Using broody hens to raise mail ordered chicks

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by cparian, Jul 20, 2011.

  1. cparian

    cparian Songster

    Nov 5, 2008
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    After two years of raising dusty, stinky chicks in my house in the spring I decided to try a new method for raising my new chicks. I got to thinking about last year when I also let a couple hens that went broody hatch eggs but ended up with lots of surplus roosters. I watched the hens versus the mail orderer chicks integrate into my flock and saw the ease that the hen raised chicks were accepted and how they learned what being a chicken is faster with the broody. My house raised chicks were scared and stayed in the barn most of their first year.

    So I thought why not have the best of both worlds? No roosters and minimal care on my part.So I placed my chick order for a mid June delivery date when I usually start having hens go broody.

    I always separate the broody from the flock in her own private cage while she was brooding and keep her in there another week after her chicks hatched to give them a chance to get strong enough to follow her around the barnyard. (I free range).

    Four days before I got my chicks I picked two broodies who had been seriously trying to hatch eggs in my coop nest boxes for about a month now and secluded them in there own separate cages with food and water. Since I had been taking their eggs every day for the past month, I put a clutch of fresh eggs in each cage with the broodies. I closed the cages and walked away. They both happily ate the chick starter and drank water, but started to pace frantically when they realized they were trapped in. By the end of the night when I went to close the rest of the flock in the main coop, both broodies were contently sitting on their clutches. I checked every day to make sure they were both still serious.

    Four days later my shipped chicks arrived early in the morning happy and healthy. I put them in a box and made sure each chick got a good drink of water and some food. Then I took them to the barn and pulled the eggs out from under the broodies and gave a hen that had hatched her own chicks last year and was an excellent mother 8 of the chicks. The other broody is a new mother so I only gave her four. I then left to let the rest of the flock out for the day and other barn chores, while peeking in every few minutes. At first there was some pecking whenever a chick would poke it's head out from under the mother and some chicks came out from under the hens but I would place them back under. After an hour I left them all alone to figure it out while checking on and off all day to make sure everything was going well. By the end of the day the experienced mother was clucking the way mother hens talk to their chicks. The other mother took until the next day to bond.

    After trial and error I have two cages I use for the broodies to hatch chicks in. The consist of a two piece large size plastic dog house with a removable lid. This area I fill with shavings and is where I place the eggs when the hen is brooding and where she takes them at night to sleep. Then attached to the front of the dog house is a 4' x 1.5' are made of 2 x 4's and hardware mesh even for the floor. I place the cage about 4" off the ground so I can rake under it to clean the area. I place the food and water in on the hardware mesh floor so I don't have any issues with the area flooding because of a leaking or tipped over waterer or the chicks getting messed up by the broody poo.I know some of you will say the mesh floor will mess up the chicks feet, but since they also have the area in the dog house to spend time in they have done fine with no feet issues after doing this about six time with this cage. My cage also has a door on the front of the mesh area with a ramp. A week after they hatch I open the door and they all come out and join the flock and learn from their mothers. The first day there is some scuffles and it is hard to watch the scared chicks scatter when the hens are fighting their mother but after that first day the chicks happily mix and mingle with the rest of the flock.

    A month later now and the new mother has abandoned her cage and takes her babies into roost with the rest of the flock at night. I noticed the chicks feathered out faster when raised by a hen. Some things to note. Just like people, some hens are better mothers than others. The experienced hen is much more protective of her babies and keeps them close. The new mother runs from a fight and her babies are all over. She better have enjoyed this because I will not be giving her chicks again.Ha!

  2. Tiss

    Tiss Songster

    May 8, 2010
    Great post!

    I gave one my broodies an adopted chick in place of her own. She's a great mama. Broody hens are the best for doing the chick-rearing!

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