Broody Hens & Hatching Chicks

We have new chicks at Sakonnet Farm, hatched the old fashioned way. This is the second time we had the mama birds do the work for us, my post about the first time can be found here. When the chickens get broody, they spend all day sitting on their eggs, regardless if you go in there everyday and take the eggs out. Which, by the way, is easier said than done. My new twitter friend Renee wrote about it very nicely on Examiner.com. I want to thank her for helping me with my in my struggles to get our logo to fit nicely into the avatar box which is also easier said than done! Anyway, someone asked if I would write about having 3 broody hens at a time and how did we manage the logistics.
At Sakonnet Farm, we have a large coop that is split into three separate pens. The largest pen had all the chickens with roosts and nesting boxes. When we decided to let these chickens sit on the eggs, we moved some nesting boxes into another of the pens that was empty at the time. We then moved the chickens & their eggs. They had their own food & water- not that we ever saw them eat or drink. They hardly ever move! Although the kids told me that they occasionally would switch nesting boxes with each other.
At exactly three weeks, Jonathan went in to check on them and there were the chicks!
Over the next day or two, there were 16 healthy chicks hatched. But now they were up in the nesting boxes, couldn’t reach the food or water and there were three mama hens. How was this going to work? I gently transferred everyone down to the ground and there were no issues! The mama’s didn’t fuss with each other at all. The babies went right to the food and water following their moms. There were still a couple eggs left to hatch so at night the two black chickens would sit on them and this one tan chicken got the pleasure of caring for all 16!
Sorry about the quality of the picture, I only had my iPhone and it doesn’t take the greatest pictures in the dark. It is SO cute to see all the chicks peeking out from all under the mama bird. Sometimes they ride around on the mom’s backs, also very cute.
We have 3-4 other chickens who have decided they want to be mama birds. I was trying to break them of it by taking the eggs every day- we are trying to sell eggs here! But that wasn’t working, so yesterday I moved two of them and their eggs over to the nesting boxes with these guys. They went the boxes and there was no issue. Today I will see if the others are still in the nesting boxes and I will move them too. I’m figuing by the time these chicks are hatching the baby birds will be big eough to move in with the others. If not, we still have another pen we can use for one of the groups.
The downside to hatching chicks this way is that the numbers are smaller and you get more roosters than if you ordered chicks from a hatchery. But the upside is there is no labor for you. The chickens do all the work! It is also SO cute to see the mama’s with their babies and they are safer having adult chickens with them.
So that is how it’s worked over here at Sakonnet Farm. I’d love to hear about your experiences with hatching chicks.