How to Raise Chicks With a Broody Hen

I always hand-raised day-old chicks and felt it was a wonderful experience. I loved the smell of the clean chips in the brooder, watching the chicks scratch and peck and having them climb up on my hands to grab a few bites of food. Then we let our broody Partridge Cochin named Hoppy hatch a few chicks. I quickly learned how easy it is to raise chicks with a broody hen. Here's how...

What is a Broody?

Broody hens are often referred to as a broody or broodies. These are hens that want to hatch eggs and raise babies.

Signs of Broodiness

Not all chickens will exhibit all of these signs, but be on the lookout. Once you've met a broody hen, you'll know!
  • Commandeering a nest box and not leaving it. 
  • Hissing or growling if you approach the hen. 
  • Fluffed feathers and low growling when off her nest. 
  • A bare breast where the feathers have been plucked and used to line the nest. 

Pin the image below to save this information for later. 

Broody Hatching Timeline

It takes 21 days for eggs to hatch. This is something you need to watch with a broody. Mark your eggs with the date the broody starts sitting on her eggs with a permanent marker on the shell. This will help you keep track of the time, plus you'll know if your broody added extra eggs to her clutch since they won't be marked. 

---Day 1 through Day 17---
Your broody will sit on her nest most of the day, but will leave to eat, drink and dust bathe. She will turn her eggs as needed for optimum temperature and development. 

---Day 18 through Day 21---
Your broody will move her eggs into their final hatch position and will stay on her next continually without leaving. She will cluck softly to her chicks inside their shells. They will also cluck back to her. Don't bother your broody during this time. 

---After Day 21---
Remember that all the eggs weren't laid in a day, so they likely won't all hatch in one day. Don't be quick to throw out eggs once they reach day 22! The success rate for a broody hatch is nearly 100%.

Can You Add Eggs or Chicks to a Broody?

The short answer is yes.  Be prepared, however, to finish incubating and hand-raise the chicks. Not all broodies are created equal. Some will be determined and will get the job done. Others will give up along the way. If this happens, you'll need to step in and provide care. 

After the Hatch...

When two bundles of joy popped out from under Hoppy on an unusually cold day in May, we initially set up a small coop with a little extra heat for Hoppy and the chicks in our garage. Aside from the normal changing of bedding and giving them food and water daily, that was all we had to do. 

It was amazing to see Hoppy in action. In the beginning, the chicks spent a lot of time under her keeping warm. When they ventured out for food and water, Hoppy made sure they knew what to eat and made sure they ate it. As the days grew warmer, the chicks spent more and more time venturing out into their coop. They’d run out to investigate visitors and then dart back under Hoppy. They also liked to climb on Hoppy’s back and take a ride or hang out looking at the world. If we held a chick too long, Hoppy would let us know. She even taught them how to roost!

FOOD FACT: Make sure to feed your broody and your chicks starter feed. Chicks should not have the calcium in layer feed.

One thing I always worried about with my hand-raised chicks was introducing them to our existing flock. With Hoppy, she took care of that too! She just walked the chicks out into the yard and nobody dared to cross her and mess with the chicks.

I didn’t even have to worry about confining the chicks so they didn’t wander and get hurt. Hoppy watched them constantly, always “talking” with them. The chicks would each chirp regularly and Hoppy would respond.

At three months of age, Hoppy’s chicks were fully integrated into the flock. It was an amazing and seamless accomplishment that required very little of my attention.

If you’ve got a broody and don’t mind what sex your chicks are, go ahead and let her raise some; it’s a lot easier than hand-raising and it’s a lot of fun to watch!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...