Back in September, we had one of our hens go broody. I tried a few times to stop her but she was very insistent, so eventually I gave in and put a few eggs under her. I had read on Backyard Chickens that with a mother hen, chicks should be fine even at this time of year. It being our first time, I didn’t move her out of the nest boxes soon enough and the other hens were still laying eggs in her box, so she ended up with about 12 eggs at one point. She also kept leaving them and going back on the wrong box, and we’d find her little nest full of cold eggs. I did eventually move her into a dog kennel inside the coop.
I had the date the chicks should hatch marked on the calendar but wasn’t expecting much. The day came and went with no chicks, and we were trying to decide the best way to get her off her nest full of eggs. Then the next day I walked in the coop and heard cheeping. Despite the eggs having gone cold more than once, she managed to hatch out four chicks over the course of three days, though one was born with a weird bump and she ended up dying unfortunately. The other three are doing fantastic though. It is really amazing to watch a mama hen raising her babies. She keeps them warm, protects them from the other hens, leads them around to food. It has been so much easier doing it this way than inside the house, though we haven’t done a full integration yet. If she’s out with the other hens I make sure I’m right there with them. The other ones mostly leave the chicks alone, though our Barred Rock did peck pretty hard at one and a few of them have gone at the mama.
They’ve mostly been sticking to the coop, but it’s been nice out and they’re getting a bit bored locked in a dog kennel all day, even if it is a big one, so I brought them outside to run around for a bit.
Mama ventured out first to look around, but then the babies followed soon after. They’re around two weeks old now.
Meredith wanted to name them water names, because she decided they like water. So we’ve called them Calypso, Neptune, and Doris. In the above two pictures the other hens were around, and mostly leaving them alone, but then I wanted to go inside and didn’t want to leave them out unprotected yet so I put them in our fenced off garden area.
I threw a pumpkin in with them, and it was pretty fun to watch them go at it.
I went inside for a little bit and came out to check on them (though we can also see that area from our window), and discovered all the other hens standing watching them as if they were watching a movie.
Though a little later we watched a crow swoop down at them, which freaked mama out and she went running. I had a scary moment when I ran out there when I couldn’t find one of the babies, but she was hiding near a log. I ended up locking them back up in the kennel again for a day, which is too bad because they really enjoy running around. The area is way too big to put any kind of cover over though, so I’m going to have to think of something else or just risk it. The cubes we used for the chicks last time have been repurposed as book shelves so won’t work, but we have some scrap wire I could probably bang together into some sort of makeshift tractor for them. Then I can even put them with the other hens and let them mingle but they’d have a safe place to escape to too.
This chicken thing is turning out to be a lot of fun and a good learning experience for us all. We’ve learned so much about chicken reproduction and how they raise their babies through books and, of course, watching it first hand.