I recently had a rash of "brooding" or "sitting" hens. I do not have a rooster, so the process of hens sitting for over 21 days without laying any eggs is not only a loss of egg production, but stressful on the body of the hen. Day and night, almost 24 hours a day, they sit and sit. Unfortunately for the hen also, we have had several weeks of horrible, hot hot weather.
I have 3 hens sitting, so I decided to purchase 10 chicks and see how it worked out between them.
It was almost late afternoon by the time I got the chicks purchased and home, I waited another hour so it would be closer to dusk. But wouldn't the odds be against me. All three hens had been in their regular setting positions for weeks. When I brought the bag of chicks into the hen house, only one hen was on the nest, the other two were out eating. (Sorry for bad photos, it is dark in the hen house and those little chicks kept running around)
I grabbed a couple of chicks and put them under the one remaining hen. She is my regular, nasty, mean, look out she will peck you hen most of the time, but when she is setting, she is darn right vicious. I put my hand under her with 2 chicks but she ended up drawing blood on my hand from her pecks. The little chicks loved getting under their new mom,unfortunately she quickly wouldn't have any part of them and pecked at them too. I quickly grabbed them back before she could hurt them.
By then, maybe the other two hens heard the cheep noise, but they came running back into the hen house and took their regular nesting spots.
Now the next part is darn right amazing for several reasons. I grabbed 4 chicks and put it under "Speckles" mom. She gladly and happily accepted them and started her little chicken talk to them. I went to put a few more under her but she was just happy with the 4 chicks.
Then I took the remaining 6 chicks and put them under "Blackie" hen. Unfortunately, I put them under her from her front area, and she wouldn't take them. I gave her a few minutes, and then I put them under her from her rear area and that seemed to work. She too, made the cluck cluck noises to the babies and all was well. 6 under Blackie, 4 under "Speckles".
I checked on them several times in the night and all was well. Still got the evil eye from the nasty one, but I left her alone.
The next morning was puzzling. There were only 9 chicks and the chicks changed mom hens, "Speckles" had 6 and "Blackie" had 3 with them. I had no idea what happened to the 10th one,
All went well that whole day after checking on them several times.
The following morning, I counted heads and "Speckles" had 5 under her and "Blackie" had 4. Weird. That day, I saw the hens take the chicks out into a small area of the yard to teach them how to forage and to do the chicken scratching. Interestingly, both hens went together and worked the chicks together. And the chicks would go back and forth between the hen moms. Sometimes, one hen had all 9, other times, they would split up again.
I believe I have a theory as to what happened is I purchased 5 Cochoo Marans and 5 Black Jersey Giants. They were hatched and brought together in their respective breeds. When I purchased the 10, I had them all together and put the chicks under the mothers randomly. They all looked the same to me, black with white spots on them. When the chicks were trading Moms, I believe they were getting together with their hatch mates.
But now, they are 9 chicks with two Mom Hens!!! Even at night, the mothers sleep side by side with chicks under neath. So darn cute.
And as to the nasty hen? Each day, I get bloody hands and pull her off the nest so she won't get sick staying on the nests so long. She gives me such an evil eye, puffs up 3 times her size and makes the most loud noise. I tried to complete her nesting instinct, but maybe next time she will be more accepting.
Chicken raising sure is interesting.
Next time I will tell you about my last flower job, a house warming party!!