24 days ago we set up a broody box outside the coop in the run. It’s a black rubber tub that we filled with straw and covered with some plywood boards. Into this we put a waterer, a tray of corn, and our Mama Hen: a beautiful, buff rock henny who was picked because she would sit and sit and sit in the nesting box after laying, which seemed to indicate she wants to brood. Over 4 days she made herself a nest space in the tub, and we gathered eggs from the hens: Silver Hamburgs, Auracanas, Speckled Sussexes, and a Barred Rock. We collected them in a basket that was left at room temperature until the 4th night, when we slipped 18 eggs under Mama Hen in her tub-nest. Every day Layla took her out of the box, once, so she could attend to her bowels outside the box, and we kept her food and water filled. Over the course of sitting on her eggs, Mama Hen would get off and turn them over with her beak . . . . so they warmed evenly we are guessing.
Yesterday Layla came in, her eyes shining and filled with excitement as she exclaimed, “there’s chicks in the box!!” So we all went out and looked, and lo and behold! There were three little chicks peeking out from under the sides of her wings! They’re hatching, eggs are stretching and shells cracking, and Mama Hen is fluffed out with her feathers all ruffled up about her :0) Today we’re up to seven. Seems like they hatch behind her, and then she lets them get toward her front and under her wings. Can’t wait to see how many hatch in all and what they look like . . . . they’re really little and fuzzy and sweet. There are two eggs toward the outside of the clutch, in which the chicks look like they grew on one side and the other remained stuck to the egg, so they didn’t survive the hatching . . . . looks like part of the egg didn’t turn or develop as it needs to. The roosters we have are Copper Maran, Black Java, and Delaware, so the mix will be pretty interesting and so will watching the little chicks grow around Mama Hen!
We picked April to start this experiment since it’s warm enough for the Mama to be out of the coop and in the tub at nights. We knew the chicks would hatch in May, when it’s also warm enough that they can grow under and around Mama without needing lights or other warming devices. We’ve boarded up the entrance between coop and run to keep the other chickens from coming and going. The chicks and Mama have been moved to a straw filled kennel in the run, and Mama Hen can come and go with her babies, showing them the way. The run is walled with eleven gauge welded wire and chicken wired around the bottom, to keep the small chicks from escaping. Sometime in the summer they’ll be big enough to go outside the run and come and go freely, without being in danger of death should Clover, our dog, chase them . . . . she’s a half great pyrenees, half boxer, and takes her job of herding the chickens very seriously, sometimes to their discomfort! She has certain areas she thinks they shouldn’t go, mostly out in the open spaces where hawks can see them easily, and keeps them in the woods and around the coop where they have cover if they need it. The only exception is after or during a rain, then she’s okay with them going anywhere they please. Since she’s joined our family they’ve not provided food for the hawks, raccoons, and foxes like they used to and the woods are thick with wormy hummus for them to peck, so we let Clover chase them . . . . seems like whatever she’s doing keeps them alive, and that works for us all :0)