Have a healthy hatch!

Lisa Mancell, National Coordinator from Farmgate, gives her advice on how to prepare for hatching season  With prime hatching season just round the corner, now is the time to focus on preparing your hens and laying the foundations to give their chicks the best start in life.

You may be looking to replenish or grow your flock this spring and if you have a reliably broody hen and a cockerel, then the natural hatching route is the cheapest and most accessible way to achieve this. Five hens to one cockerel is about the right ratio to ensure optimum fertility.

Smallholder Feeds

Caring for broody hens

It is important to separate the broody hen to her own little coop (with nest box and run) in a quiet spot away from the rest of the flock. Ensure the coop is predator proof, that their broody box is at least 40cm sq. and the floor is lined with short straw or wood shavings.

Before the broody hen sets to work, it’s worth placing a few less important eggs underneath her to ensure she’s committed to sit. Once you can be confident that you have chosen a reliable broody hen, then put the eggs you want to hatch under her very gently and remove the others. Your broody hen will only get off her eggs once a day to feed, drink and do her business.

Mark the hatching date in your calendar, chicks typically take 21 days to hatch so your hen will need to sit for a full three weeks. Once you get to day 21, if there is no sign of hatching then be patient as it may take another couple of days.

Nutrition for mother hen

Consistency is key when it comes your hen’s diets, just like in our own, so maintaining a well-balanced approach to nutrition is vital.

Sitting hens do not need the same level of calcium in their diet for making eggshells but there is merit in feeding an out-of-lay hen calcium to restore her body reserves, and she will simply excrete any excess she doesn’t need. Avoid feeding your sitting hen any additional calcium, such as oystershell grit when out of lay, as it will just be a burden for her to absorb and excrete.

Farmgate Layers Pellets and Mash contain optimum levels of calcium, phosphorous, Vitamin D3 and the correct balance of good quality protein and fibre to keep your sitting hens full and provide beneficial bacteria in their gut. It also contains enhanced levels of vitamins which supports good fertility, hatchability and chick viability.

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Hatch day and beyond

From day 18, leave your sitting hen undisturbed – with food and water in reach, but away from the reach of her chicks. Once you get to day 21 keep an eye out for signs of hatching, this can take between 24 hours to three days. After the hatch has finished, remove the empty shells and any unhatched eggs from the nesting box and get rid of any hen faeces. After this, provide some water in a shallow dish and chick crumbs, then leave mum to bond with her chicks.

Feed quality plays a crucial role in a chick’s development in their first week. Chicks come from a different environment in the embryonic phase, and they depend on key nutrients to start adjusting to new conditions. Farmgate offer a specially formulated starter crumb containing essential vitamins and trace elements. It’s the first choice for feeding, from day old up to six weeks for laying pullets and it’s formulated with an anticoccidial feed additive as an aid to the prevention of coccidiosis in growing hens.

Providing new chicks with the best nutritional foundation can significantly impact their future development and laying capacity. Early feeding has a positive effect on poultry production by improving yolk utilisation, growth rate, development of digestive and immune systems which result in an overall superior performance.

Get in touch with our Farmgate specialists

Contact our team for advice or find your local stockist.

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