Here’s a story of adoption on the Morgan Ranch. In this quick article, I’ll describe the steps I took to introduce 8 baby chicks to a broody hen.
My Buff Orpington’s have been the broodiest hens ever since I dispatched Mr. Rooster. I honestly can’t be for sure that it’s been the same hen… but it’s been the Buffs each time. There are periods where one of them ends up in the nesting box for weeks on end. Since I employ faux eggs, these broody hens end up sitting on warm, wooden eggs. Briefly, the use of faux eggs has worked just as intended. If you keep taking a hens eggs, they begin to think that something is getting them and ultimately deem it an unsafe place to lay eggs. Since the coop has only so many nesting boxes, you don’t want to have the hens thinking it’s unsafe to lay eggs in it. The hen’s think fake eggs are real and they will come in and lay fresh eggs among them. I end up taking the real eggs, and leaving the faux eggs in the boxes. This process works well.
Another Buff took over the nesting box with the most faux eggs. I chide “you’re sitting on fake eggs… they’re not going to hatch!” But, she ignores me… and keeps sitting. This was a week or two before I left town for vacation. When I got back, the hen was still in the box. I picked up 6 new chicks the weekend I returned and set up my brooder box. After a week or so, it occurred to me that the poor broody hen in the coop sure would like to have some baby chicks. So the light went on in my head and I thought, I need to introduce these chicks to a momma.
I don’t know why… but I ended up going down to the store and I grabbed three more baby chicks… of another breed. So, now I had 8 checks of three different breeds… and 5 of them were a week old already.
In the morning, when all the other hens were out of the coop, I closed the pop door and introduced the first chick under the broody hen. I just opened the nesting box lid and quickly and quietly dropped the chick in behind the hen. No voice and no noise. She took right to it. Several clucks of obvious delight… and I have to admit, I got a little teary-eyed too. She pulled it under her wing. Of note, this was one of the older one week old chicks. Well, I bought it from the store a week ago so maybe it was a little older. My thought was, I didn’t want to introduce a younger one, and then have to introduce older ones later. It seems to work right. A little later, I added another one, and managed to steal a faux egg out from under her too. Success again. I let them be for another hour or so. Then, decided I needed to get everyone out of the coop and into some private quarters before nightfall so the others could come back in to roost for the night. I set up a small area in my garage, and used a cardboard box on its side and stuffed it with shredded newspaper. I got a plastic tub with a lid and went out and grabbed the hen, chicks (and all faux eggs underneath). Sure, there was some fuss.. but better now than later I felt.
I put everyone into the box and they took right too it. Things were going too easy… I’m really having fun at this time. Once everyone was settled in and things were quiet again, I slipped another one into the box… I had things pretty dark… with the flaps hanging down in front. I was able to open the back flap, drop it in, and close it. She took it again… a little more commotion… and it took her a while to let it under her. I was able to look in from the front of the box and watch to make sure she didn’t peck or reject it. All good. From here, I decided I wouldn’t add any more until night. I woke up at 3am, and added two more (these were the youngest ones I bought the previous morning.) She took them right in with a few clucks and things were silent. I think Miss Broody-hen was in Shambala. I waited another hour and added in the last two… along with several cracked-used egg shells that I had prepared. After-all, 8 chicks out of no where with no egg shells could have been suspect and I thought… since I had them, why not? I’ve since read in a few places on the net… that it is best to do the introductions at night… with total silence. Simply pull a chick from the brooder very quietly, drop in with momma, and say nothing. Chickens can’t see well at night and during the quiet and darkness, this is the advised way. I have to agree and if I ever do it again, I’ll introduce all of them under the cover of darkness.
As of this morning, momma brought them out of the box to the food and water… and she’s keeping a protective eye on them all. That’s 8 of 8 chicks adopted by one broody hen. Stay tuned to see how everything turns out!