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June 15, 2011

We Are Family

Our second batch of chicks arrived in the mail early last week, and in preparation, my husband built a cozy little nursery pen inside the coop. We set things up anticipating having to use the heat lamp, but I was still hoping that one of my broody hens would step up to the plate and make that unnecessary.

Shortly after the chicks arrived, we took two peeps out to the coop to see what the hens' reactions would be (we had 5 broodies at the time). Most of them either growled at us to go away, or showed no interest in the chicks at all. Our darling Reepicheep (a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte), however, was intrigued - she even tolerated having them snuggle under her for a minute. We tried moving her into the nursery pen, but she was indignant and desperate to get back on her nest, so we decided to wait until nightfall.

Under the cover of darkness, we snuck into the coop and moved Reep into her new pen. Thankfully, she was more than happy to hunker down onto her new nest (why are chickens so dopey after dark?). Hardly daring to breathe, my daughter and I carried out the box of noisy babies, fully expecting it to throw the coop residents into a frenzy, and started slipping them, one by one, under their new mom. To our delight, she took to it like a pro, clucking happily, and fluffling herself out to accommodate everyone. In the end, she fell asleep with 20 peeping fuzzballs tucked blissfully within her warm feathers. I went in to check on them every two hours throughout the night, just to be sure, but there was no need - our girl had adapted beautifully to becoming a mother literally overnight.


It's interesting watching Reepicheep raise her babies. She's been teaching them how to dust bathe and scratch for treats, and they've even started responding to chicken language (she makes the sound for "oh look, I found something yummy!", which I've only ever heard the rooster make until now, and they all come running).


Her brood seems to love her so much that it's hard to imagine raising chicks with a heat lamp for a mother. They even seem to love horsey rides the way she did as a chick.


The only downside that I can see so far is that this batch of babies is so bonded with their adopted mom that they have no interest in us humans. Every time I go in to check on them, they run away in terror. I'm hoping they'll get over that if I ply them with enough treats.


But really, how can I even dream of competing with this:


For those who are interested, here's a breakdown of the breeds we went with this time (all from McMurray hatchery):
-7 Americanas (one was a freebie)
-4 Cuckoo Marans 
-4 Rose Comb Brown Leghorns (we're down to 3, as one was weak and died not long after arrival)
-2 Blue Cochins (one was a freebie)
-2 Anconas
-1 Silver Laced Wyandotte

Not a bad deal - ordered 18, got 20. All of them are female, except for the Blue Cochins, which are straight run, so their gender will be a surprise. Here's hoping that they aren't both roos!

6 comments:

el said...

Congrats!

I first tried it with Chicken Patty, our one lone meat bird that we kept one fall (daughter's idea, her parents of course named her). She is the best mom, and now doesn't even need to go broody for longer than a day before accepting any new babies.

Our experience of the chicks' friendliness is completely dependent on how friendly the mother hen is. Bantams make wonderful mothers but they're flighty, so any babies, even levelheaded birds like your Cochins, think we're out for blood if we come near. Chicken Patty's babies, of course, are people-friendly.

Anyway, it's about 1000 times easier having hens do the work! Nature is a beautiful thing, after all. Even in domesticated creatures.

Cheryl said...

Your post about Chicken Patty was very reassuring to me when I was deciding whether to try this, so thank you. I'm glad to hear that they may adapt to our presence yet. And you're not kidding about it being easier - I keep almost forgetting that we have them!

ezrablu said...

Beautiful and amazing :o) Your photos are wonderful!

Cheryl said...

Thanks, ezrablu! :)

Bev said...

There is nothing cuter than brand new chicks! I love those pictures, and I'm jealous that you have a broody hen!

I'm going to be a chick mama again pretty soon. Maybe I should throw myself a shower?

Cheryl said...

Bev - It definitely sounds like a baby shower is in order! ; )

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