Most folks turn out to be chicken-keepers to allow them to have recent, tasty eggs every time they need them. Going out to the coop each morning and harvesting the eggs from the nesting packing containers typically turns into a cheerful ritual.
In the event you’re one in all these egg-gathering chicken-keepers, and there’s a rooster in your flock, the eggs you’re amassing have doubtless been fertilized. This makes them much more fascinating. Some folks imagine fertilized eggs are extra nutritious than eggs which are “sterile.”
Having fun with your hens’ fertilized eggs in an omelet or scrambled with cheese is usually a fantastic solution to begin the morning. However have you ever ever thought of letting a few of these eggs keep within the nest packing containers so nature can take its course?
A number of years in the past, I made a decision to just do that. My hens have been broody, and I used to be at all times pulling eggs out from underneath them. They’d squawk and peck me in protest as I robbed them of their clutches. They’d then spend a couple of extra days sitting on the empty nest field, brooding.
It made me unhappy.
Someday, a buddy talked me into letting one in all my hens hold a couple of of her eggs. As an alternative of pushing the hen apart and taking her eggs, I left her alone. About three weeks later, I used to be launched to the unbelievable pleasure of watching a mom hen elevate her infants.
It was an expertise I’ll always remember, and one I like to recommend to all rooster lovers.
Listed here are 10 causes to let your hen hatch some chicks—all experiences I had with my very own brood.
Setting the Eggs
Broody hens is usually a downside for those who usually take away eggs for human consumption. They have an inclination to remain within the nest field for days, seemingly unable to simply accept the truth that their eggs are gone. However if you wish to hatch some chicks, a broody hen is strictly what you want.
As soon as she lays a clutch of eggs, your hen will spend 21 days sitting on them within the nest field, leaving just for a couple of minutes a day to get some meals and water, and to alleviate herself. (In the event you’ve by no means seen a broody poop, be ready. It’s large!)
More often than not you verify in your expectant mom, she’ll be sitting within the nest field with nice goal, feathers overvalued to make sure she covers all of the eggs beneath her. (You possibly can assist her out by placing meals and water near the nest field so she doesn’t must wander too far for sustenance.)
Truly seeing the chicks hatch may be tough as a result of Momma hen will hold them lined nearly the entire time. However for those who hold observe of when the eggs have been laid and are vigilant, you may get fortunate.
On days 20 and 21, verify the nest field continuously. Hold an eye fixed out for any disturbance underneath the hen. She could rise up and out of the field for a minute whereas chicks hatch however will go proper again to sitting on the eggs as quickly as she will.
In case you are fortunate, you’ll catch a glimpse of a child pecking its means out, however solely briefly earlier than Momma sits again down. The reality is that you simply in all probability gained’t know the infants have hatched till you hear the sound of peeping coming from beneath Momma.
It’s doubtless the primary time you will note the chicks is when they’re poking their heads out from underneath Momma’s breast feathers. In a day or so, the infants will begin venturing out from underneath her to discover the world. That is your probability to see what number of you’ve received!
The chicks will keep near the hen more often than not, however don’t be stunned if one wanders farther away then you definately’d assume. Momma gained’t prefer it and can do her finest to maintain all of the infants near her.
She’ll additionally try and annihilate anybody who will get too close to them.
The household canine, the rooster and even you might be topic to being chased and pecked at if she looks like one in all her infants is threatened. (My Corgi made the error of innocently strolling too near one in all my hen’s infants sooner or later, and he or she chased the poor canine across the yard for 5 minutes.)
You’ll quickly find out how the expression “mom hen” got here to be utilized to anybody overprotective and doting. Momma shall be vigilant in defending her younger and cease at nothing to verify they survive to maturity.
It’s commonplace to see mom hens beating up cats, hawks and even coyotes who dare come near their chicks.
Not like songbirds, child chicks are able to eat on their very own from hatch day. You’ll need to present a chick feed for them as a result of common chicken-sized meals shall be too huge for them to swallow. You possibly can put the chick mash out in a separate container while you feed your different chickens.
