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Eggs not hatching -- what do I do? — The Grow Network Community
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Eggs not hatching -- what do I do?

Merin PorterMerin Porter Editorial DirectorSouthwest Colorado (Zone 6a)Posts: 723 admin
Hi Merin

Other hens slipping in new eggs...sly girls!  This makes a mess.

Different eggs will be at different stages and the hen might just keep sitting and sitting and waiting for everything to hatch.  If there are dead eggs in the batch, they can explode and contaminate the good ones.  This is a horrible thing to clean up so my vote is that you intervene.

I use a regular flashlight to see if they are developing.  Dark brown eggs are harder so it's easiest if it is dark. Practice on a few of your regular eggs so that you can ID what no development looks like.

I pick up each egg and cup it sideways in my hand while shining the flashlight under it.  As chicks grow the egg becomes darker and eventually you can see almost no light through the shell.  Sometimes I've heard little chirps right before they hatch.

I check each one and mark it with a regular pencil (not pen or marker).  I write the date on one side (so I don't have to remember).  I also put an X on the opposite side, that way I can always see the marks.  I aim to have all the eggs with similar development and remove any that are outliers.

You might also want to note how far along each one is (maybe with a portion of a circle?).  Then you could recheck them in a few days and see if they are progressing.  I take a bit of care to not flip the eggs but I don't think it would be too horrible if it happens.

After I've marked all the eggs, I check the nest daily and remove any new eggs.  I don't candle them again unless I think there is a problem.  I remove any egg if the date is older than 30 days.  Gently!  If rotten, they can explode.

Or - if it's really a mess, I attempt a do over, but this is pretty iffy.  I mark new eggs, slip them under the hen and wait at least 24 hours for her to get used to them.  Then I remove the old unmarked eggs.

She's already got 30 eggs under her so I would reduce that by half the day before I put in new ones.  Too much change, too fast can push a hen out of brooding.

There is still a good chance the hen will abandon the nest before the second batch hatches, but I have done it successfully several times.



  • Merin PorterMerin Porter Editorial Director Southwest Colorado (Zone 6a)Posts: 723 admin
    edited May 2018
    Thank you so much, Sherry! This is such great information. We didn't end up with any live chicks. (We had one hatch fully, but when I went out that morning it was dead. I don't know if the mother killed it or another chicken did -- or if it just wasn't viable -- but I moved everyone to the brooder box after that, just in case it was killed by another chicken. Still, we didn't end up with any other hatched eggs after that.) The hen that hatched the chick was the one who was setting on fewer eggs. She eventually abandoned the nest and took up residence in one of the other nest boxes that had a handful of eggs in it that I hadn't collected yet. So I marked those with pencil, marked the date on the calendar, and am planning to try candling them tomorrow.

    I'm still not sure whether she killed that chick, so I'm wondering whether I should get an incubator and move the eggs to it a few days before they're supposed to hatch and just put some golf balls under her during that time and try to put the live chicks under her at night or ...?

    Sigh. I told my husband that this isn't the idyllic, "let Mother Nature do it and it will all be perfect" scenario I had hatched (ha ha) in my mind. So, fingers crossed. We'll see what happens. But what do you think about moving those eggs to an incubator?

    Thank you so much!

  • sherryosherryo Posts: 58
    edited May 2018
    <span style="color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.87); font-family: BwGlennSansRegular; font-size: 12px; background-color: #fbfbfb;">I told my husband that this isn’t the idyllic, “let Mother Nature do it and it will all be perfect” scenario...</span>
    I feel like you had great results...maybe not chicks but wow you had a few obstacles and you DID get one to hatch.  Plus your hen is still broody.  My hens always lose interest around day 14...

    I've been around chickens for decades and I've never seen a hen kill her own hatched baby.  They will kill chicks they don't recognize as their own, and I've seen a few hens that were neglectful but I bet your hen will do just fine.

    I haven't had any luck getting a hen to take chicks back from an incubator.  They don't recognize them anymore. I have slipped partially incubated eggs under hens so you might consider trying that.
  • dharma.refugedharma.refuge Posts: 2
    edited May 2018
    I have had success with broody hens. I mark the eggs when she goes broody, and when she is off the nest, I take out any that aren't marked. I won't let anyone sit on more than 12, even if they are large breeds, so she is better able to keep them all warm and turned. I have two hens that go broody every year, but in the summer so I'm hoping for some fertilized Polish eggs to hatch, since my Polish cock is 5 months old. They hens usually go broody in late July. I wouldn't worry about putting insulation in the nest, if the hen feels that they need more insulation, she will pull feathers out to line it.

    I doubt very much that she killed the chick, given the fact that none of the others hatched. It probably had a medical issue, and believe me, after taking care of a chick with special needs for a few months, then have to put them down because they just aren't going to make it is heartbreaking. Good luck with your next hatch!
  • sherryosherryo Posts: 58
    edited June 2018
    Hi Merin

    Just wondering how things are going with your chick adventure?
  • Merin PorterMerin Porter Editorial Director Southwest Colorado (Zone 6a)Posts: 723 admin
    edited June 2018
    Hi Sherry,

    Thanks so much for checking in! Believe it or not, we've actually got three littles running around with their momma right now! It was a long, hard haul -- full of lots of unfun lessons -- but eventually we got there.

    Basically what happened is that we had that unsucessful hatch, but the momma just wouldn't quit being broody. So finally -- several days after there was a chance that any of the eggs would hatch -- I removed all the eggs from her nest when she took her daily break. There just happened to be 10 eggs in one of the other nest boxes that I hadn't collected yet that day, and the broody hen promptly took up residence on those eggs! This time around went much more smoothly, and even though we only ended up with three littles, I'm still counting this a success!

    Sure do appreciate all of your (and everyone's!) advice. It helped so much!
  • sherryosherryo Posts: 58
    edited June 2018
    Hi Merin

    Yay!  Thanks for the update.  You did it!
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