Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Red gets Broody April 9 2013

Our plan is to wait till Nutmeg got broody this year and try to hatch chicks to replenish our flock the "natural" way.

Research and vets suggested that they are more likely to go broody if you let 13 eggs stay in the nest.

So, I made 11 fake eggs and left them in the bottom box.

The bottom box is 1X3 feet and has a 8 inch ledge. Perfect (I think so far) for a broody spot.
I can make a chicken wire cover for it to keep the other girls out and convert it to a chick sized opening for when the babies are allowed to venture out so that the others can't eat their chick food.

Anyways... the wrong hen went broody. Red is my best layer.

Oh well.

Here is how my experiment is going.

April 6-8 A few days before.

Red starts acting strange. Paranoid, agitated, ruffling up feathers at me and the other girls, growling on the nest, almost acting rooster-ish by picking up morsels and dropping them and clucking (this is also what mother hens do for their chicks)

April 9 Day 1

Red broods on the nest and poofs and huffs and growls. She only gets up for about 5 minutes to go outside, eat some food and drink some water.

I get 4 eggs from the neighbor (who has roosters). I mark them with the mother hen's name and today's date and trade them for the fake eggs.
Red just growled and didn't bite me (thank goodness).

Here is a video of me trying not to get attacked when replacing the fake eggs with real ones (hopefully fertile).

April 10 Day 2

Still on the nest this morning :-) Got a few more eggs to put under her for a full brood.
10 eggs from the farm down the road and their BEAUTIFUL BIG rooster named "Dog".
Research advises against this adding to the nest thing and says to do all the eggs at once. I hope less than 24 hours won't make too much of a difference.

Red gladly took the new eggs under her wing. Cooing and clucking as she arranged the 14.
I will go back tonite and see if I can get all the fake eggs and check for any new lay eggs.

Had to open up another nest box because Puff was trying to squish in with Red and Nutmeg was trying to lay in the one available box. Once I opened it up with fresh fluffy bedding, Puff settled right in.

So far, I am thinking to leave the brood box open and let Red do her job keeping out the other girls. Nutmeg  seems to heed Red's growls and avoids going in the brooder box. Now that the 2nd nest box is open, I don't see too much of a problem with Puff anymore.

Once the chicks hatch (hopefully) I am still debating on making a chick hole for their feed and water or switching all the girls over to starter and providing eggshell as a free choice for the extra calcium the big girls will need. With the warmer and dryer weather coming up, they will be able to get in the grass more often.

Mark the calendar for hatch date of April 28 and candling day of April 17th.

April 11 Day 3

Red still sitting. The eggs should be well heated and humid by now and starting to form.
So, until that hatch day comes, I will talk about what is going on under the shell.

It all happens so FAST! Stasis to puffy little chickie in 20 days!


Day 1

That little paler yellow bullseye spot on the yolk will start to develop nerves that will form the brain and nervous system.
The eyes will also begin to form.
This tiny little speck embryo will take shape by the end of the day (kinda like a shrimp).
The head will form and the spine tract (no bone).

Day 2

Starting in on the ears and heart today.
Blood vessels are faintly visible.
By the end of the day that little mass of heart cells starts to beat.

Here we are on day 3

Starting in on nasal passages, legs and wings.
Blood vessels are clearly visible.
That little heart is formed and beating.
click the link below to see a heart beat from Purdue University

April 12 Day 4

Still on the nest. (I keep noting this because it is her 1st time broody and her breed is not prone to broodiness, Rhode Island Red. There is a chance she will "snap out of it" too soon and the whole bunch will die.

Under the shell... 

The little chicken tongues are starting to form.
The eyes are developing pigment.
Embryo weighs about 1/2 gram.
The Chick looks less like a worm now and more like a comma with its head portion building up cells and structures for a fully functioning chick in only 15 more days!

April 13 Day 5

What a champ. It's hard to tell if she gets up at all for food or water because when they do it is only for a minute. So, I have been breaking my "no interference rule" and spoon-feeding her once a day. I know, I know. But... she IS my BEST hen! She is the healthiest, toughest and lays the greatest eggs on a regular basis. I would hate to have her under for some illness because of under eating or dehydration.
I just put a tablespoon of the fermented feed in a yogurt cup with a drop of poultry drench (a vitamin supplement that is great!) and some additional water and offer it to her if she will take it. Nothing too heavy or tough.