The truth that scratch and pellets are too huge for the infants to swallow gained’t cease Momma from providing it to them, nonetheless. You’ll see her name her infants to the meals, clucking loudly and dipping her beak within the route of the meals.
In case your flock free-ranges in your property, you’ll see a whole lot of this habits as Momma wanders across the yard in search of snacks for her infants to eat. Bugs are a selected deal with. She’ll make fairly a fuss if she finds one which she thinks her infants will take pleasure in.
Your rooster shall be one to observe throughout all this, too, and can doubtless take one in all two approaches to fatherhood: He shall be a doting, watchful dad, or he’ll ignore the infants.
Momma hen’s perspective towards him will assist decide which tact he takes. If the hen tolerates his presence across the chicks, he could develop a protecting perspective towards the infants, shielding them from any threats, actual or imagined.
In the event you rooster is already an aggressive sort that likes to intimidate folks or different animals, he could get much more obnoxious now that he’s the daddy of some younger chicks.
The flip facet of the doting father is the rooster who needs nothing to do with the infants and utterly ignores them. If Momma attacked him the primary time he got here close to them, that is doubtless the consequence.
And you may’t blame him.
Take a whole lot of footage of your little chicks after they hatch as a result of they develop up quick. For the primary month of life, they’ll nonetheless be cute and fuzzy, however you’ll discover they’re a bit of bit bigger day by day. By week 5, they may have was youngsters—also called pullets.
You continue to gained’t be capable to inform which of them are hens and that are roosters. At this stage, all of them look alike. You’ll discover they’re changing into extra impartial of Momma now and can wander farther and farther means from her.
In some unspecified time in the future, they’ll be too huge to squeeze beneath Momma, though they’ll hold attempting. You’ll know they’re actually rising up while you see them roosting on their very own, with out Momma as a protect.
After a couple of months, you’ll begin to see gender traits growing on the male chicks. Their tail feathers will begin to lengthen, and their combs will get larger than these of their sisters. That attribute rooster posture will slowly develop, too, as their our bodies change form.
In the meantime, the hens within the group could begin laying an egg at times. That is the time when your head rooster shall be conscious he has doable rivals within the flock. The younger roosters are unlikely to problem his authority at this age, however as soon as they hit a yr or so previous and spring comes round, you perhaps have a rooster struggle in your fingers.
It is a good time to rehome most of your roosters, or hold them separate with their very own flock of hens, a minimum of through the spring.
A part of the Flock
You probably have ever tried to introduce a brand new hen to your flock, you in all probability know this could trigger issues. Even for those who make the introduction gradual and simple, the established hens are unlikely to simply accept the brand new lady immediately and will decide on her for some time—or endlessly.
In case your new hens started with the flock as child chicks, there may be prone to be no harassment from the older hens, even after the younger hens are totally grown. The established hens appear to view themselves as “aunts” to the youthful ones and deal with the newer hens as family members.
Your flock’s rooster can even cease seeing these ladies as infants and can start to deal with them like bona fide members of his harem.
Permitting one in all your hens to hatch and lift her chicks may be an extremely rewarding expertise. One of many joys of chicken-keeping is observing the habits of those fantastic birds. And no habits is extra enjoyable to observe than that of a mom hen and her brood.
Chances are you’ll discover it to be a lot enjoyable, the truth is, that you simply’ll need to hatch chicks many times.
Because the younger birds turn out to be extra impartial of Momma, you’ll see they’ve fashioned a detailed attachment to one another. You’ll discover the siblings hanging round collectively so much, whether or not it’s patrolling the world for meals or roosting within the coup at evening.
Identical to all siblings, they’ve moments the place they don’t appear to care about one another, every wandering off alone to discover. However it doesn’t take lengthy earlier than all of them come again collectively once more, making it clear all of them share a particular bond.
When the solar goes down and the chickens head for the coop or the roost, you’ll see Momma return to the nest field along with her wings outstretched, calling her chicks.
The infants will run to her and scurry beneath her wings as they bury themselves in her feathers. She’ll settle herself down round them, ensuring they’re utterly lined. This retains them heat throughout cool nights and helps shield them from any doable nighttime predators.
This text initially appeared within the January/February 2022 challenge of Chickens journal.