To Incubate / Or Not to Incubate
Once you have your eggs, you need to decide if you are going to incubate them underneath a chicken or using an artificial incubator. To incubate an egg naturally, you’ll get to have a hen that is ready to sit on the eggs for a full three weeks. This is called a “broody” or “sitting” hen.
The eggs within the nesting box are named as “clutch” or “setting”. If a hen was doing this without human intervention, it would generally go broody when it has built up around a dozen eggs. If you have a large number of eggs or are incubating the eggs to sell then it might be worth considering using an incubator. Some breeds are better “broodies” than other breeds.
- Old English game
Unfortunately for breeders, the broodiness trait has been bred out of many modern chicken breeds because a broody hen won’t lay any eggs and this means the farmers have expensive nonproductive periods.
How to Make your Hens Go Broody
If you like the idea of naturally incubating your eggs, and you have the right breed of hen, then you will need your hen to go broody and sit on the eggs. You can encourage a hen to go broody by leaving artificial eggs in the nest for an extended period.
You should place several in the nest and leave them for an extended period. Your hen might move on and off the nest for longer and longer periods. Finally, she might stay on the nest for at least 24 hours, and then she is broody. Now you just need to place some real eggs under her to hatch! As time progresses she will turn the eggs in the nest helping them maintain proper temperature and humidity.
Your Hen Will Look After the Eggs
Once the hen has gone broody, she will become very protective over the eggs and ward off predators (such as you) and to try to keep other hens from laying in her nest box. If you try to approach the nest or pick her up – she will make angry clucking noises and might attempt to peck you.
The eggs will only start to develop once the hen is sitting sits on top of them. This means that all the eggs will hatch together. The hen will turn the egg regularly during incubation to ensure that the embryo doesn’t get stuck to the shell membrane, gases move around and the temperature is evenly distributed.
The hen will then sit on the eggs for 21 days – only leaving the nest for short periods of time (about 20 minutes) to get feed, drink, and generally have a runaround. After 18 days, the chick will then start ‘pipping’ or breaking through the shell. You might notice your hen clucking to encourage the chick out. The chick will then take about 3 days to come completely out of the shell.
Natural Incubation / Large Hen
The broody hen chosen for natural incubation should be large (to cover and thus keep more eggs warm), healthy and preferably vaccinated, with a good brooding and mothering record. Signs of broodiness are that the hen stops laying, remains sitting on her eggs, ruffles her feathers, spreads her wings, and makes a distinctive clucking sound.
- She Stops Laying
- Remains on Nest
- Spreading her wings
- Ruffles her Feathers
- Clucking Verbalization’s
- Slashes water on the Eggs
- Rotates the Eggs
- Protects the Eggs / Chicks When they Hatch
Brooding may be induced with dummy eggs or even stones. Eggs usually become fertile about four days after the rooster has been introduced to the hens. A maximum of 14 to 16 eggs may be brooded in one nest, but hatchability often declines with more than ten eggs, depending on the size of the hen.
Feed and water provided in close proximity to the hen will keep her in better condition and reduce embryo damage due to the cooling of the eggs if she has to leave the nest to scavenge for food.
The hen keeps the eggs at the correct humidity by splashing water on them from her beak. This is a further reason for providing her with easy access to water. In very dry regions, slightly damp soil can be placed under the nesting material to assist the hen in maintaining the correct humidity (between 60 and 80 percent).
Fertile eggs from other birds are best added under the brooding hen between one and four days after the start of brooding. In Bangladesh, it has been reported that local broody hens will even sit on and hatch a second clutch of eggs, often losing considerable weight in the process (especially if insufficient attention is paid to the provision of food and water).
The incubation period for chicken eggs is 20 to 21 days and increases up to 30 days for other poultry. After sitting for some days, a broody hen can be given some newly hatched chicks and, if they are accepted, the original eggs can be removed and replaced with more chicks. Thus, hens with a better record of mothering can be better utilized for their abilities.
Eggs initially need a very controlled heat input to maintain the optimum temperature of 38° C, 100 F, because the embryo is microscopic in size. As the embryo grows in size (especially after 18 days), it produces more heat than it requires and may even need cooling.
Moisture levels of 60 to 80 percent Relative Humidity (increasing during the incubation period) are important to stop excess moisture loss from the egg contents through the porous eggshell and membranes. Factors to consider for successful natural incubation include the following;
- Feed and water should be close to the hen.
- The broody hen should be examined to ensure that she has no external parasites.
- Any eggs stored for incubation should be kept at a temperature between 12 and 14 °C, at high humidity of between 75 to 85 percent, and stored for no longer than seven days.
- Extra fertile eggs introduced under the hen from elsewhere should be introduced at dusk.
- The eggs should be tested for fertility after one week by holding them up to a bright light (a candling box works best. If there is a dark shape inside the egg (the developing embryo), then it is fertile. A completely clear (translucent) egg is infertile.
A hatchability of 80 percent (of eggs set) from natural incubation is normal, but a range of 75 to 80 percent is considered satisfactory. The setting of hatchings is best timed so that the chicks to be hatched are two months of age at the onset of major weather changes, such as either the rainy (or dry) season or winter/summer.
A plentiful natural food supply over the growing period of the chicks will ensure a better chance for their survival. Successful poultry species instinctively lay and incubate their eggs at a time of the year when newly hatched chicks will have a better supply of high protein and energy food provided by the environment.
