We have had backyard chickens for over 2 years now. It has been so much fun to get them as chicks, watch them grow and then witness them in the egg laying process. It has been both exciting and educational for my kids. They have enjoyed running the yard with them and helping with their care.
One experience that was new to us this year was allowing a mama hen to hatch some eggs. I had a hen go broody, which means she has the instinct to sit on eggs, protect them and incubate them. Did you know that a chicken’s body temperature is 105°F. When they go broody, they start to self-pluck their under feathers so the eggs get nice and toasty. They don’t get off the nest for very long. Maybe only a couple minutes to quickly eat and defecate.
When I realized one of my girls was exhibiting signs, I marked and left some eggs under her. I marked because I didn’t want her to sit on 2 dozen eggs. Broody hens are egg hoarders. They will steal all the other hen’s eggs and nudge them under their own butts. I marked 5 different types of eggs since I have several different types of chickens. None of my chickens lay white eggs but I have tan, brown, pink mini eggs, and blue eggs. Under her, there were 2 brown and 1 of each of the others.
Hens sit on the eggs for 21 days before they are ready to hatch. At 18 days, they were a bit early, I went out to the nest and what did I see popping out from under mom? This little Penguin (that is what my kids call her). I was so excited I lifted the mama hen up gently and checked and there was a second little peeper! That one was yellow with small black spots. My kids have since named her Polka Dot. Though, I think Polka Dot is a him….
I ran into the house, grabbed my kids and out we went to the coop so I could show them the babies. They were over the moon excited that we hatched our very own chicks!!! It is so much more excited to hatch them from an egg than to buy already hatched chicks. Who knew?
Of course, with 9 other hens and 2 roosters, we had to separate mama hen and her babies from the rest of the clutch. Mama hen was still sitting on 7, yes 7, she hoarded despite me marking eggs, so I had to move her nest very carefully. I got a large dog crate and filled it with straw and gently arranged the remaining eggs in the nest and plopped mama on top with her new babies. They moved into our sun room.
Each day, we get the chicks out and hold them so they get used to us being around them. They always try to run away and mama hen gets defensive. She is the sweetest hen ever so she never tried to hurt us, just fluffed up her feathers and squawked a warning at us to leave her babies alone. Their little cheaps are so very adorable!
About 2 weeks after the first 2 babies hatched, I noticed a third little chick. This chick, unfortunately, didn’t make it. She had what appeared to me to be a prolapsed vent or another such back end issue. I had to break it to my kids that egg #3 didn’t survive. At this point I decided to candle the other eggs and see if they were living and I didn’t see any movement in the remaining eggs so they went into the compost heap.
Mama hen could now focus on her 2 sweet little chicks and forage the yard again. I let mama hen and the chicks out every morning to graze for a while. When they get tired, they come in and the other chickens get their turn to roam the yard. Once these chicks are fully feathered, they will be able to be introduced to the clutch and hopefully integrate just fine.
Penguin, I suspect to be Australorp and Olive Egger. Little Polka Dot came from a mini, Silkie egg, so she/he is part Silkie and Olive Egger. Polka Dot has 4 toes like a regular chicken (Silkies have 5) but patches of black skin like a Silkie so I can’t wait to see the end look.
Have you ever raised backyard chickens? Have you ever wanted to? It is a great way to have entertainment and sustainability. Comment with what you think below!