I've raised plenty of ducklings, tons of quail, and a few chickens indoors in brooders, but this is my first hatch with a broody hen. Help!
The babies hatched Saturday morning/afternoon and have been under mama since. They are in a secure raised brood box, with water & food on one side (chick starter and layer pellets both available), and the nest on the other side. It's about four feet long by three feet wide, so there is plenty of space. Wire bottom layered with straw, and a solid bottom in the nesting area (go figure--she chose to nest in the drafty corner instead of the cozy one on the other side...).
Now that they are hatched and healthy, what is the best way to manage them? Should I keep them locked up in the brood pen, and for how long? Or can I move them to a portable pen during the day so they can dig in the dirt and eat grass? How soon can they free range?
Is it very different from raising them in the house? Or do I just kinda keep them sheltered about as long as I would hand-raised babies?
Thanks in advance. And, just for fun, here are the lucky babies with their precious mama: