Wednesday, June 20, 2012

a little adoption story

This one is about chickens.  I know, I know - I am maxing out my self-imposed one-post-a-month-about-chickens/eggs-limit, but this post is worth it.

For the past few weeks, we have been watching a “broody” hen that just would not quit trying to hatch her eggs.  I say trying because we have no rooster – her eggs are not fertilized.


No matter how diligent she was to sit on that nest all day, every day, she would never have the little peeps she desired.  Still, she would not leave the nest, insisting on incubating those hopeless eggs.  When we would get the eggs out from under her, they were hot to the touch, and it had gotten to the point where we were nervous to eat the eggs she had laid on, especially if we went out of town and she had set on them for a few days.  We would crack them each individually, occasionally finding a foggy one that we would throw out in case it had been compromised by too much warmth for too long.

But, my husband came up with a solution to help her move on, and though I was skeptical, I obediently acted upon it…


Of course I did, what else could I do when he said we should get some little baby chicks?  =)



It is not within my power to resist baby chicks.

After a little playtime in the grass, it was time to make some introductions.  The man at the co-op where I purchased the chicks and asked about the likelihood of our plan working out, said that we would know right away whether or not the hen would accept the chicks.  Ty and I joked about putting the chicks in plastic Easter eggs to seem like they were hatching, or covering the hen’s eyes while we snuck them in, but in the end, he just went for it…

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It was nerve wracking at first… she either seemed irritated or completely ignored the little chicks…

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We weren’t sure she was the elated mother she should be – it is somewhat difficult to read chickens’ emotions…


Ty decided perhaps we were making her nervous, so he said we needed to give her some room.

Of course, I backed off a little.


Then Ty informed me that he meant put down the camera and get out of the coop.


I was just sure she would massacre my little dears while I was away.  But I heeded his advice and we let her have some privacy with her would-be family.

After a while I checked up on her, and called Ty over because it seemed she was pecking at the chicks.  Ty tucked the babies under her, which is what she had apparently been trying to do, and she was completely contented with the little ones safely nestled under her protective warmth.

That first day, the other hens didn’t want to stop laying eggs in their preferred nest and kept trying to get in and evict her…


She was a good mama and pecked out every last hen that tried to get in her nest.

For that first night I put a lid on her nest to help teach the other ladies to use the other nest and leave her be…



She seemed to be happy with her new little family, and by end of the second day the chicks were walking around the nest frequently to get to their food and water, then returning back to hide in her warmth.





They only stay out for a couple minutes at a time, then they get chilly and rush back under mama…



The third day was exciting!  As the man at the co-op had told us she would, the new mama carried the chicks out of the nest by herself and took them down to the floor so she could get some grub and stretch her legs.  But when Ty checked on her later, she had gone back to the nest without them!  I guess that is like us mom’s letting our babies fall off a bed or (gasp!) changing table.  Come on, if it hasn’t happened to you, you can be sure it has happened to someone you know. 

So we moved an extra nest box down onto the floor and she readily adopted it as her new home.  The chicks and mama can now easily exit the nest to stretch their legs and the other hens have learned not to mess with these babies.




That is really amazing, because the other hens would normally kill chicks this small and even teenager chicks, without a mama to protect them, and this new mama is so good at it, the other hens don’t even try to mess with the babies!



When they’ve had enough crumbs and adventure to satisfy themselves, they find their mama wherever she is, and make their way inside to warm up.

In this next picture, notice her shape compared to the hen to the right.  She squats down a little and hangs her wings to the floor to keep her little ones encompassed in warmth and safety under her…


And then they head back out…




And back in…




I never thought this idea would actually work, but I am so glad it did!  It has been fun for me and the kids to watch this mama take such good care of these adopted chicks, and so impressed that our Creator built in such strong instinct in his creations.  And I am happy that we get three more laying hens without me having to keep them in a separate coop – feeding, watering and cleaning in two separate coops until baby chicks grow big enough to defend themselves against the masses is the only part of having chickens that is not fun for me!

I know my friend Sarah did this with a bantam hen and duck eggs… has anyone else tried it?  I am probably the last one to do it!  =)

1 comment:

  1. I love this adoption story and am so glad you have such great photos to share! This could be a children's book. You should consider that.