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Hatching Eggs : Broody Hen or Incubator, which is best?

When it comes to hatching eggs you have only two options, put them in an incubator or let a broody hen do the hatching for you. Each option has definite pros and cons, and each chicken keeper has their own preference.

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There are many differences between hatching eggs using an incubator and using a broody hen. The broody hen is obviously the more natural way to go, and the chicks will be more well adapted to life in the chicken coop and feel at home amongst the flock. On the other hand, hatching in an incubator gives you all the control and getting a front-row seat to watch each chick hatch is so much fun!

When you're hatching eggs you have one very important decision to make. Should you use a broody hen or an incubator? Our guide will help you decide! #homesteading #homestead #backyardchickens #chickens #raisingchickens #poultry

There are many reasons to choose either a broody hen or an incubator for hatching eggs. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Broody Hen

Benefits

1. Availability of Eggs is much easier when you have hens of your own and a broody hen ready to hatch them. Pick the eggs that are full-size and clean to put under your momma wannabe.

2. A hen makes her own nest, so the cost and set up of an incubator is not necessary. Just make sure to provide a plentiful supply of clean bedding.

3. The constant checking and turning of eggs required with an incubator are all taken care of by the hen. She turns the eggs as needed, keeps them up to temperature, and even pulls her feathers to provide the humidity they need.

4. If only one chick hatches out of a clutch, the chick will not be distressed by the lack of other flock members, because it has its momma.

5. The hen will teach the chicks how to eat and drink, where to find the best bugs, and keeps them safe from predators.

6. The chicks will socialize better with the flock because it hatched and spent its early days with them. Hen hatching decreases the chance of aggressive behavior towards it later.

Drawbacks

1. A hen may not go broody, even though they have every other year. It’s best to have a few hens that you can count on in case this happens. The top five chicken breeds for broody hens, according to Carolina Coops, are Silkies, Cochins, Buff Orpingtons, Brahmas, and Sussex. 

2. There is no way to time a broody hen. The most common time they go into broodiness is in the spring or early summer. You can collect eggs and keep them for up to ten days, but there is no guarantee.

3. Hens can only hatch the number of eggs they can fit under them, according to their size and the size of the eggs. The average is around eight.

4. You will need to provide a clean, dry area away from the rest of the flock, but still inside the coop for the hen to hatch her clutch.

Risks

1. Not all hens are great mothers. Hens can abandon their eggs, in which case if you don’t have an incubator on standby, it would mean a total loss of the chicks from that clutch.

2. Some hens break the eggs by being too rough with them while turning, or in general.

3. Cleanliness may be an issue with a hen. If she poops on her eggs, it affects the chick inside since the shell is so porous. Gently washing off the poop can help to save the chick within the egg.

4. Hens don’t always take care of eggs that have gone bad. Sitting on an egg that is rotten or getting it to the temperature the hatching eggs require, may cause it to explode. The rotten egg will seep through the shell and inflict harm on the chick.

5. Chicks hatched by their mother have not socialized with the flock owner, unlike when an incubator and brooder box have been used.

6. Just as any member of the flock is vulnerable at times to predators or aggressive flock mates, a baby chick is especially vulnerable. Put them in a separate enclosed cage within your coop for safekeeping.

Incubator

Benefits

1. You can hatch any time you desire with an incubator. You can hatch eggs any season of the year.

2. The size of your incubator only limits the number of eggs you can hatch. They come in all sizes. 

3. The flock owner can watch their little chicks hatch through the clear plastic lid. It is a great experience to share with neighbors, family, or friends.

4. Controlling the temperature and humidity of the hatching many times increases the hatching rate.

5. The safety of the chick from predators and other chickens is improved mainly by using an incubator and the subsequent brooder box.

Drawbacks

1. The amount of work using an incubator is much higher for the flock owner. The constant demand for watching temperature, humidity, and turning for the 21 days is necessary for producing a healthy hatching rate.

2. The cost of an incubator and brooder box is higher than having a broody hen. 

3. The chicks will be inside for at least eight weeks, and they do have a bit of an odor. Then once they reach that milestone, you will need to provide a separate space for them within the coop until the flock gets used to them.

Risks

1. Power outages are probably the most devastating thing for a flock owner as they are trying to hatch a group of eggs. Always have a backup source of electricity in case this happens.

2. A temperature gauge that is not working can cause a disaster with your hatching. Place a second thermometer inside of the incubator to double-check the temp.

3. Human error can occur during the process. Lack of turning, not enough humidity, and many other factors may come into play. 

Phew! That’s a lot of information, but we hope it will help you decide on which route you’ll take in hatching new members of your flock. 

Which of these two methods do you prefer? Have you had more success with one than the other?

Tell us about it in the comment section below.

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