Watching baby chicks hatch out of their eggs has to be one of the most unique experiences a farm or city kid can have. A real live fuzzy little animal comes right out of something that you can find hundreds of at your local grocery store. Well kinda….
If you are raising backyard chickens than having setting hens on eggs to hatch out chicks is a fun and great learning experience in your homestead lifestyle.
We discovered this week we have a setter hen or a broody hen. (I always called them setters…broody sounds grumpy!) My mom discovered this week she also had a setter so we decided to put some eggs under them and see what happens.
Before you decide you hatch eggs out you need to find out if you actually have setting hens. Watch your hen for about a week. If she is always in the nest when you go to check on her, that’s a good sign. She may also pluck out some of her feathers to create her nest. She will stop laying eggs and she can possibly get very grumpy. If your bird has all these signs she probably is a setter!
The first step is getting fertilized eggs under her. If you have a rooster in with your hens you can just use those eggs. I can’t stand roosters (been chased around the yard one too many times!) so I don’t have one and had to get my eggs from a friend that does. When we got the eggs we marked them with an X s we know which are fertilized in case another bird decides to lay in the setting hens nest.
Take the eggs and put them right next to the hen, she will pull them under her wings and into the nest.
After that it’s up to the hen to do the work. She will turn the eggs to make sure the heat is distributed evenly. And don’t worry if she shoves eggs out of the nest, she knows when a chick is growing and when one has died.
In about 21 days you should start to hear some little peeping from the eggs. The hen will cluck back to them to try and get them to crack their shells and come out. If you don’t already have her in a separate area you might want to use something like a large dog kennel as the mama hen starts teaching her chicks the ropes of eating, scratching, and drinking. I think the chicks are SO cute when they climb on top of the mama hen! Note that not all the eggs may hatch on the same day. The hen should stay on the nest until she senses that all the chicks that are going to hatch have hatched.
The sooner you move the chicks away from the mama the sooner she will start laying again.
Have you ever hatched out chicks? Any tips or advice you would give?