I have two bantam cochins sitting on 6 eggs each that are due to hatch tonight. They are currently in a dog crate separated by a barrier so they didn't bother each other or try to switch nests. I've always kept the chicks in a brooder, but I am interested in letting nature take its course if possible and having the moms keep them cozy.
A few questions though...
- I will obviously need to move them out of the dog crate or the chicks will just hop through. Would it be okay to move the "families" in the nestboxes out of the crate and put them into the inside portion of our chicken traction and let the two moms and babies be in contact with each other? Or should I still put a divider down the middle?
- Can I remove the nestboxes to make more room for them inside the tractor, or if they still need them, how long before I can remove the nestboxes. They are quite large and made out of office filing boxes.
- Should I open the door of the chicken tractor, so the moms and babies have access to the "run" area right away, or keep it closed so they don't get chilled or fall out? Here in Michigan it has been anywhere from the high 50s to 70s in the daytime right now.
- Do I need to still have a heat lamp for the chicks, or are the hens sufficient to keep them warm?
- Are the mama hens okay eating the 20% Starter mix for a while, and how long should I keep them with the babies? I like to wait until the babies have all their adult feathers grown in before I introduce them to the rest of the flock.