Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Very Small "First"

We've experienced a lot of "firsts" in the past year.  Byron and I didn't grow up homesteading/farming.  Heck, I don't even think I had a garden until I was married!  We've raised chickens for meat and eggs, are raising two steers for meat, were given goats, planted fruit trees, created The Biggest Garden Ever (which since has become The Garden of Everlasting Weeds), and the list goes on.  And didn't I just see that July was declared the hottest July in the history of Julys?

Sometimes, you can have too many "firsts" at once, even if they do take place over the course of a year. 

But then in the midst of feeling overwhelmed, you get a first like this:

One of our Rhode Island Red Hens got broody.  So we thought we'd stick a few (three) eggs under her and see what happened. 
Byron is great at telling when an egg is fertilized.  Basically, he grabs some freshly-laid eggs, a flashlight, and disappears into Charlie's closet for a few minutes.  It's a talent I can't mimic or explain.  He was right on all three counts, and here's how we know:

Egg #1: I accidentally collected Egg #1 and stuck it in a carton, in the fridge.  I'd had a brain fart and thought we had put two eggs under Broody Hen, not three.  Thankfully, Byron caught my mistake, and of course he had to go crack it open to see what was inside.  Let's just say that's not the only chicken I accidentally killed that week, but more on that later.

Egg #2: This egg hatched today, but the chick was dead.

Egg #3: This egg hatched today, and the chick was alive.  Here's Baby Chick with Mama Hen:

We placed them in the brooder, away from the other hens.  Any ideas on how long we should leave them in there?  Byron found the chick outside of the nest box initially, so we were a little concerned about leaving them with the other hens.
So we'll see how well Baby Chick does.  Mama Hen seems to be getting the whole mom thing.  She's even abandoned three other eggs we put under her to take care of this little one.  Okay, so maybe that's not optimal parenting, but we're talking about a chicken here. (UPDATE: As of last night, she was sitting on the eggs again and had Baby Chick tucked under her wing.)

Before I sign off, a lot of people have asked me what it means to have a broody hen.  Here's what I know about it:

1. Something kicks in (hormones??) to drive a hen to sit on the nest box ALL THE TIME.  She'll only get up maybe once a day to eat and drink.  This means she's broody.  She wants to be a mom.
2. When a hen gets broody, she clucks a lot, especially when she's off the nest.  It's like some sort of chicken paranoia.
3.  You'll also notice that her feathers get ruffled, literally.  She looks like a mom, and moms have no time to groom in the morning.  Kind of like this:

Mama Hen bristles at me and my camera.
4.  Eggs take 21 days to hatch.  They really do need to be at a pretty consistent temperature, so if Broody Hen gets confused and goes and sits on some other eggs, you may want to move her or the eggs so that the eggs can incubate.  Watch your fingers; she'll bite!
5. Mark the eggs.  We made a small "x" with a Sharpie, but it might be better to put the date on the eggs so you can know when to expect your little hatchlings to, well, hatch.
6. From what I've read, the death rate of new chicks hatched this way is pretty high, so don't be disappointed or give up if it doesn't work the first time.

As always, thanks for sticking with me through this rather busy season!  I'm linking up with Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways and Rural Thursdays!


  1. Some chickens have had the mother thing bred out of them but others seem to have a little. Our game hens were more on the wild side and could raise them out in the bush and got down right serious about it. I used to replace their little eggs with brown ones and they would raise large chicks for me.

  2. lovely! We have only hatched eggs in an incubator, don't trust our hens to stick with it for 21 days! When the occasionally go broody we separate them in a small cage for a few days until they cool off. The worst part about the incubator is waiting for the chicks to hatch out and wondering if we should help them. Generally the ones that get stuck and need help end up having some kind of problem anyway, but its very hard to leave them there.

  3. Oh fun! Congrats on your new little one. None of the hens we have this summer are broody, but last year we hatched two sets of chicks using broody hens.

  4. This is quite interesting. We've just jumped in with chickens ourselves, in a very learning on the job kinda way. So far, we love them. Congrats on your baby, sounds like an adorable experience!

  5. Birth is always a miracle to me ~ such a cute chick ~ What year for you ~ great things happening but still can be stressful ~ Wonderful post and photos (A Creative Harbor)

  6. We (well, the hen), hatched two chicks this year -- which I'm so happy about. Nothing more enjoyable than seeing a hen and her (chicks.)

  7. How exciting! I hate when my hens are broody and I give them eggs but none of them ever hatch. I find it really sad. So whenever they do hatch them I get very excited!

  8. We never were lucky enough to have a brooding hen. It will work out fine in time. B

  9. Hello, new follower here and I’d like to invite you to join me at my weekly Clever Chicks Blog Hop:

    I hope you can make it!


    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick