Raising-Chickens.org Newsletter #14
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It’s Almost Time for Broody Hens!
Some of us prefer our chicks incubated and hatched under a nice warm hen or two, or three or more. Our broodiest hens may not be the ones we want babies from, but that won’t matter to them. Broody hens will be happy to keep any eggs placed under them warm. If you don’t want your hens sitting on eggs, make sure to remove eggs and broody hens from nests daily.
If you don’t feel sure about using hens to hatch eggs, you can always use an electric incubator and brooder.
Once most hens go broody, hormone changes in their bodies take over and they become fully intent on staying on the nest and hatching those eggs. It takes about 21 days. Not all hens are good brooders. Some will brood, but won’t bond with and care for chicks. Some won’t brood, but will care for chicks.
Different breeds are known for brooding abilities and some are known for having no clue what broodiness or raising chicks is all about. Try to learn about your hens, so you know what to expect. Quite often Heritage Breeds have retained natural reproduction instincts and Production Breeds have lost them through generations of breeding focused on egg and meat production.
When using broody hens to incubate and care for chicks one of the most important things is to have a safe place. Broody hens will enter a trance-like state where they instinctively stay very still and quiet and rarely eat. This instinct is a carry-over from their ancestors that had to nest on forest or jungle floors, where all that protected them was the camouflage of their feathers and picking a good spot. Broody hens want to protect their nest so can fall prey to predators easily.
A separate pen in the coop will help keep hens safe and distractions to a minimum. A separate area all together, if you have the room is great. Food and water close will mean hens can eat, drink and stretch their legs a little, and get right back to work on the nest.
In a flock with laying hens and broody hens sharing nest boxes, your layers may decide to push a setting hen off the nest and add her egg to the clutch. This distraction might mean more eggs under a hen than she can keep warm and could cause a poor hatch rate. When possible, broody hens will try to find a hidden nesting area away from any competition, so providing privacy is a good plan if you’re counting on chicks.
Consider the safety of your hens and the chicks that will hatch. Chicken wire or smaller will keep most predators out and the birds feeling safe and secure. If you’re raising bantam breeds standard chicken wire may be too big to keep some hatchlings contained.
As chicks grow they can be moved with the hen that hatched them to larger quarters. Often hens know the voice of each chick that she’s hatched and will not accept new chicks into her care. She may attack, even kill strange chicks.
As chicks grow and can keep their bodies warm with good feathering, the hen can be removed. Juvenile and small chickens need protection. Covered pens will prevent hawks from taking off with young chickens and bantam breeds.
Once a hen has hatched and raised a clutch it’s a great idea to give her a break. Weeks of good food and exercise will help her recover from her weeks of work. She should start to lay again soon and may want to raise some more chicks. Some hens are like that.
And as always remember to purchase your chicken supplies from us at our store.
Got Chicken: New Auction Site catering to backyard chicken enthusiest. Raising-chickens.org has launched an auction site for the buying and selling of poultry and other domesticated birds.
If you are interested in or already have backyard chickens, our web site offers much needed information that may help you avoid or solve problems. We have a library of over 1000 questions and answers from people all over the world, plus articles, that can help you get started learning what you need to know.
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Your Guide to Everything Chicken Mel www.raising-chickens.org, 101 Preston Court, Macon, GA. 31210
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