The Easiest Way to Raise Chicks: Find a Broody Hen

Remember when I brought twelve chicks home from our local feed store?  Since then, these babies have been adopted by a sweet, motherly hen!

It all started when I was telling one of my neighbors (the one with the sheep and llama) that we now had chicks.  She brought a golden broody hen to our door (how nice is that?) and asked if we would like to let her care for the chicks.  The rest was history!

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The chicks have been so well-cared-for.  I just love to watch them all together.  Despite their vast number, she took them on as though they were her very own.  She fluffed up her feathers, spread her bulk out over them as best she could, and kept them warm at night.  She watched like a hawk when they first started leaving the chicken coop to explore.  She even attacked my cat like a killer guard dog for getting too close!  When I throw scraps or chicken feed out for them, she has a special cluck that makes the chicks race over like there’s a bobcat on their tail… just to eat.

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How to find your own broody hen

If you don’t have a network of chicken farming friends yet, I would recommend finding a Facebook group right away.  Not only will it be helpful for finding your hen, it will also be the place to go if you have questions or problems they can help with.

Keywords to look search are “farming”, “homesteading”, and “livestock” along with your city, state, or county name.  Get on that group and start letting people know you’re looking for a broody hen!

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Getting the hen to adopt your new chicks

First, the younger the chick the better!  People often buy fertilized eggs to put under the hen as well, but from what I’ve heard that’s kind of a hit-and-miss situation since eggs can easily be smashed or rot.

For us, it was as easy as dumping pouring placing the chicks under the hen.  We had no idea what to expect and so put one chick under her to start with.  We were going to wait until the next night to put the rest under her, but she did so well that we added the other eleven chicks that night.

Her first reaction was surprise.  She stared at the little bundles of fluff, who weren’t upset at all.  I expected them to cheep in distress, but they were quiet and seemed to know just what to do.  They scurried under her without hesitation.  She just clucked nervously (she didn’t know us well, remember), and cocked her head at them, then fluffed up her feathers and tried to get comfortable.

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Care for the hen and chicks

Under the cover of darkness (to keep the mama calm), we put the mama and chicks into a shed-turned-chicken-coop with a wide wooden nest box filled with shavings with a doorway cut out of it.  A piece of plywood was placed on top of this at night, and the shed door closed tightly.  We also took  measures to keep the chicken coop predator-proof at night.  We had purchased a heat lamp for the chicks, but didn’t need this anymore now that there was a mama to keep the kiddos warm and toasty.

Chick feed was kept close by in a cake pan.  Both the mama and babies ate this, and roamed the fenced yard during the day where they foraged for insects, worms, and my garden plants.  Water was kept in the coop at all times.

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At the time of this post, the chicks about 6.5 weeks old and are growing nicely.  One of them tried to crow the other day, so I know we have at least one rooster in the bunch.  :p  The mama hen has been wonderful and has made raising chicks smooth and simple!  As the chicks grow, they get more and more adventurous.  In the beginning, they followed her around as if they were one entity, never letting her get far and cheeping with alarm if they were separated from the group accidentally.  Now they all wander more confidently, knowing that mama will be there in two seconds if they cry out.

The only downside I can see of having a broody hen raise your chicks is that without some extra time and effort they won’t be as tame as they might be if they were raised by you personally.  I have a friend who raised her chicks herself, treated them like her own children practically, and they are so tame they will sit on her shoulder or lounge nearby in the sun near her.  She’s their mama chicken for all intents and purposes.  ;)  But if you don’t care about the chicks’ level of tameness and your goal is to raise egg-laying hens, this is the easiest, best way to reach that goal.

In closing, here is a fun photo of the chicks all perching on a branch.  *giggle*  How’s that working out for you, little’uns?

chicks on a branch

 

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One Response to The Easiest Way to Raise Chicks: Find a Broody Hen!

  • Hello:

    Forgive me for intruding into your busy schedule.

    In this blog post about raising chickens I noticed that you have referenced another great resource about broody hens at (mypetchicken.com/backyard-chickens/chicken-help/what-does-the-word-broody-mean-h84.aspx).

    I am writing to let you know that I have just created my own very detailed guide on broody hens which you can read here.

    http://www.allaboutchickens.info/broody-hens-guide/

    It is over 6000 words long and answers 61 of the most commonly asked questions about broody hens. It covers topics such as;
    * how long a hen stays broody for
    *the best and worst breeds for broodiness
    * how to gently break a broody hen
    *what to do when things go wrong
    *whether to separate broody hens
    *and much more.

    I have split it into different sections and tried to make it as readable as possible.

    I just wondered if you would like to take the time to read it and then if you think it is worthwhile, share my guide with your readership?

    Either way, I wish you the best for your endeavours.

    Thanks,

    Either way, thanks for reading this.

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