Final Chick Count: First Natural Hatching

You’ve probably been wondering how many chicks we ended up with. If you remember, our hens went broody, and one ended up sitting on 17 eggs (which is way too many)!

Well, the first chick hatched out at 20 days, right on time. It was fuzzy, and yellow, and oh-so-cute! I anxiously waited for more chicks to hatch, checking the brooding coop several times a day.

The day came and went. No more chicks.

Two days went by. Three days.

Uh-oh. After three days Mama Hen is supposed to get off the nest and start tending to her hatchlings.

But there were 16 more eggs to keep warm! I decided to move the hen and her new baby chick to the other side of the rabbit hutch/coop, so that she would forget about trying to sit anymore and just care for her new chick.

I then picked up another broody hen from the big coop, and put her on the still warm nest, crossing my fingers that she would adopt the clutch.

And after a couple of minutes getting acclimated, she fluffed up her feathers and settled down onto the nest, gathering the eggs underneath her breast as if they were her own.

She sat there until four more days went by, and another chick emerged. It was so exciting to go out in the morning to find another fluffy baby! I think I was more excited than the kids were!

Once again, we waited for more. We waited, and waited, and WAITED. Ten more days went by before another little chick hatched. Good grief. Now I know why everybody warned me to write dates on the eggs in the nest! I had no idea how old the eggs were, so I didn’t know when to expect them to hatch.

A couple of days later, I found a fourth chick peaking its head out from under the hen’s wing. Four chicks total. And thirteen more eggs that needed to be kept warm.

I wasn’t sure how long to leave the eggs before giving up on them. I tried candling them, but had a really hard time distinguishing anything for sure. I was so afraid I’d toss out a good egg by mistake. I decided I’d just leave the eggs in there and see what would happen. She was still sitting on them, getting up throughout the day to eat and drink and show her chicks how to find food. I figured she was doing a good enough job multitasking.

But as the days went by I began finding half-hatched chicks, dead in the shell. After about 30 days from start to finish, all of the eggs had been cracked open. Out of 17, only the four survived.

I’m not sure why the hatch rate was so poor. Maybe they weren’t staying warm enough. Who knows. At least the chicks that did make it are doing great! I’m pretty confident that one is a rooster. It was one of the last to hatch, so it’s only about 3 weeks old now, but the comb is very noticeable already.

I thought it was funny that two of the chicks ended up being white like their father (a White Leghorn), and two of them are golden brown, like the hens (Buff Orpingtons).

I think I’ll take the hens out soon to return them to the rest of the flock. I’ve found out that having the two mamas in adjoining cages wasn’t such a great idea; they’re fighting through the wire! They certainly are protective of their babies! I’ll let the chicks get just a little bigger before I separate them. I’m thinking that once the mothers are out of the way, we can handle the baby chicks and get them used to us.

So, there you have it. At least letting them hatch out naturally was more successful than when we tried to incubate a bunch. And it was fun watching the whole process take place, for me and the kids!

I definitely learned something new. Next time around… I’m dating the eggs!

8 thoughts on “Final Chick Count: First Natural Hatching”

  1. My best success is when I limit hens nest to 8 eggs. I get around 6 chicks per hen that way. If you want more chicks per hen put extra eggs in an incubator and give her the babies when they hatch in the incubator on top of what she sat on. I have had.some hens easily raise their.chicks together and others who will actively kill the.other hens chicks but it is easy enough to make pens for the moms and their broods.

  2. That’s interesting about the colours of the chicks. I wonder if there’s a sex-link gene working in there? Maybe the boys will all be one colour and the girls another.

    It’ll be interesting to see if that’s what happens!

  3. Great blog! We’re letting our broody Australorp, Weezy, hatch out some chicks as well, and we were instructed by our 87 year old salty-dog experienced chicken keeper neighbor to collect enough eggs for the clutch, mark or date them and then put them all at one time under the broody. That way they all start incubating at the same time.

    So she’s sitting on 11 marked eggs. We’ll be pulling out any other eggs that the other girls lay in the nest – in fact just this morning I saw that our Auracana, Mrs. Badcrumble, had pushed Weezy her clutch so she could lay an egg in that nest. I’m using decoy eggs to encourage the other hens to lay in the available nest boxes. We have one White Auracana, two Black Australorps and four White Leghorn hens, and our rooster is a White Leghorn as well. He is a swell guy.

  4. Question…
    We have had hens for many years, but no roos. I’m interested in getting a roo to try some natural hatching. I’m worried about having a roo around since my kiddo always helps with chicken-chores and I’ve heard many stories about aggressive roos. What is your experience? Any suggestions?

    • Holly,

      Oh girl, I’ve had some MEAN roos!! Let me tell ya! But the one we have now, a white Leghorn, is a good fella. We love him. He did go through a testing phase though. And he actually knocked my little boy down and punctured his arm with his spur. (NOT COOL!) But after being gently kicked back every time he tried to attack our feet, he stopped trying. We’ve had him since he was a baby, and my daughter has handled him a lot. Read through my chickens category and find some of my rooster posts 🙂 They are all different, you just have to find one with a good temperament!

  5. I think it’s marvelous you got four chicks. Next time it will be more. And I’m SO impressed with your canning! One year I canned just a few jars shy of 500 jars. That was my most ambitious year. Five plus gallons of blueberries? Wow! I am very interested to know how you bottled the banana peppers. I am tired of paying fifty cents for a tiny can–and that’s on sale! Maybe you have a blog post about it, I’ll check and see.

  6. Congratulations on the chicks!!! It’s one of the most exciting things and I never get used to the emergence of new life. We let our Lavender Orphingtons hatch out chicks this year. We had four as well. I feel like the chicks are savvier than any we’ve ever hatched from an incubator. I think they learn a lot from Mom. Have fun ~Jen

  7. Just a little bit of info… if you leave the chicks with their mommas they will learn to forage better, and you don’t have to keep them apart from the flock. The mommas will make quick work of anyone who tries to bother their babies!


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