Some of my hens are getting older and have slowed down in their egg production, so I have been wanting to add some new chicks to my flock, but I have been holding off due to some financial constraints. Since most hatcheries require a minimum order of 25, and adding shipping costs to the price of the chicks, it can all add up in a hurry, so it was just going to have to wait. Then it occurred to me that Sand Hill preservation had a hatch scheduled for Tuesday. Since Sand Hill is right up the road, they are really great about fitting me in if I just need a few chicks and they happen to have extras. So, I put my order in with a list of some breeds that I would consider if there were chicks available. I was particularly interested in the Mille Fleur Leghorns since they fit into the very scientifically devised list of requirements that my fellow-chicken-hoarder-neighbor-friend, Miss Effie, and I have come up with for new chicken acquisitions; pretty, friendly (for a leghorn) and lays at least a tinted egg..no pure white eggs here!
I got a call from the hatchery Tuesday morning and they had 10 Mille Fleur Chicks for me. I was thrilled because I had only asked for 6, but they threw in extras for free! I love Sand Hill 'cause I can always use more chickens.
I picked up my peeping box of fluffy goodness and headed home.Normally I set up the empty wading pool in the garage, fill it with pine shavings and supply a heat lamp to keep the chicks at the proper temperature. This is great for the first few days...then the chicks start to grow...and poop...and try to get out...and poop...and generally make a huge mess that requires me to clean out their water and feed about 12 times a day. Then there is the continual adding of higher barricades to thwart any potential escapees. But, I decided to do something different with this batch of chicks. I had a couple of hens that had gone broody , one of them to the point where she was losing weight from not leaving the nest for weeks, so I thought; why not save myself a lot of work, and at the same time get these girls to leave their nests and get back being chickens? OK, I am not going to lie, my main motivation was to save myself a lot of work, but my plan wasn't going to hurt the girls any either. I decided to try to fool my broody girls into believing that they had hatched out their own chicks. First I took my Buff Orpington hen, Annie, gently and quietly from her nest in the chicken coop and placed her on a nest in a dark, quiet corner of the sheep barn. Then I waited for a couple of hours to see if she would continue to sit...she did. As evening approached, I tucked half of the chicks under her belly as she cluck-cluck-clucked to her new charges. Hmmm, so far so good, she looked down at the wiggling little puff-balls and gently tucked each chick underneath her wings. I stayed and watched for a long time to be sure that she was truly going to accept the little hatchlings.
After I was certain that all was well in chicken land, I repeated the process with one of my Salmon Faverolle hens, Elvira, giving her the remaining five chicks. She performed her motherly duties just as well as Annie, but with an added twist.......with all the bravado of a samurai warrior, she made it clear that she is not letting me, or anyone else, near those babies. Bwwwwwwhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! BAK! BAK!
YIKES! I am not at all worried about Elvira's ability to defend 'her' chicks.
Seriously, who is gonna mess with this Mama?? I think even the baby peeking out is mocking me!I don't know that I would recommend trying this unless you are really familiar with your hens temperaments and they are really broody at the time. Some hens may not be as 'gullible' as my girls. I really doubt that this would work with older chicks, the chicks that I had were newly hatched.
I am so very glad that my hens were so accommodating...it's not like they were busy, they were just sitting around doing nothing anyway, and I don't really need any more work!