Mama Hen

So here is the result of letting my crazy Cochin hen set her own eggs.  As you can see, the results went really well!  3 out of 4 eggs hatched.  The ‘dad’ is a Silkie and the ‘bio mom’ is ???, though I think that for the 2 little white hens it is a bantam Cochin mother.  These pics are from June, but now, the little guys are all feathered out and interestingly enough, they all have ‘ear muffs’, and a mohawk.  I’ll have to grab some new pics soon.  Another interesting thing is that while my brooder raised chicks all contracted coccidia, these guys did not.  So there ya’ go…probably better to let Mother Nature ‘do her thing’ rather than depend on an incubator.

Another funny thing is that this hen, I thought for sure, would be dead about a year ago.  We rescued her from a really bad situation.  Her butt was LITERALLY ripped off…she is missing a lot of her tail.  I am sure a dog got a good hold of her at some point.  Anyway, when I first got her, she was so thin and ugly, I gave the poor thing a bath.  She was absolutely filthy, and had huge gaps in her skin.  I have no idea how long she had suffered along with that, but after her bath, she did nothing but get better.  So, as you can see, she made it another year and did a great job raising these babies for me.

If you have never been around a mother hen and chicks, it is so neat to watch them interact.  You can really see in the first few photos she is teaching them to peck the ground.  The chicks are only a few days old in these pics.  She makes a very soft clucking sound over and over and the chicks immediately stop what they’re doing and do whatever mom is doing.  I wonder…would my kids respond to clucking???

What’s up, my peeps?

This was my first official attempt at hatching chicken eggs.  I used a Little Giant incubator, with no fan, but with an auto egg turner.  Temperature was kept at 99.5 degrees as much as possible, and humidity was kept rather low (called a dry hatch) at about 35-40 percent.  After 21 days, here’s what happened:

This tiny break in the shell is called a ‘pip’ (above pic).  The baby chick has broken through the inner membranes to make a tiny hole, and to put a tiny crack in the shell.  Baby chicks will remain in this phase for as long as a day.  You have to remember that the chick has been scratching non-stop for hours with the tiny ‘egg tooth’ on their beak to get to this point.  They need some rest!

 Here’s the next phase.  The chick has now opened up the pip and is enlarging the hole.  He’s getting ready to…..

ZIP!  This is my favorite part of the hatching process.  You can see that his sibling is eagerly awaiting his arrival.  The ‘zip’ stage is where the chick literally zips all the way around the egg.  This part goes fairly quickly.  That baby chick is READY to get outta there now.


 The chick shoves the zipped eggshell as hard as he can, and:

He’s out of there!  Now it’s just time to dry off, which takes several hours.

My hatching percentage wasn’t great at all…likely due to the fact I was inexperienced with hatching bird eggs (I have hatched reptile eggs 100% in the past).  This time around, I am trying a higher humidity level since I went and checked humidity with a hygrometer under a brooding hen and found it to be around 60%.  I’m currently setting more eggs at 99.5 to 100 degrees with the humidity around 50-52% and at the 2 week check, which was yesterday, I only had 2 eggs not develop further after my Week 1 check, so I’m excited!  Right now I have 11 ‘Easter egger’ eggs and 4 Silkie cross eggs. 

Here are more post-hatch images:

Here is the shell after a good hatch.  There are 2 inner membranes in the shell.  The first one closest to the chick contains the blood vessels which have sustained the chick in utero, if you will.  It is a very thin, clear membrane.  The next membrane is a tough, whitish membrane.  If the chick takes too long to hatch, this membrane will dry out too much, causing the chick to suffocate/die in the shell.  This is another reason why correct humidity is so critical.  You’ll see that there is a little pink…this is just where the vessels were.  The chick absorbs the blood which was in them during the hatching process.  This is why you CANNOT just peel a chick who is almost ready to hatch out of the shell.  Doing so will cause massive hemorrhaging and death to the chick.  I have ‘helped’ some chicks hatch, but it is an extremely slow, delicate procedure that must be done in gradual phases, over the course of many hours.

Now here’s some cute and fluffy pics of the chicks at a few days old.  The black chicks, which are Barred Plymouth Rocks, are not the ones I hatched myself.

And, how do YOU do?

A very special thanks to the Swanson family for allowing me to hatch their eggs!