Yesterday afternoon I was walking out to the garden, when I spotted a hen and her entourage. I knew she had been hanging out around the raspberry bushes at the far end of the yard, but I had no idea that she had turned the raspberry patch into a nursery.
We’ve hatched chicks before, but we set the mother hens up in a closed in hatching box, and brought the broody mamas food and water every day–this gal just snuck off and took matters into her own
The chicks are mutts–half Barred Rock, and half mystery rooster. Here’s the three contenders:
This is Nutmeg, our oldest bird, and my favorite–he eats out of our hands, and will jump into our cars if we leave the door open. He’s an Americana, so if the chicks are female, we’ll know he’s the daddy if they lay olive colored eggs. Americanas lay blue eggs, and Barred Rocks lay brown, so usually a cross results in some shade of olive green.
This is Chicken Buddy, we hatched him a few years ago, and he’s half Barred Rock and half Jersey Giant.
And finally, Red Ryder, I’m guessing he’s a Buff Orpington or maybe a Rhode Island Red.
It’s been so interesting watching the mother hen care for the chicks–she keeps them warm by sitting on them, has taught them to scratch and forage on their own, and, in the beginning, flew at us in a fury to defend them. We’ve since put them in a large wire dog kennel that sits on the grass, so they can enjoy the sunshine, still scratch, but have protection. At night I put them in an enclosed dog carrier, and she doesn’t mind me handling the chicks at all.
We’ve talked about starting a sustainable flock of dual-purpose birds, instead of buying a hodge-podge of chicks every year. This hen’s obviously got the mothering thing down, so that might be in our future.