We have wanted to expand our flock of chickens for some time and were planning on getting a new batch of chicks in the fall or next spring. In our flock we have two Buff Orpingtons that are known for going broody (trying to hatch eggs) but as we have no rooster, they will never be successful here.
We had one of our Buffys go broody this spring and after a few nights locked in the pen but out of the hen-house, she got over the feeling. When we found one trying again a month ago, we decided to order day old chicks again and see if she would raise them for us.
Broody hens will sit on eggs for a few weeks to allow them all time to hatch, so we put in our order. A couple weeks later we got the call that our chicks had arrived. (Here's the video from our first batch)
After giving them five or six hours under the heat lamp with food and water to recover from their journey, I carefully traded one chick for one egg under a kind of befuzzled mama chicken. She seemed a little surprised to all of a sudden have four moving things underneath instead of four warm eggs, but other than that everything went off without a hitch.
Normally a clutch of eggs will take up to 48 hours to all finish hatching and for the chicks to dry off. This is why it's so important to give day old chicks that have been through the mail time to warm up, eat, and drink before putting them under their adoptive mama. The hen will think that her eggs have just hatched and wait up to 48 hours before moving off the nest.
Here they are a couple days old, outside for the first time.
We lost one of the chicks (it was smaller than the rest on arrival, had some problems and after a week had had enough) and are thrilled with an 11 out of 12 track record with mypetchicken, - the company through which we have gotten all of our girls.
Their pen (which they have almost outgrown!) is too heavy for me to move, so here they are in there, at 2.5 weeks old.
They happily follow their mother's lead and are learning everything much faster than our first batch was able to figure things out on their own.
Joe is in the process of building a new coop that will be big enough for all the girls, and even a few more. Expect a post on that soon once the coop is complete. We will move mama and her girls out near the old hens and have them live side by side for a couple of weeks, only mixing when everyone is free ranging so that they all get used to the idea of each other. Mama hen will also teach her chicks the pecking order in the flock and all the nuances of life as chickens. They may have tiny brains but they certainly have a complex social structure.
Even though it's a month later than we got our original batch last year, we're hoping that with mama's help and without a freak October snowstorm (fingers crossed!) they may start laying before winter. The new coop will allow us to put a light in their coop to simulate longer daylight hours and hopefully keep egg production up during the winter.
We are so happy to have one of our hens raise this batch of chicks for us and I look forward to using this method in the future.