Babies Galore

There are four hens raising nearly 50 chicks. Three of the hens are raising chicks I purchased from a hatchery. A broody hen is a chance to rear a new variety of hen to increase the variety of eggs. I order the chicks so they ship on a Monday, which means I can be at our local Post Office at six Wednesday morning, to get the chicks home as soon as they get unloaded off the truck.

In the past, I’ve waited for the post master’s early morning call before leaving to get them. This Wednesday, I knew from the texts I was getting from the US Postal Service, that the chicks were on their way to the Bow Post Office before I woke up Wednesday morning. I got to the Post Office before the truck pulled in to deliver Wednesday’s mail. When the post master called to let me know my chicks were in, I was knocking on her door in less than minute.

So how does it work putting hatchery chicks under a broody hen? Pretty well, provided you have more than one hen to use, in case a hen doesn’t take to the chicks. The first day can be pandemonium. Two day old chicks can walk a long way, and it works best if the broody hens are in an enclosure so the chicks can’t go too far. I find I may have to show the chicks a few times that there is a warm, secure place underneath their new mother.

I had four broody hens to try, and two of them took to the chicks I received Wednesday morning.

When the sun sets and gets cool, the chicks gravitate under their new mother’s warm feathers, and after one peaceful night resting underneath her warmth, the bond between the chicks and their new mother is set, and the following day, it’s as if the chicks were hatched by her. I kept the two hens and their chicks in enclosures until Friday afternoon, when they were bonded enough to let them out.

Having mother hens to raise chicks sure makes it easy. No heat lamps to fuss with. No checking on the chicks every hour to make sure they are OK. And a mother hen will carefully take the chicks outdoors so they can learn how to dig for earthworms, catch bugs, and enjoy the sunshine.

A downside to mother hen reared chicks is that they are on the wild side. She raises them to be chickens and not pets. “Watch out for that one,” she tells them if I get too close. But hearing their happy chirps at having a mother is worth it.

This year I’ve added Welsummer, Columbian Wyandoote, Cuckoo Maran, and Speckled Sussex chicks to the flock.

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