The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Advantages of a broody hen

Mother hen teaching a chick to forageWe've had issues with using a broody hen to hatch eggs in the past, and our current experiment (which I'll outline in detail at lunch) was only minimally successful.  But the idea has so much merit from a homesteading perspective that we'll keep plugging away until we make it work.

For example, look at this --- a mother hen teaching her chick to forage on day two!  They spent the first day hunkered down in the nest, but by midafternoon Sunday, the Cochin had led the way to the ground and was scratching up worms.  She picked up each wriggler, clucked over it enthusiastically, then dropped it at the chick's feet.  Granted, the chick was less than sure what to do with this largesse, but I still think such early exposure will turn it into an awesome forager.
A chick burrowing under its mother's feathers
If that's not enough to convince you of the utility of the natural approach to chick-rearing, consider how much electricity we'll be saving by not having to run an incubator for three weeks and then a heat lamp for another month.  After following its mother around the brood coop for ten minutes, the chick decided it was chilly, so it poked at its mother's feathers, then tunneled underneath the hen and disappeared. 

Best yet, I've discovered that I can delegate most of the worrying to the mother hen.  Yes, we will definitely be trying the broody hen approach again, and I have high hopes the third time will be the charm.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Was this chick from a SC egg? (Just checking on my rooster.)
Comment by Errol Mon May 17 08:47:34 2010
It sure was --- you're a grandfather! :-) I'm shocked it hatched, actually, due to my mismanagement. Now that I know (again!) what I'm doing wrong, I'm going to have to get some more eggs from you and give it another shot.
Comment by anna Mon May 17 09:08:11 2010
I told my RIR rooster he was a father but he didn't seem impressed.
Comment by Errol Mon May 17 12:07:54 2010

Do you separate your broody hen from the rest of the flock while she's sitting on eggs? And once they hatch, do you keep them separate?

I had trouble with the other hens continuing to lay their eggs under my broody, so I separated her from them. I'm also worried about the other hens and roosters attacking the new chicks, so I'm not sure whether to integrate early or wait until they're more mature.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Comment by Darren (Green Change) Mon May 17 19:02:17 2010

Daddy --- he probably knew we were going to start asking for alimony shortly.

Darren --- we put her in her own little space, mostly because we don't have a rooster so any eggs the other chickens lay under her would be wasted. Plus, I've read that when other hens try to lay in the brood nest, eggs often get broken in the scuffle. We've got a low enough success rate already!

As for integration --- I'm going to wait until they're much larger. Actually, Mark's going to give them a forest pasture section this week so that they can have room to roam without encountering bigger chickens. The mother hen is already the lowest on the totem pole, so I don't like the thought of her trying to defend her chick.

Comment by anna Tue May 18 07:43:08 2010

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