I have an unscheduled chicken post for you. This is not going to be one of those six, twelve, eighteen kind of things, but the other day something really cool happened in our chicken house.
We've had a couple of hens wanting to set for a good while now. For you non-chicken types, this is one of those things that a hen does occasionally. She'll want to stay in the nest box until the imaginary eggs underneath her hatch. Well, it's a chicken thing. Everyday we take the eggs out from underneath them.
If you are looking to start a flock of birds, there are birds that are advertised as broody and non-broody. If you don't want a bird to exhibit this type of behavior, get a non-broody breed. If you think you might want to hatch your own eggs using a hen, then get a bird that will go broody. But just because a bird goes broody, or I will call it setting, doesn't always mean that they will sit on the eggs for 21 days, hatch the baby chickens and raise them. Some birds are good mommies and some birds aren't. We have never let a hen set on a clutch of eggs.
Now, back to the story. As mentioned above, we have two hens that have been trying to set. We have an assorted flock, two is not bad. One is a Dark Cornish, one is an Black Australorp. Well, we put our recently hatched baby chickens in the chicken house about 10 days ago. Three nights back, one of the setting hens decided she would go over and set on the opposite side of the pen where the baby chickens were. Now she's still in setting mode. The next morning, all the baby chicks are crowded on their side of the pen right up next to where this setting chicken was. This hen just happens to be a Black Australorp.
Well, Fern and I thought that was really cute. And then we thought about it some more and talked about it. This setting hen was talking to these baby chickens. We thought we would try putting this hen in with the baby chicks. We did. We watched her for awhile. Now, remember these are not day old chicks, they are about 10 days old. But these baby chicks took to this hen just like she was their mommy, and she probably is the mommy to at least a couple of them. There are dangers in doing what we did, because adult hens on occasion will kill a non-related baby chick. All the baby chicks are still fine and healthy. This hen has adopted these 36 baby chicks. I can't necessarily say that they have all bonded with her, but at night many of them sleep under her wings and under her body, and the rest crowd around close.
So, what does this mean to us, the humans? Now, this is what I have read and been told. If you release a mother with her baby chickens into the flock, then the mother will protect the babies from the other adult hens. After a couple of days, with the mother hen defending her chicks, the other adult hens won't bother them.
Here is our plan. We have already started another batch of eggs that will hatch in about two weeks. We will put these chicks in the pen where the current baby chicks are. We will move the current baby chicks into an adjacent pen, still separated from the adult birds, but without the direct heat source that the first pen has. After this move of birds, about three weeks later we should be able to release the current baby chicks with their mom into the general population. That would make them approximately six weeks old at that time. We normally don't release birds into the general population until about 10 to 12 weeks of age. This will provide us with the opportunity to start another batch of eggs hatching a little bit sooner.
You might say, "Why do you need so many baby chicks?" Well, for all of the babies that are hatching, they will become our replacement laying flock in about six months. We will freeze more friers this year than we have in the past. But our big plan is to can quite a bit more chicken meat for long term use. We also make our own chicken broth when we are canning chicken.
The cool part of this story is the mother hen and the baby birds. I thought you'd want to know this. If you've had any experiences like this, or know of anyone that has, please let us know in the comment section. We've heard stories about how you can take a setting chicken with eggs underneath her, and during the night replace the eggs with live day old chickens. But we were just floored with the behavior of this adult hen and the relationship she now has with the ten day old baby chicks. Hope you've enjoyed this story. Take care.
We'll talk more later, Frank