Broody hens are crazy. They hold their poop FOREVER, starve themselves, pluck all the feathers out of their chests and WILL NOT MOVE. Even when there's a line up of chickens screaming at her to quit hogging the best nesting box. Even when I fight her everyday for my breakfast. She WILL NOT MOVE.
We weren't planning on raising chicks this year, but, Mother Nature always wins. So here's how we did it.
(and here's our YouTube video about the experience)
One night after we got the kids to bed, Jon and I went outside after dark. We snuck into the coop. Chicken's can't see well in the dark but they still knew something was up. Everyone started bok bok BAGOCKing. The drake duck (his name is Tripp), was hissing. We were whispering to each other like we were parents after bedtime or something.
We snatched that broody chicken up out of her box and moved her to our other shed.
We already have a little brooding pen set up in there from the chicks we raised last spring.
(this picture is from last year's spring chicks)
We used a milk crate with some straw in it for a nest, then decided to risk it and put the eggs under her right away. Some people will use fake eggs like rocks or golf balls for the first night just to make sure they are going to stay sitting. We should have done that.
After we put her in the box we gave her a few minutes to settle, and then checked on her again. She was walking around in the dark. So Jon put her back in the box. We also noticed a powerful smell of poo.
The next morning we found her sitting beside the milk crate nest. We also saw that she took her big ole broody poop right on top of the eggs. I guess it was a rough night. And we should have used some golf balls. Jon set her back on the nest. Later in the day she was still sitting there, so we switched the eggs out for some fresh clean ones.
I ended up putting fifteen eggs under her. According to my research - that's a lot. But I believed in her.
I should also mention that we put food and water in there, and had a heat lamp ready to go but not turned on yet.
I didn't see her leave the nest again until day 21, when the chicks hatched. There was evidence that she occassionally left the nest, but every time I saw her, she was sitting perfectly still, all fluffed up. It's like she was in a coma.
A few days in, she kicked an egg out of the nest. I cracked it open and it was just a gross looking egg. Probably not fertilized. So that left us with 14 eggs under her for the remaining time.
(this is what is looks like when you get kicked out of the nest...)
Many people will candle their eggs on day 10, and take out anything that isn't developing. We decided not to disturb her.
About halfway through, I started to feel bad for her. She had hardly eaten or drank anything. So, I made her an electrolyte drink, and put out some ground beef, cucumber and banana for a treat. She ate the beef up first, and then the bananas, and cucumber seeds.
On the morning of day 21, I heard those sweet chirping sounds. I set up my camera and let it roll for the next two days. We were able to see her come to life. She woke from her coma and became a busy mother hen. We could see her reaching under to rearrange shells and scratch. And then, we started to see tiny little fluffy chicks emerge. In the end, she hatched eleven chicks! We cracked open the other three eggs and saw that they weren't developed at all. So they probably weren't fertilized.
This experience was really cool. It was amazing to see the hen totally consumed by her natural instincts. She's still taking great care of her chicks. They love to jump on her back and get a ride, and play with their siblings.
Broody hens seem to be contagious, so we should be expecting more chicks from another hen on April 26th.
We've raised "day old" chicks that we purchased, and we've also hatched them at home in a DIY incubator. But hatching chicks with a broody hen is definitely the best experience.
This is the first chick we hatched in our homemade incubator last spring. Now she is the mother hen of eleven little chicks.
( Aww, the circle of life...)
Here's another video of just the cute baby chicks and their momma. Your cats and kids will love it!
Have you raised chicks before? Did you use a broody hen, incubator, or purchase them? What are some of your best mother hen, or baby chick moments?