chickies. I would like an incubator. Except that would be FAR too dangerous. I don’t really need one at the moment when I have a Frodo…

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  2. Definitely a learning experience. I’m sorry now we didn’t step in and swap out the eggs for a clutch all at once, she just looked so content and in control doing what she was doing I felt bad disturbing her. Next time…

    That’s interesting about the barring. I’m not entirely certain whether the wing feathers are barred yet or not (those are Sophie’s barred feathers you can see in the pic above). In a few more days it should be obvious. But I’m thinking of this one as a rooster already as well.

    I know what you mean about the incubator being dangerous 🙂 The one we’ve got can hatch all types of eggs and hubby has already been mentioning things like duck eggs and turkey eggs etc. etc. lol! We saw a guinea fowl egg on the ground today and he picked it up and put it aside for when the incubator is empty….eek! I have sincere doubts this first batch of eggs is going to work. I don’t know that that they turned at all for the first five days. Should’ve marked one end so I could be sure – my own amateur mistake 😛

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  3. Congrats on your one little guy! Hatching eggs can be tricky business, sometimes you can get a 100% hatch and sometimes only 1 out of 6 like you had. We have found our broody hens are more successful than our incubator, but we have had hatches under hens and in the incubator that are on both ends of the spectrum of “success.”
    We have found that it is best to let nature do its thing for the most part. When we get too involved it ends badly. But when a hen wants to brood we do put our wooden eggs under her while we collect eggs to start the set all at once. And during “lock down” (days 18-the end of the hatch) I put the water and food right next to the nest so she can reach it without leaving because I find it keeps her stronger through the hatch and her body condition doesn’t go down so much. The last thing we do to help is if she is setting during the winter cold we put a heat lamp near the nest to help her keep her temp up.
    Looking forward to hearing about the incubation!

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