When it comes to hatching chicks, gamefowl breeders have repeatedly debated which method is better between using a broody hen or an incubator. This guide will give you an overview on both methods and will help you identify which option will work best for you.
What is a Broody Hen?
A broody hen is a hen that has decided to sit on and hatch a clutch of eggs. You will notice that a hen is broody when it’s not her usual active and curious self. She becomes reluctant to get up and leave her nest, with or without eggs, and becomes defensive when you go near her eggs.
Advantages of Using Broody Hens
Some breeders opt to hatch their eggs with broody hens because they are much cheaper compared to incubators. You just have to prepare the eggs and a broody hen. Broody hens are also self-sufficient. They look out for the chicks, making it easier for the breeder to manage the process. They both serve as a heat lamp and humidifier because they can generate heat through their bodies that will keep the chicks warm by cuddling them inside her. Broody hens do their own checking and turning of eggs to equally distribute their body heat to the eggs, and will teach the chicks to eat, drink and keep themselves safe from predators. They make their own nests as long as clean beddings are provided. Some experts also claim that broody hens can detect non-fertile eggs, which saves more time than manual culling. A good broody hen can also judge the ambient temperature and could have the chicks roam outside, getting them exposed to the environment that in turn will develop their immune system.
Disadvantages of Using Broody Hens
However, using just broody hens has its challenges. Hens are not always broody, and you can’t force them to become one. And when they do, they become vicious or aggressive at times. Inexperienced broody hens can be destructive and can be too rough on the eggs when they sit on or turn them. Also, they may not always be reliable because in some cases, hens leave their nests once they get tired or bored, leaving the eggs to go cold. Compared to an incubator, you are also only limited to a specific number of eggs that can be hatched. Hence, this becomes a challenge if you want a mass production of eggs, unless you have other good broody hens.
The other method gamefowl breeders use is to hatch their eggs artificially using an incubator. Incubators are devices that keep eggs warm at a particular temperature range and in a set humidity to hatch them.
Advantages of Using Incubators
With incubators, you can hatch eggs any time of the year without waiting for a hen to go broody. You also have control over the number of eggs you will be hatching as you are only limited by the size of the incubator, making this method ideal for mass production. This is precisely one good reason why gamefowl breeders with large farms prefer incubators over broody hens. You also have full control of the temperature and humidity with incubators, and your future chicks will be safe from predators and other outside factors. Breeders who use incubators are also able to watch the process closely. And once the chicks are hatched, breeders are able to handle them easier.
Disadvantages of Using Incubators
Having or using incubators is expensive, though, compared to just having broody hens. Incubators also require a lot of power source to work, and power outages can be detrimental for you. Use of incubators is also prone to human error including accidental plugging and mistakes in temperature or humidity input. Unchecked and poorly maintained incubators can malfunction, delaying your breeding operations.
So in hatching eggs, is it going to be broody hens or incubators? Both methods can work as long as you choose one that will meet your goals. Learn to adjust your methods accordingly so that your eggs will hatch into stronger and healthier gamefowls.
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