Anyways... I candled and numbered the eggs today. Yeah, she bit me hard, but I got wise and pinned her head between my ring and middle finger as I pulled the eggs out one at a time. Then, her screechy bird growl got deeper and meaner and she sounded like a dog growling.

This is the one I wanted to get broody (she did it last year).
It was difficult for me to tell what was viable and what was not at this time. I used an led flashlight and my hand. Not the best candler.

Isn't it cool to think that blood is formed from a place where there is no blood to start out with? Life is so magical and miraculous.

I plan on candling again on day 10. That will give me a definite answer.

Day 5 under the shell...

The little nugget has over doubled it's weight.
Starts to form the reproductive organs.
Elbows and knees are visible on the embryo.
Bones of the legs are forming.
Crop starts to form.

April 14  day 6

Red gets up in the early morning to get a bite to eat and stretch her wings. Only for just a minute 'cause it sure is cold outside lately (in the 30's)! A touch of winter reminder after some really nice weather before spring break.

I made a better candler with a spotlight flashlight and a cover with a hole in it. I think the hole may need to be a tad bigger for more light. It would also help if the coop were totally dark. I must try again at night.

I adorned my leather gauntlet on my left hand and a nitrile glove on my right and went to work with a checklist and dark pencil.

Red is getting really aggressive now she is a week into this.

There are 2 Easter egger blue/green in there with super thick shells and the light just won't penetrate so I ? marked those.
# 4 was easily recognizable as infertile (from the rooster "Dog"). I expect more infertile from this bunch because Dog has about 20-30 hens he takes care of. The 4 I got from the closer neighbor has 1 roo to 3 hens - much better chance but was not sure how old the eggs were.

#12 was definite good so far (a brown from the group of 4)

Unsure of #s 3, 9, 10 and 11 (2 of which are Easter eggers)

Day 6 under the shell

About 1/3 of a gram in weight now.
The beak and egg-tooth are starting to form today.
Intestines grow and begin to loop up.
Gizzard starts to form.
Ribs begin  to appear.

In candling the eye of the embryo should be a definite dark spot on the yolk. Healthy blood vessles should radiate from the dark spot.

April 15  Day 7

Last nite I went in at dark and got a good candling.
The 2 Easter Eggers are still difficult but I am fairly sure they are good.
I am sure #'s 7, 12 and 14 are good with nice veining.
#9 I still have a question mark by and the rest are ok I think.
Red sure was MAD last nite biting and tugging so hard I could feel it through my cow-hide rose gauntlets.

Under the shell

Weighs in at over a half of gram.

Feather papillae begin to form.

The little buggers are looking more like a chicken shaped embryo. With a huge head and eyes and a teeny tiny beak and limbs.

Videos of Red's "outing" this morning. I hope you enjoy these and get to observe some broody behavior.

Below - Red is really excited about food and at the end, "defends" her clutch from Nutmeg.

Below - She settles back in to business.

She went outside in the run and took a flash bath.

Went outside in the grass for some good ole fashioned chicken-ing.

As like folks with babies, folks with chikens have an instinctive urge to talk about poop.
Here is my picture of broody chiken poop. Eeeeeewwwwwweee.
 That gross mass is a big as my hand.

The broody hen will not poop in her nest. Can you imagine getting up once a day to poop and eat and bathe and exercise all within a 10 minute span? "Yup" says you new moms out there ;-)

13 Days to go!

April 16 Day 8

So far so good today.

Under the Shell Day 8

Those poofy chickie feathers are already starting to form.
Doubles weight again at about 1.15grams
The inner eyelid (nictitating membrane starts to form. (kinda creepy and lizard-like but I wouldn't complain if I had one to protect my eyes from the sawdust and dirt and dust).
Bone marrow cavity begins to form in the femur (the big bone in the thigh).
The egg tooth is starting to form. Gotta have that for getting out of the shell in less than 2 weeks.

April 17 Day 9

The past few days she has been getting up around 8:30-9am for a break. Then I saw her out again last nite for about 5 minutes.
Poor thing is getting poorly. Her comb is shrunken a bit and beginning to fold (sign of dehydration). Her wattles are pink with some white on the edges. I have gone back to adding "poultry drench" to the food and leaving it a bit more watery to help with the hydration.
(I feed the girls fermented feed instead of dry.)
I really believe this is helping her to stay at her best (whatever that may be) during this tough time.