For example, guinea fowl will only lay eggs in the rainy season. However, seasonal changes in weather patterns are also times of greater disease risk.
Family Sized Chicken Farm Egg Calculator
|Number of Chickens||Number of Eggs / Day||Number of Eggs / Week||Number of Eggs / Month||Number of Eggs / Year||Family Size||$ Value = .30 / Egg|
Per Day / Per Week / Per Month / Per Year / Dollar Value
Rare Breed Chicken Farming
|Rare Breeds||Country of Origin||Eggs/Week||Average Weight||Price / Chicks|
|Black Penedesenca||Spain||3-4||4-5lbs||$ 13.43|
|Black Sumatra||Sumatra||4 / Tinted in Color||4lbs||$ 4.56|
|Ameraucana||United States / Chile||3 / 4 Blue||5 lbs||$ 4.25|
|Lavender Orpington||England||4 / 5 Brown||5 lbs||$ 6.08|
|Partridge Chantecler||Canada||3-5 / Brown||7 lbs|
|Wyandotte||United States||3 - 5 / Tinted Brown||6 lbs||$ 4.90|
|Welsummer||Welsum Netherlands||4 / Dark Brown||5 lbs||$ 5.95|
|Silver Grey Dorking||UK / Roman||8 lbs||$ 5.95|
|Light Brahma||United States / China||Brown||13 lbs||$ 4.90|
|Silver Laced Cochin / Shanghai||China||5-6 / Brown||6 lbs||$ 4.90|
|White Marans||Marans / France||4 / Dark Brown||5 lbs||$ 6.08|
|Dominiques||United States||4 - 5 / Brown||7 lbs||$ 4.90|
|Exchequer Leghorn||Tuscany Italy||White||5 lbs||$ 4.25|
|Silver Spangled Appenzeller|
|Buff Brahma Standard||Shanghai China||Brown||13 lbs||$ 4.90|
|Silver Laced Polish||Poland / Netherlands||4-5 lbs||$ 5.95|
|White Sultan / Fowls of the Sultan||Turkey||2 - 3 / White||4-6 lbs||$ 7.75|
|Mottled Houdan||Houdan Paris France||White||4 - 5 lbs||$ 7.75|
|Dong Tao / Dragon Chicken||Vietnam||2/3||$ 2500 -|
|Ayam Cemani||Indonesia||3 / Cream||5 lbs||$ 50 - $ 2500|
|Onagadori / Honorable Chicken||Japan||$ 49.00|
|Polverara||Italy||2 / 3|
|Ixworth||Sussex UK||4 / Cream|
|Naked Neck / Transylvanian Naked-Neck chickens.||Transylvania||5||$ 4.25|
|Campaign||Belgium||7 / White||5 lbs||$ 7.75 / Golden|
|Deathlayer /||German||7 / White||$ 99.00|
|Serama / Smallest Chicken in the World||Thailand||.5 - 1 Lb||$ 39.00|
|Silkie / Silky||Chinese||2 / Cream||$ 5.75 / White $ 5.75 / Blue $ 5.75 / Buff
$ 5.75 / Black
Types of Chicken Breeds
|Chicken Breeds||Origin||Meat/ Layers / Dual Purpose||Finished Weight||Eggs per Week||Weeks to Slaughter|
|Broilers||Canada/US/Europe||Meat||3.3 lbs||5||14 Weeks|
|Cornish crosses||England||Meat||6.5 - 8.5 lbs||3||8 - 9 Weeks|
|Jersey Giants||USA||Meat ( Intended to replace Turkeys)||13 lbs||4||8 - 9 Months|
|Hertigage Breeds||6 - 9 months|
|Delaware||USA Delaware||Duo||6.5 lbs||4 - large||8 Months|
|Dorking||United Kingdom||Duo||10 - 14 lbs||5 - med||5 Months|
|Buckeye||USA Ohio||Duo||6 - 9 lbs||4 - med||5 Months|
|Rhode Island Red||USA Rhode Island||Duo||6 b- 8 lbs||5-6||5 Months|
|Leghorn||Italy||Eggs||4 -5 lbs||4||8 Months|
|Plymouth Rock||USA - Massachusetts||Duo||7.5 lbs||4||5 Months|
|Sussex||United Kingdom||Duo||7 lbs||4 - 5 - large||5 Months|
|Wyandotte||Canada||Duo||7 - 9 lbs||5 Months|
|Welsummer||Netherlands||Duo||7 lbs||4 / Week||5 Months|
|Hamburg||United Kingdom||Eggs||7 lb||4 - med||9 weeks|
|Black Australorp||Australia||Duo||\3 - 5 lb||5 - med||5 months|
|Buff Orpington||England||Duo||7 - 8 Lbs||4 - 5||8 months|
|Brahma||Meat||11 lbs||3 - med||5 monthss|
Dual Purpose Breeds
Chicken / Poultry Breeder Associations
|US Poultry & Egg Association||United States||USPA|
|American Poultry Association||California||APA|
|Ohio Poultry Association||Ohio||OPA|
|National Chicken Council||United States||NCC|
|British Poultry Council||United Kingdom||BPCE|
|Poultry Club of Great Britain||United Kingdom||PCGB|
|Association of Poultry Breeders in EU||Europe||AVEC|
|Australian Chicken Meat Federation Inc||Australia||ACMF|
|Australian Poultry Hub||Australia||Poultry Hub|