One of our Cuckoo Marans went broody so we let her keep a few eggs and swapped out the others with dummies. After candling, we discarded one of the eggs so she is sitting on an ameraucana and probably a barred rock egg (suspect barred rock rooster, but could be a banty). We've keep a few dozen chickens off and on for the last 15 years, but this is the first time we've allowed a chicken to raise chicks.
A few questions...
She has two dummy eggs under her in addition to the 2 real eggs. How many feed store chicks can we swap in there once the eggs start hatching? Should we have the chicks on hand waiting for the other eggs to hatch to put them in right away, or can we wait for a trip to the feed store after the eggs hatch (expecting that to happen ~next Tuesday)? Our feed store chicks here typically arrive on Friday, so they could be up to 5 days old on Tuesday. Is it even possible for her to accept chicks so old, or should we just let her have her 2 and call it good?
She is in a nesting box that is basically ground level in the chicken coop, so we aren't concerned about immediate safety, but the chicken door to the outside world is about 18" off the ground. There is a ramp, but, really? Would they be able to use it safely?
Immediately outside, connected to the chicken coop, is a cage that the chickens go through to get to our fenced orchard where they spend their days. It is situated on a hillside which has eroded quite a bit thanks to the chickens. Our chickens have no problem hopping up there from the orchard into the cage, but not really sure we could secure a ramp for the 2-3 foot hop.
We do have a chicken tractor we could put in the orchard for mom and babies, but I'm trying to make this process as easy on. I want the mom to do as much work as possible. I'm thinking of raising the entrance from the cage to the orchard so the chicks can't get out to the orchard until they're older.
Any insight would be appreciated. We are doing this basically for the fun and education for our kids and not to build up our flock, but I wanted to make the most of the situation!