Under the shell Day 9

Upper eyelids begin to cover the eye.
And kneecaps begin to form. (Go figure. Chickens have kneecaps. I don't think I can recall noticing kneecaps before. Next time I chow down I will so be looking for the kneecap).
Only a 50% increase in weight today at about 1.5 grams.
Mouth opening begins to appear.

11 days to go.

April 17 Day 10


Sad nite.

My daughter locked the hens up and noticed an egg poking out under Red and it had cracked.
Fearing it may be rotten, we took it outside to open it up.
Sadly, it was a fresh crack and the little chickie heart was still beating :-(
A cracked shell can not remain in the nest as the crack will allow pathogens to enter and the embryo will die anyway. Not to mention a rotty stinky egg bomb which can infect the hen and other eggs.

The loss was egg number 8. From Dog the rooster.

After under the shell... I have posted photos for educational purposes. Note that the chickie was not sacrificed for these photos as the shell was previously damaged.
Be aware that the photos may be graphic for some readers.

Under the Shell Day 10

Up to about 2.25 grams.
The day of tooth and nail. Beak begins to harden. Egg tooth is prominent. Claws begin to form.
Comb becomes visible (if the breed has a comb).
Flight feather appear.
Lower eyelids develop.

You will notice all the features in the photo below. I could see the little chickie claws on the tips of the toes.
And, it's little chickie tail. And sadly, it's little chickie heartbeat.
Typo - should be  8 of 14

In the photo below... you can see how the blood vessels are all along the inside of the shell allowing the blood to breathe for gas exchange.

April 18 Day 11

All is quiet today.

Day 11 Under the Shell

Comb begins to serrate (if that's the kind it is).
Tail and back feathers begin to show up.
Up to about 3.7 grams today.
Claws begin to turn down and feet pads start to show up.
Embryo begins to draw calcium from the shell for bone formation.

April 20 Day 12

Only 8 days to go and I am getting really "egg-cited". I got to candle 8 eggs and they are all great! I even saw some chickie movement in a few. (high-pitched eeeee.... with hands in fists shaking) - that's my little soft squeal of delight :-p
The numbers i remember are 14, 13, 12, 1, and I think 9, 3, 7 and 5? I did not have my record pad with me.
2 are the easter eggers of wich I did not attempt due to shell thickness and the other 2 were being brutally defended by Red and I had decided she had enough - poor girl.

I have been trying to catch her off the nest to take a peek at the clutch but doing that is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Under the shell Day 12

Chickie weighs in at about 5 grams.
Legs begin to scale.
Ribs begin to ossify (develop into bone).
Feathers are more visible.

April 21 Day 13

Yeah! A week from today is the due date.

Under the Shell Day 13

About 7.4 grams.
Scales and claws formed.
Feathers lightly cover the whole body.
Wishbone fuses.

April 22 Day 14

Six more days to go! She is still all puffed up on her dozen. Comb looking worse. I have not been "feeding" her as much lately and the "trouble twins" have been locked up in there with her on the account of the weather. This week's forecast is gorgeous. It will give me a chance to finish the run (hopefully). Which means the Puff-N-Nutter will be able to get out for some good foraging and leave mama alone.

Under the Shell Day 14
Positioning - the embryo turns head "down" to the larger end of the egg.
Up to about 9.75 grams.
Skull is beginning to ossify.

April 23 Day 15

5 Days left! Hang in there Red Mama!
I caught her out as I was bringing out the feed.
Nice time to get some sun.
She has always been a "lean" hen. Not unhealthy lean but an "athletic" lean.
Now she is just plain thin! Poor girl.

Under the Shell Day 15

Half way there for the little puffball weighing in at about 12-13 grams (half of it's hatch weight).
Claws, beak scales are beginning to harden.

April 24 Day 16

4 days to go!
Red got out twice yesterday!
I guess she felt it was OK since it was warmer than it had been and sunny.
Take advantage while you can right?

Under the Shell Day 16

Looks like a baby chickie now - just a little smaller.
The albumen is gone.
Almost 16 grams in weight.
Scales, claws and beak are almost completely hardened.
From here on out, the changes will be mostly positioning and preparation for hatch!!!

April 25 Day 17

3 Days left.

Under the Shell  Day 17

Amniotic fluid is decreasing.
Head is positioned between legs.
Up to about 18.5 grams.
Beak turning toward air sack in preparation for breathing and hatching.

