This spring we’ve got some sweet new additions to Sky Meadow — baby chicks! One of our hens is currently raising four little babies, and we are in love.
A few of our hens regularly go “broody” — that is, triggered by seasonal hormonal shifts to want to raise chicks. Normally when this happens, I don’t allow them to stick with it. They eat, dustbathe and generally get out much less when they’re broody. All that time on the nest can be hard on them, so it’s not good to let them go through it unless you’re going to let them hatch chicks for real.
When you do want chicks, letting a broody hen hatch and raise them herself has a lot of benefits compared to hatching in an incubator. She manages the whole incubation process, instinctively turning them and using her body to maintain the proper heat and humidity. Once they’re born, she protects them, keeps them warm, and teaches them how to eat, drink and dustbathe.
But this spring, knowing we wanted to hatch some chicks, it was just a matter of waiting to see who went broody first. I had a feeling it would either be Pumpernickel, who has raised a brood here in the past — or Fawn, one of the chicks that Pumpernickel raised the year that Brendan and I moved here. Turns out it was Fawn! She started going broody in mid-May, and when a few days passed without her giving it up, I knew she was committed enough to give her some hatching eggs.
We don’t have a rooster, so we had to source hatching eggs from elsewhere. Thankfully, a very generous neighbor shared a bunch with us. We placed them in Fawn’s nest in mid-May and, just like clockwork, four of them hatched 3 weeks later. They’re now just about a week old. Mama Hen has been doing an excellent job. She makes sure everybody stays nice and warm, and teaches them how to eat and drink. She is raising them right in the usual chicken coop, in a special crate I’ve set up as her brooder.
Our chickens are what you might call a “barnyard mix” — they aren’t purebred and we don’t know exactly what breed they are. Judging by the light blue eggs they lay, they are at least mostly “Easter Eggers.” The new babies come from a flock that includes Easter Eggers too, plus Barred Rock and Jersey Giants. As far as we can tell from the chicks’ appearance, it looks like we got a nice mix of all three! We’re so excited to see them all grow up.