Adoptive hens

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by ben harpo, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. ben harpo

    ben harpo New Egg

    Jan 21, 2014
    There is an old trick of giving a broody hen eggs and hatchlings that are not her own. One morning she wakes up and has 18 chicks when the day before she had 7 eggs. Chicks raised by a good hen have a much better quality of life than chicks with no parent. Because the chicks follow the hen and she scratches up bugs for them. The young ones learn how to forage while their little brains are developing.

    I'm thinking of trying this with mail order chicks. I don't know if it will work and it might be a waste of time. But any opinions and advice would be welcome at this time. I've got 100 day old chicks arriving in March. I might be able to find some broody hens from craigslist or the neighbors. I'm not sure, what number of hens I need. Or how many chicks for each hen?

    Plan A:
    1. Get some broody hens and eggs.
    2. Build a brooder out of straw bales, roof, electric heat, small feeders and waterers.
    3. Isolate each hen in cell of the brooder with eggs (a cell is a doughnut hole about the size of 2 straw bales). This way the hens will hear and smell other hens but not see or interact with them. Isolate them at least 5-8 days before the chicks arrive.
    4. When the chicks arrive, keep them in the shipping box until after dark. Late at night take all the chicks to the brooder. Take out all eggs and give 15-25 chicks to each hen. Also keep the heat up around 90 F in case they can't all nuzzle.
    5. Expand the brooder by shifting straw bales. Create a special yard around the brooder with more straw bales. At first only let one hen and her brood at a time access the special yard. When all the chicks demonstrate following their mother, and the hens seem happy about it, then introduce the whole flock.

  2. erinchelsea

    erinchelsea Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2010
    Webster City, IA
    I agree raising chicks via broody hen is the way to go, if possible.

    IMO it's too chancy to find that many broody hens for a specific date. Even if you did find them locally, by the time you move them to your place odds are that will break them of it. I've broken hens of their broodiness just by moving them from one coop to another on our own property.

    When I've done it, we waited till a hen did go broody, then ordered some chicks for her- and having a brooder with a heat lamp set up just in case I had to raise them myself. So she had sat on her nest 3 weeks (about the natural time for eggs to hatch) before I stuck the chicks under her. She hatched out 4 of her own eggs, and then 15 chicks from the hatchery. No need for a heat lamp either, I was amazed how she kept all those little buggers warm!

    Hope you can work something out.
  3. TXchickmum

    TXchickmum Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 21, 2012
    North Texas
    I have no experience with this on a large scale. -have given a broody bantam hen one newly hatched, day old chick (and it wasn't at night). She was an excellent mother and cared for the chick wonderfully.

    I do not know how many chicks is a reasonable amount for each broody hen, but 25 sounds like a lot for one hen to care for and raise.

    Your plan sounds good, but I would definitely have a plan in place for any chicks rejected by broody hens. Also, I would exercise extreme caution using straw bales with heating sources such as lamps. -cook be a significant fire hazard. Finally, I would be very thoughtful of the source from which the broody hens come. You don't want to expose chicks to any illness from sick birds.

    Also, do you have an existing flock or will this be your first? -will need plans for integrating the chicks with the established flock if you have one.

    -just wanted to share a few things for consideration. Anyway, I hope that you have success with your new chicks!
  4. erinchelsea

    erinchelsea Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2010
    Webster City, IA
    Another thought. I like your straw bale idea. I'd make sure to have some pretty bulletproof fencing around that though. And how is your yard for overhead predators such as hawks & owls? Baby chicks are easy targets for predators outside like that, even cats will get chicks that small.

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