Most folks turn into chicken-keepers to allow them to have contemporary, tasty eggs every time they need them. Going out to the coop each morning and harvesting the eggs from the nesting packing containers typically turns into a contented ritual.
For those who’re one in every of these egg-gathering chicken-keepers, and there’s a rooster in your flock, the eggs you’re gathering have seemingly been fertilized. This makes them much more fascinating. Some folks imagine fertilized eggs are extra nutritious than eggs which can be “sterile.”
Having fun with your hens’ fertilized eggs in an omelet or scrambled with cheese generally is a fantastic option to begin the morning. However have you ever ever considered letting a few of these eggs keep within the nest packing containers so nature can take its course?
A couple of years in the past, I made a decision to just do that. My hens had been broody, and I used to be at all times pulling eggs out from underneath them. They’d squawk and peck me in protest as I robbed them of their clutches. They’d then spend a couple of extra days sitting on the empty nest field, brooding.
It made me unhappy.
In the future, a pal talked me into letting one in every of my hens preserve a couple of of her eggs. As a substitute of pushing the hen apart and taking her eggs, I left her alone. About three weeks later, I used to be launched to the unbelievable pleasure of watching a mom hen increase her infants.
It was an expertise I’ll always remember, and one I like to recommend to all hen lovers.
Listed here are 10 causes to let your hen hatch some chicks—all experiences I had with my very own brood.
Setting the Eggs
Broody hens generally is a downside should you frequently take away eggs for human consumption. They have an inclination to remain within the nest field for days, seemingly unable to simply accept the truth that their eggs are gone. However if you wish to hatch some chicks, a broody hen is precisely what you want.
As soon as she lays a clutch of eggs, your hen will spend 21 days sitting on them within the nest field, leaving just for a couple of minutes a day to get some meals and water, and to alleviate herself. (For those who’ve by no means seen a broody poop, be ready. It’s enormous!)
More often than not you examine in your expectant mom, she’ll be sitting within the nest field with nice function, feathers hyped up to make sure she covers all of the eggs beneath her. (You may assist her out by placing meals and water near the nest field so she doesn’t need to wander too far for sustenance.)
Really seeing the chicks hatch may be tough as a result of Momma hen will preserve them coated nearly all the time. However should you preserve monitor of when the eggs had been laid and are vigilant, you would possibly get fortunate.
On days 20 and 21, examine the nest field ceaselessly. Hold a watch out for any disturbance underneath the hen. She could stand up and out of the field for a minute whereas chicks hatch however will go proper again to sitting on the eggs as quickly as she will.
If you’re fortunate, you’ll catch a glimpse of a child pecking its manner out, however solely briefly earlier than Momma sits again down. The reality is that you just most likely gained’t know the infants have hatched till you hear the sound of peeping coming from beneath Momma.
It’s seemingly the primary time you will notice the chicks is when they’re poking their heads out from underneath Momma’s breast feathers. In a day or so, the infants will begin venturing out from underneath her to discover the world. That is your probability to see what number of you’ve obtained!
The chicks will keep near the hen more often than not, however don’t be stunned if one wanders farther away you then’d suppose. Momma gained’t prefer it and can do her greatest to maintain all of the infants near her.
She’ll additionally try and annihilate anybody who will get too close to them.
The household canine, the rooster and even you’re topic to being chased and pecked at if she appears like one in every of her infants is threatened. (My Corgi made the error of innocently strolling too near one in every of my hen’s infants in the future, and she or he chased the poor canine across the yard for 5 minutes.)
You’ll quickly learn the way the expression “mom hen” got here to be utilized to anybody overprotective and doting. Momma might be vigilant in defending her younger and cease at nothing to ensure they survive to maturity.
It’s commonplace to see mom hens beating up cats, hawks and even coyotes who dare come near their chicks.
Not like songbirds, child chicks are able to eat on their very own from hatch day. You’ll need to present a chick feed for them as a result of common chicken-sized meals might be too huge for them to swallow. You may put the chick mash out in a separate container once you feed your different chickens.
The truth that scratch and pellets are too huge for the infants to swallow gained’t cease Momma from providing it to them, nonetheless. You’ll see her name her infants to the meals, clucking loudly and dipping her beak within the path of the meals.
