Empress Had Her Babies

So back in November I noticed Empress--our most stunning Welsummer hen--was really broody. I tried several different times to break her out of it by changing her location, physically taking her off her nesting box and out to the run with the other chickens, nothing worked. Empress wanted to have babies. It was early November and I figured, why not? I hadn't done this before but we had plenty of fertile eggs (our rooster "Jefe" takes his job very seriously) so I decided to put 4 brahma eggs underneath her and let her brood.

She went into the characteristic trance-like state and rarely left her nest for 21 days. We set her up in her own nesting area inside the coop, fenced off from the rest of the flock, with extra thick sawdust bedding and a heat lamp over her area. We hand fed her occasionally by holding a small bowl of high calorie food under her beak. Some times she'd nibble but often she'd just ignore it.
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(Empress in her brooding box on the left).

I got a little nervous about her well being as I noticed her comb begin to flop over a little and lose it's luster. Hens typically consume only 20% of their normal feed when they're brooding. But she wasn't moving off that nest so I let her set, checking her frequently and picking up one egg at a time to listen for sounds of pecking. Sure enough, around Day 20 I heard tiny pecking sounds the day before they hatched.

Of the 4 eggs, one was not viable after candling at Day 7. The other three however looked good. On Day 22 or 23 two fluffy yellow peepers came poking out from under her wings. Perfect and healthy looking. (The 4th egg died in the shell on Day 25).
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(Can you see 2 baby chicks?)

And she continues to mother them along with eating hearty meals and talking to them constantly. I can tell she just feels so fulfilled now. And we're delighted to have witnessed Nature at work.

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(Communication between mother and chick, Day 2)

What a miracle to witness new life, and what an inspiration to see a mother hen sacrificing her own comfort for the sake of her offspring.
About author
Part time carpentry work, full time dogs and chickens. So grateful for my beloved husband who builds all the cool stuff we use. I process our meat birds humanely and peacefully and thank each one for her eggs and her life. Having chickens is such a blessing. We give away hundreds of eggs each year, we use their manure to feed our garden areas, we enjoy the soups we make from them, and we laugh at their silly antics.

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Really enjoyed seeing the pictures, and reading about your experience with your broody! Looks like she's going to make a great mother! Favorite pic is the one of mom and baby looking at each other!:love Would really like to see you keep the article updated as the chicks grow!
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So exactly 5 days after they had been born, I went out to the coop to check on everybody and there, lying lifeless in the brooder box was one of the baby brahmas. It had been fine and chirpy this am when I had gone out, now it was gone. I looked it over from top to bottom and the only abnormality I found was a bubble-like distended belly, probably the result of decomposition (it had been dead at least 2 hours). Everything else looked normal--no marks, no bruises--and Empress is so gentle and attentive with them.
So this is a setback and I can't think of anything more we could have done for them these past few days:
-Their heat lamp provides mild, not intense heat which is well ventilated.
-Their feed is fresh, replaced twice a day, same with water.
-The sawdust is store-bought so no arsenic problems from treated wood.
-Empress is a stunningly beautiful and healthy looking hen.
-Temps here have been mild/cool but no extreme weather changes have happened lately.

I'll continue to watch and learn. Death happens on a farm. The other chick looks good still. :fl

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