My neighbours, Josee and Adam, have had chickens for a few years but only had their first broody hen this summer. I was short of fertilized eggs on the day they needed them, so they got some from Thomas & Elizabeth.

Then in September they had a second broody and I gave them 12 eggs. Unfortunately this hen, being a first timer, was a bit inexperienced. She’d roll some eggs out and Josee would place them back under her. Inconsistent incubation can cause a developing embryo to slow down its development to compensate for the cooling temperatures, or it can die. If it slows down and then is added back to the clutch its hatch time might be delayed or it can have birth defects.

I’m not sure if this is what happened but only three of the original 12 eggs hatched. Josee said the hen seemed to be sitting consistently but those that did hatch were 3-4 days late. I went to check them out and they look healthy and robust. They had saved the unhatched eggs so I could do an ‘eggtopsy’ – cracking them open and seeing why they didn’t hatch. I look to see if the eggs were unfertilized (not common with my rooster), early quitters (slightly developed embryo) or fully developed but didn’t hatch. The most common times for embryos to die is in the first, or last, three days of development.

It’s never a pleasant task (especially when you find fully developed chicks) but I was curious to see why their hatch rate wasn’t more successful. Josee left the eggs in a ziplock bag by their barn and when I arrived we found the ravens had beat me to them. They had ripped open the bag, broken and eaten the contents. So we’ll just be left guessing.

They don’t have a rooster and are concerned about the neighbours and crowing. I’m hoping they give one of their earlier chicks, a Buff Orpington x Easter Egger cockerel, a trial run as I think roosters are an integral part of keeping chickens. They are flock animals, so it’s a bit unnatural to eliminate all the males. Roosters protect the hens from predators, bring them food – often eat last , mediate conflicts and take care of chicks. They are often the friendliest and most beautiful birds in a flock.

Here are some shots of their 2 acre property (Adam is a builder, Josee is a herbalist and they run a B&B La Belle Vie) and animals. The larger chicks are from Thomas and Elizabeth’s eggs, the newborns are mine.

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