Hi everyone, toward the end of my last post I mentioned that I had a broody hen, Miss Katie. When I last left you, she was sitting on a few ceramic eggs that I placed under her. In doing so I was hoping that she would adopt my chicks when they arrived. This was the first time that I had ever attempted adoption by a broody hen. I had done research on the topic but never actually attempted it myself. Well, I am pleased to say that the adoption was a complete success, Miss Katie is thrilled to be a momma again. In this post I will detail my procedure which lead to this successful outcome.
Miss Katie is the mamma hen of my flock of Buff Orpingtons. As far as she is concerned it is her calling in life to be a momma to as many chicks as possible. She loves to sit on eggs and loves even more to teach her little ones how to be a chicken. It all started about three weeks before my chicks were to arrive at my local post office. Miss Katie as years before went broody wanting nothing more than just to sit on her eggs. Given this opportunity I went ahead and let her sit on some ceramic eggs in the Bantom Boutique. If I could keep her in the broody mindset, she just might adopt the chicks that were to arrive in a few weeks. So, on a gamble I went ahead and let her sit. She was determined that she was going to sit so I just provided her a private space away from the other girls and gave her some eggs to tend for a few weeks.
Normally when a mother hen sits on eggs, she will make this her life purpose till they hatch. Knowing that Miss Katie was sitting on fake eggs I wondered if she would accept a chick that did not hatch from one of the eggs under her. This is where some careful planning and luck came in to play.
When the chicks first arrived, I placed one under her, she accepted the baby chick with no problems as if it was her own that she hatched. The following is my method which lead to this successful adoption.
- First when Miss Katie went broody, I let her sit. Since I do not have a rooster any natural eggs that she was sitting on would eventually go bad which would cause her to abandon the nest. To avoid this, I placed under her 4 ceramic eggs. They look, feel, and radiate heat just like a real chicken egg does. To her there was no difference.
2. Next I placed her in a private space separate from the girls. Since the Bantom Boutique was ready for the new arrivals I went ahead and put some shaving and the eggs in this coop. She then made her nest the way she wanted. After that the rest was up to her.
3. I made sure that she was sitting for at least 2 weeks before the chicks would arrive. A natural incubation time for a sitting hen is about 20-23 days. From the time that Miss Katie went broody to the time that the chick would arrive was 21 days. Given the time frame this would align perfectly to a natural hatch as seen by Miss Katie’s perspective. This would make sure that she was sitting and in the broody mind set for at least 2 weeks. This time also gave me a good indication that she was ready to sit for the term of the incubation period.
4. When the chicks finally arrived, I placed them in my brooder inside. After their long trip I wanted to make sure that they were all healthy and had something to eat and drink for a few hours before I introduced them to Miss Katie.
5. Since I was not sure if she would accept a chick that she did not hatch I chose just one chick to give to Miss Katie. When the chicks arrived, I noticed that there was one chick that was a bit smaller than the others and was really struggling to eat and drink. This is the one that I chose to give to Miss Katie. I knew that if Miss Katie would accept this chick that it would do much better under and natural mother hen than in the brooder with the others.
6. Late at night, well after 10 pm when it was really dark, and Miss Katie was asleep I made my approach. I took the chick, wrapped it securely in my hands and opened the coop. Miss Katie heard the chick and started clucking as she had in the past with the other chicks that he had raised. When I heard this, I knew it was safe to try to place the chick under her. I placed the chick next to her, she immediately tucked it under her wing and was thrilled to be a momma again. Once I was sure that she had accepted the chick I took an egg from under her. In the morning all she knew is that there was one less egg and I chick under her. It was a complete success!! I was so excited that Miss Katie accepted the chick, and she was ecstatic to be a momma again. Since this little chick was having a bit of problems with life giving it to Miss Katie was the best thing, I could do for it. Within 24 hours she had it eating and drinking just like the rest of the chicks were doing in the house. She was able to help the little chick in a way that I could not. Sometimes you just need a momma.
7. Now that this was a complete success, I was sure that Miss Katie was all in on being a momma, so the next night I took the rest of the eggs. After about three days or so the momma hen will abandon the eggs that did not hatch. In order to encourage her to put all her efforts into raising this little chick I had to take the rest of the eggs. So once again after it was nice and dark, I snuck out to the coop and took the rest of the eggs. As far as she was concerned, they were just gone and now she could concentrate on raising her little one.
Miss Katie has helped this little one out so much. If it was not for her, I am pretty sure that it would have died. It was a lot smaller than the rest of the chicks in the brooder and was not eating or drinking well like the rest of them. Since it was struggling with life the others just seemed to run it over in their scampering around the brooder. For this reason, I chose to give this chick and only this chick to Miss Katie. If I had given her the entire clutch of chicks, she would have noticed that this one was struggling and as nature usually, does she would have killed it. But since she had just this one chick and nothing else to compare it too, she gave it her full attention and brought it around in a way that I could not. She is definitely my ally in the chick brooding department. This was a win, win, win situation. The chick survived, I am able to say that all the chicks that I ordered survived, and Miss Katie was able to live out her life mission, to be a momma. She has definitely lived up to her reputation as the momma hen of the flock.
I am so glad that this adoption was a success. The experience that I gained from the situation is very valuable. Yet again, this is one more thing that my girls taught me. Chickens are amazing creatures; I am privileged to care for a small flock of these magnificent wonders of nature.
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~ The Kuntry Klucker & Bantom Boutique Crew ~
Such a sweet story! I too have a chicken moma. She will accept just about any chick I give her.
I am so glad that you enjoyed the story about Miss Katie and her little bit. I am glad that you were able to get
your broody to adopt a chick. When I get a shipment of chicks I am always glad when I have a broody on hand. Sometimes no matter how much you try to help the little guys they just need a Momma. Katie has been my tried and true momma hen. She is a blessing to have on my farm.
That is awesome! chicken mamas are wonderful. I have 9 more chicks arriving in may, I hope that I get a broody mama again. I will see if she will be willing to adopt them.