Homesteading, raising chickens

You Can Keep Chicks With the Rest of Your Flock

This summer was our first opportunity to let our hens hatch out baby chicks. We’ve had success four times this summer. Twice with our breeding flock and twice with our laying flock. Our laying flock contains multiple breeds, while our breeding flock is all Speckled Sussex. The hardest part, in my opinion, is waiting on a hen to go broody. We tried from the beginning of March to entice our hens to start sitting. We tried leaving the eggs in the nest which turned out to be a huge mess to clean up. After multiple tries and failed attempts I went to the store and bought ceramic eggs to stay in the nest. I think this might have enticed our hens to sit, but it’s really hard to say. In the last week of May, we finally had success. Dolly, a Speckled Sussex in our breeding flock, went broody. Each day we would collect the eggs from the other laying boxes and slide more under her until there was about a dozen eggs under her. After about 21 days, six of the twelve hatched out on Sunday, May 23rd. Of the six, four survived. One appeared to have been trampled by one of the other chickens and the other was sickly when it hatched. After these six hatched, she quit sitting and abandoned the other six eggs. I don’t know how she knew the other eggs were not viable, but she knew. This was fascinating to me. We candled each one of them with a flashlight before tossing them out. They were either infertile to begin with, or they had not reached maturity. The first chick that hatched we named, Sunday. 🙂 Our timing had been perfect and we actually got to see two coming out of their shell! This was my first time seeing a chick hatch, and it was really special getting to see. We named the mother hen Dolly. She has been a fantastic mother; very attentive and protective of her babies. Since then, Dolly hatched out six more baby chicks late this summer. Then our laying hens Petal and Pistol Annie (both Blue Ameraucanas) have hatched out speckled sussex baby chicks as well. Petal successfully hatched out four chicks a week after Dolly. Then Pistol Annie hatched out six in September. As hens from our laying flock went broody, we took fertile eggs from our breeding flock and placed them under our laying hens. I don’t know if the hens realize the difference, but they sat and hatched them out. About two weeks after Petal hatched her batch, she was killed by a racoon. At least that is what we suspect. Suprisingly, our laying hen Ginger (a Bielefelder) stepped in and adopted the four baby chicks. Prior to this summer, I had heard horror stories of chickens killing baby chicks, roosters killing baby chicks, you have to remove chicks from the rest of flock, etc. But we have found that the key to keeping baby chicks with the rest of the flock, is that you have a hen in the flock that hatched the chicks out. If you have store bought chicks, you cannot put them with the rest of the flock because the other chickens will most likely kill them.

Dolly with two of her four baby chicks
Dolly with all four baby chicks
Ginger with one of her adopted baby chicks
Ginger with adopted baby chicks
Pistol Annie with her baby chicks

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