In case your flock free-ranges in your property, you’ll see numerous this conduct as Momma wanders across the yard on the lookout for snacks for her infants to eat. Bugs are a specific deal with. She’ll make fairly a fuss if she finds one which she thinks her infants will get pleasure from.
Your rooster might be one to look at throughout all this, too, and can seemingly take one in every of two approaches to fatherhood: He might be a doting, watchful dad, or he’ll ignore the infants.
Momma hen’s perspective towards him will assist decide which tact he takes. If the hen tolerates his presence across the chicks, he could develop a protecting perspective towards the infants, shielding them from any threats, actual or imagined.
For those who rooster is already an aggressive sort that likes to intimidate folks or different animals, he could get much more obnoxious now that he’s the daddy of some younger chicks.
The flip facet of the doting father is the rooster who desires nothing to do with the infants and fully ignores them. If Momma attacked him the primary time he got here close to them, that is seemingly the outcome.
And you may’t blame him.
Take numerous footage of your little chicks after they hatch as a result of they develop up quick. For the primary month of life, they’ll nonetheless be cute and fuzzy, however you’ll discover they’re somewhat bit bigger day-after-day. By week 5, they’ll have became youngsters—also called pullets.
You continue to gained’t be capable of inform which of them are hens and that are roosters. At this stage, all of them look alike. You’ll discover they’re changing into extra unbiased of Momma now and can wander farther and farther manner from her.
In some unspecified time in the future, they’ll be too huge to squeeze beneath Momma, though they’ll preserve making an attempt. You’ll know they’re actually rising up once you see them roosting on their very own, with out Momma as a protect.
After a couple of months, you’ll begin to see gender traits creating on the male chicks. Their tail feathers will begin to lengthen, and their combs will get greater than these of their sisters. That attribute rooster posture will slowly develop, too, as their our bodies change form.
In the meantime, the hens within the group could begin laying an egg at times. That is the time when your head rooster might be conscious he has attainable rivals within the flock. The younger roosters are unlikely to problem his authority at this age, however as soon as they hit a 12 months or so previous and spring comes round, you possibly have a rooster combat in your arms.
This can be a good time to rehome most of your roosters, or preserve them separate with their very own flock of hens, no less than in the course of the spring.
A part of the Flock
In case you have ever tried to introduce a brand new hen to your flock, you most likely know this may trigger issues. Even should you make the introduction sluggish and simple, the established hens are unlikely to simply accept the brand new lady straight away and should choose on her for some time—or perpetually.
In case your new hens started with the flock as child chicks, there’s more likely to be no harassment from the older hens, even after the younger hens are absolutely grown. The established hens appear to view themselves as “aunts” to the youthful ones and deal with the newer hens as family members.
Your flock’s rooster may also cease seeing these women as infants and can start to deal with them like bona fide members of his harem.
Permitting one in every of your hens to hatch and lift her chicks may be an extremely rewarding expertise. One of many joys of chicken-keeping is observing the conduct of those fantastic birds. And no conduct is extra enjoyable to look at than that of a mom hen and her brood.
You might discover it to be a lot enjoyable, the truth is, that you just’ll need to hatch chicks many times.
Because the younger birds turn into extra unbiased of Momma, you’ll see they’ve shaped a detailed attachment to one another. You’ll discover the siblings hanging round collectively quite a bit, whether or not it’s patrolling the realm for meals or roosting within the coup at evening.
Similar to all siblings, they’ve moments the place they don’t appear to care about one another, every wandering off alone to discover. But it surely doesn’t take lengthy earlier than all of them come again collectively once more, making it clear all of them share a particular bond.
When the solar goes down and the chickens head for the coop or the roost, you’ll see Momma return to the nest field together with her wings outstretched, calling her chicks.
The infants will run to her and scurry beneath her wings as they bury themselves in her feathers. She’ll settle herself down round them, ensuring they’re fully coated. This retains them heat throughout cool nights and helps shield them from any attainable nighttime predators.
This text initially appeared within the January/February 2022 challenge of Chickens journal.