If you find yourself in a situation where you need to hatch goose eggs without a goose, you should know your options. Many rush to use an incubator, but there is a more natural way that saves you time and effort.
A broody chicken will hatch a goose egg when given the chance, but they will likely need help turning the egg and keeping the correct level of humidity. Hens are usually able to sit on 4 to 6 goose eggs at a time.
Chickens are an effective way to naturally incubate goose eggs, and the process is more hands-off than manual incubation. Keep reading to learn how chickens accomplish this task and why many prefer to use them for it.
What is a Broody Chicken?
A broody chicken (as well as a broody goose or a broody duck) has had either a hormonal or instinctual trigger to start hatching eggs.
Broody chickens will stop laying and start behaviors to hatch eggs, including sitting and becoming protective over the nest.
Identifying a Broody Chicken
Broody chickens are easy to identify. They are the ones that act reluctant to get off a nest, whether it has eggs in it or not. These hens will act the same toward fertilized or unfertilized eggs, making it difficult to collect eggs at times.
Broody chickens may peck at your hand when you check for eggs underneath them, and you should notice feathers missing on their chest or belly. Their comb and wattle are usually paler than usual.
A broody chicken will only leave the next once or twice a day to eat and drink. Apart from this, they sit very flat on the nest to cover as many eggs as possible and may even refuse to put their feet down when you pick them up.
While these chickens are a nuisance when you are collecting chicken eggs for consumption, they are useful for hatching valuable goose eggs.
How to Get a Broody Chicken to Hatch a Goose Egg
To get a broody chicken to hatch a goose egg you need to set up the right conditions. This starts with collecting and storing the eggs properly so they have a better chance of hatching after incubation.
Setting up the environment is usually straightforward, but we will go over the details to give you the best idea of what is needed throughout this process.
By following these steps you should have a better chance of hatching a goose egg with your chicken.
Collecting and Storing Goose Eggs
Collect eggs from your geese a few times a day for the most optimized schedule, somewhere between 2 and 4. Most geese lay their eggs in the morning, so expect the bulk of your collection at this time.
Once you collect the eggs, use a pencil to note the date and mark the sides of the egg. When storing them make sure they are flat on their side, not upright in a carton.
Clean any dirty eggs individually with a gentle brush or sandpaper. Eggs that do not come clean this way can be scrubbed in water, but you must maintain a temperature warmer than the eggs at all times. You should also use a disinfectant like sodium hypochlorite to disinfect the water.
Fumigating the eggs using formaldehyde gas (formalin), formaldehyde powder (paraformaldehyde), or solar radiation can help prevent Aspergillus and Salmonella from penetrating the shell and improve chances of hatching healthy goslings.
Goose eggs can be stored at room temperature for up to 10 days before you start incubating them. You can store them in the refrigerator as a backup plan, but these eggs have lower hatching rates. The longer you wait, the less likely they are to successfully hatch.
Setting Up the Right Environment
Make sure you identify enough broody hens to sit on the eggs. While a goose can lay 10 to 12 eggs in a clutch, a hen can only effectively sit on 4 to 6. This means you will need to have at least 2 or 3 hens per clutch, or you will need to find another way to incubate the remaining eggs.
Put the nest box in a location that is both private and secure, like a secluded pen, in the barn or garage, or the brooder house.
You should also put food and water near the nest box, but not so close that she can stay at the nest and eat. Broody hens need to leave the nest for about 15 minutes a day for their health, and this will prompt her to.
Place the goose eggs in a single layer in the nest box and add the chicken to the area. Let her search and discover the nest on her own. Soon she will settle in and begin sitting, leaving long enough each day only to eat and drink.
Make sure you provide fresh food, water, and grit, even if she does not eat it all.
Assisting with Goose Egg Care
While a broody chicken will attempt to turn over the eggs, she may not always be successful. Goose eggs are much larger than chicken eggs. This is where marking the sides comes in handy.
Turn the goose eggs 2 to 3 times a day to help the hen out. This will prevent the yolk from sticking to the shell and stopping the gosling from developing.
Goose eggs also do better with more humidity. When they are under a goose they get this from the water off her feathers, but the chicken cannot do the same. Misting the eggs with a spray bottle daily should be enough to keep both the eggs and the chicken healthy.
Why Use a Chicken to Hatch a Goose Egg?
While a goose can sit on a single clutch until they hatch, this is a more expensive and wasteful approach to hatching. Geese are not laying eggs when they are setting, and broody chickens can be useful in this setting.
Using a broody chicken instead of an incubator allows for a more natural and hands-off process for you, but you should still expect to help out.