Letting Broody Hens Hatch Chicks is the cheapest, most natural way to increase your flock. You will need to do a few things to make it easier for them. It’s exciting to me to watch the hen I’ve chosen get broody and begin to set.
The anticipation is almost too much for me while waiting the 21 days for her to hatch her eggs. I watched as Mammie and Scruffy carefully rotated their eggs to ensure equal warmth and coolness among their eggs. I delivered food and water to them, and they have both fussed me for checking on them by chuttering and ruffling their feathers at me. Mammie even pecked me once.
Scruffy was the harder setter. She would even skip a day of getting up for water and food, right from the beginning. Ten minutes was the most either of them was ever up. I used these brief opportunities to examine their nests, being careful to never handle the eggs or disturb the nest. I’ve often eased in and heard them cooing and clucking to their eggs. I’ve also removed the rotten eggs that they rolled from the nest.
Finally, the day arrives! I hear peep peep from the nest! It’s three days before she gets them up for me to see. That’s because a baby chick can live three days off the yolk they draw into their bodies during the hatching process. Three days! What agony! Mammie would not let me see a thing until she got up. She had 19 eggs. She hatched 12, three were rotten, and four were late maturing so she didn’t hatch them. Once she has to be up feeding and caring for the oldest chicks, it’s hard for those born late to live. We tried to save the last two, born two days after the others and a day apart, but it was not possible. I believe they were too chilled once I got to them. I brought them in and warmed them, but it just wasn’t to be. So she has 10 healthy chicks.
Today, Monday, I went out to check on Mammie and her chicks, Surprise! Scruffy was up with 12 live healthy chicks. I wasn’t expecting her to hatch until Thursday. I was so excited, but unprepared. I rushed to get a chick waterer and some food to them. She was very upset about my entering her breeding yard, but allowed me to set the food out and take this video if their first day up. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! She had 15 eggs so it’s possible that she’ll hatch a few more tonight, or tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes.
My grandmother told me that if the weather is hot when the hen is setting you’ll get more roosters and if the weather is coolish spring or fall, you’ll get more hens. I’ve never really tested this theory, but she never steered me wrong, so I’m hoping for mostly hens.
Watching the mother hen teach her chicks to eat, what not to eat, to drink, to catch bugs, to come to her calls, watching their little legs practice scratching for food…awww….Oh the joy! As you can see in the photos. I added some eggs from the coop to each of their nests. I thought I was adding all Rhode Island Red eggs, but apparently I got them confused with the White Delaware hens’. This was a breed I did not want to propagate, but there are three of them. They are half-RIR because “Red” is their father. I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoy watching and taking them!
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*Update on Scruffy: She hatched 14 of her 15 eggs! What a record. She would have hatched all 15 except we had a sudden cool spell with 48 at night and only 59 for the high. It was just enough for the egg to cool while she was up with the others and the chick died.*