April 26 Day 18

Poor Red Chicken. Day 18 of sitting. Her comb is so shrunken and she is a rail. She gets up more often to eat now. The hunger is getting to her. Only 2 days left girl, keep on sitting!

Under the Shell Day 18

Almost there!
About 22 grams.
The yolk sack is still outside the body but, the beak is in position under the wing to break that shell.
Between today and tomorrow...
... the beak will break through the air cell and the lungs will begin to function in preparation for the outside.

April 27 Day 19

One more day.

Under the Shell Day 19

About 25.5 grams.
Yolk sack is being drawn into the body to nourish the chick for a few days after hatch.
Amniotic fluid is gone and the chick fills up the egg (minus the air sack).

April 28 Day 20

Get Ready for a Birthday Party!!!
Due today, tomorrow and the day after at the latest.

Under the Shell Day 20

Fully grown now at about 30.25 grams.
Yolk sack is completely drawn into the chick body.
The chick starts to breathe the air sack.
Internal pip.
Soon, the neck will start to spasm, causing the egg tooth to pip, or break through the shell.
It will take hours for the chick to crack around the shell and break free.

April 29 Day 21

Hatch Day

Red  is fiercer than ever. She seems to be a little concerned on what is going on under her. She will freeze for a bit, and then take a look under her all around.
I fed her this morning so she would not have to get up unless she needed to.
It is a chilly windy day today and (hopefully) she will want to keep those fresh hatching chicks nice and toasty under her wings.

Under the Shell Day 21

Pretty much hatch time.
Neck spasms break the shell.
This takes hours from a pip to hatch.

Red got up between noon and 1pm to stretch her legs.
I got some photos and video.
The 2 Easter-eggers and #5 are piping.
I could hear the cheep-cheeps from inside the egg!

I went in to put them up for the nite. There would be  some "cheep cheep cheep" from under Red. Red would puff up and move around a bit, tuck her head under and cluck and coo.

Hopefully Red will let them be seen and I can get some chick pics tomorrow.

I have set some fermented feed and water in the box and taped up a "wall" to help keep out the others.

Here is a video of broody behavior.


Here is a short clip of one of the chickies. It is an ameraucana mix.
Red is being a GREAT chikie mama. She is communicating and keeping the big girls away. She is keeping the babies close and staying on the rest of the clutch of eggs. I did get a peek while she was rounding up the movers and saw several eggs with crackings.

This  is the last of this post. Enjoy!

THE END Beginning!







  1. Wow what a great little update with lots of details. I am new to chickens. We have 5 hens and 2 roosters but I know nothing about broody hens yet. Thank you for this post. Found you through the blog hop.

  2. Completely drawn into Red's first time as a momma- Keep us updated!!! I'll be following along.

  3. Thanks. It is my first time doing this. I am drawn in as well :-)The hardest part is candling since these eggs are from well cared for free range local neigbors, the shells are SO thick and well formed. I will keep posting on clever chicks. less than 2 weeks till floofy chick time!

  4. Great post. I will be back for sure!

    I am giving away a set of Ball Canning blue pint jars on my blog right now, I hope you'll stop by!

    Fresh Eggs Daily

    1. Thanks Lisa! I sure did stop by and enter - beautiful jars! With all the spring goings on I have forgotten to stop by.Best wishes.

    2. This is wonderful! thank you so much for sharing. My little bantam Cochin, Gawk, went broody and caught me completely unprepared! I am now scrambling to learn all I need to know to help her be successful. This is so helpful! she is now on day 6 and going strong.

  5. This process is fascinating every, single time. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

    1. Thanks Kathy! I love your hop and all the great contributions. Your hatch alongs have been addicting to follow. I think I am already hatch addicted. I hope the best for the little puffballs and will be posting updates on the the clever chicks hop.

  6. I appreciate such an informative post. I have 10 Rhode Island Red female chicks (and one male) that are a week old so when they are grown I will not expect any broodiness from them. Looking forward to seeing your new chicks!

    1. LOL! ;-) I got the RIR for it's not particularly broody trait. HAHA Looking back, I see that last year she started a bit by making secret nests in the groves when she was supposed to be foraging, and pulling out her chest feathers. I guess this year she decided to go all out. Although, the had about 3 "secret" nests this year. :-) I LOVE my RIR (such "personality" on this one)and hope to add more down the road. These are "mutt" eggs from other local keepers so no RIR mixes in this bunch :-( Best wishes for your young puffballs!


I love to hear from you and will read all your comments.
Please share your thoughts!