Okay...so I've been having some interesting brooding experiments lately.
Normally I hatch only with my bantams in the broody hutch which is carefully monitored and controlled with hens properly separated by wire screen so nobody is disturbed.
Those banty mommas and babies are safe and secure behind wire and bird netting, gates and locks. They free range in the grow out run able to see the main flock through the wire fence. But that does mean I have to transition grow out pullets into the main flock, usually by 10 to 12 weeks, depending upon crowding conditions, which leaves a few days to a couple of weeks of confusion for the transitioned birds.
Which brings me to my new experiments.
In attempt to have easier flock integration, I've been re-attempting flock brooding which was a disaster my first attempt years ago. That was why I went to the broody hutch, but I've got a pretty mellow flock now with one very attentive and sweet Barnevelder rooster....I thought I'd see if I could make flock hatching work as I read so many of you all @fisherlady have had good success once you get the right flock dynamics.
With my broody hutch full from the recent bantam efforts, I've had the good fortune to have 2 very stubborn gals (Marans and Marans/Isbar...half sisters) go broody in the main coop. I saw an opportunity to give it a try..so I let eggs sit under them.
Olive (my Marans/Isbar olive egger) hatched her 1 and only egg (she laid it, first of the new season, and then sat on it). She was so good about defending that nest, I let her sit in it. Unfortunately that little chick got squashed during hatch when others tried to hoard in to lay eggs. Bummer, but that is why I generally isolate. Apparently I will need to block at the crucial day. Olive is still wanting to stubbornly sit (that whole line of Marans has been stubborn broodies), so I set 2 more eggs under her...there's good development and she's got 10 more days and sitting tight....keep that in mind...she is sitting tight.
The Splash Marans (Olive's half sister) hatched her egg (I'm only setting 1 or 2 with these experiments in case it goes south in the main coop)...I caught her before hatch day and blockaded her chosen nest for that day, which was the larger nest box, then after hatch day moved her and the newly hatched chick to my small coop forcing the rest of the flock into the main coop. This little chick is a darling CCL/Barnevelder, and I think male as it has a faint whisp of white streaking on its head...we'll see.
Now here's where the story gets interesting. Splash momma is, well, just an okay momma. She was pretty good that first week, not always the fastest to attend to the chick's needs, but I kept her locked in the small coop for the first 5 days so that baby could get big enough to not squeeze through chicken wire so easily (and thus out of the run). Then, I let momma and baby into the inner run, shut in, for another few days as the weather has been gloriously warm and baby could learn to follow and scratch in safety with the main flock locked outside the run. (I've got lots of gate systems to segregate flow when I need to).
This week, I opened up all the gates and let the flock integrate with Splash momma and a now almost 2 week old chick, crossing my fingers that the chick didn't get lost or trampled.
Amazingly my Barnevelder rooster has been an absolute darling and will quickly run interference with any hen that even looks twice at Splash momma and chick making sure momma and her baby are left in peace.
As the week has progressed, baby has made the rounds of the yard closest to the run with momma. However, momma, who several times wanted to roost leaving sqawking baby in the enclosed coop during that first week, but fortunately heeded to its care, is now fully roosting with the flock leaving baby on the coop floor at night. I found it last night under the care of one of my non-broody California Greys who is low on totem pole and chooses to sleep in a nest box....but she often shifts during the night to the roost....I know as I usually disturb her on my final night time check up and lock up and she flies up to her roost after the others have settled.
Worried that baby would be left to the cold during the night, I picked up baby and gave it to Olive who is sitting tight thinking I'd figure things out in the morning. I put food and water in that main coop near that nest in case baby needed to figure out food for itself come daylight as Olive would probably still be sitting tight. (Olive clucked and chirped at baby and eagerly welcomed it into her feathers).
Sure enough, as morning came, Olive was sitting tight with baby warmly tucked in but I doubt being fed or watered. While wondering what to do to get it back into the flock I watched momma come out of the yard where she was foraging with the main flock, go into the main coop, find baby, and come out with it. They foraged the day together.
So, tonight, I wondered if baby would be with Olive or back in the small coop on the floor with the Cal Grey. It was back on the floor with the Cal Grey, who though not broody, was standing with it under her wing clearly choosing to warm it. Same scenario....night will be cooler and not confident the Cal Grey will stay down for the whole night, I picked baby up and put it back with Olive, who is still sitting tight (day 11 on those eggs now). Food and water are just around the corner for the chick, and the main coop is sparsely inhabited as my rooster prefers the smaller coop and most of the hens follow him there (making for a bit of a cozy situation).
I'll watch to see if Splash momma goes to get her baby again from child care tomorrow morning. Apparently she is not into night time baby care.
I'll keep you all posted as to how chick does....I keep expecting it to be lost or dead rattling around in that big flock but so far so good...except for night time care. Perhaps Splash momma would jump down when baby squawked loudly enough when it got cold, but I haven't gotten that much confidence in her yet.
Apparently it takes a village to raise a chick. Anyone dealt with this? @fisherlady
Edited by Lady of McCamley - 4/22/16 at 12:09am