So far this year (and ever) i have had four broody chickens hatch eggs and raise babies. Right now, i have numbers 5 & 6 sitting on eggs, and number 7 in the nest box keeping a porcelain faker very very warm.
When i got my first two broodies, i read and read and read on BYC, and i learned all i could about what to do with broodies. I got the general idea, and then i decided to figure it out myself. I'm here to bring you up to date on my discoveries thus far.
The first four broodies, i allowed to set their eggs right in the nest box. All had successful hatches, but i found that when open to the rest of the flock, they spend a lot of time defending their eggs - sometimes to the death....of the eggs. Not to mention that since the nest boxes are 3 or 4 feet off the floor of the coop, i had to get creative with chicken wire to keep the babies from falling to their deaths once they were hatched.
So, when in the heat of the summer, two more girls turned broody, i decided to employ the use of my outdoor brooder and see how much better my results would be if kept them semi-isolated, away from the interference of the flock.
This is my outdoor brooder, with the door open.
I started with a buff broody, and i just put the eggs in a nice neat little arrangement in the clean pine shavings in a corner of the brooder. Then i put the hen in . She clucked around, checked out the roost, and then her need to sit on eggs overwhelmed her, and she sat down. Little Mama is now on day 16.
Four days later, i tried the same thing with a RIR broody in a different corner of the brooder. For some reason, Rhodie didn't notice the eggs at first and just hung out on the roost for a long time. I was thinking i was going to have to confine her to an even smaller space within the brooder. So i got my trusty covered kitty litter box (which has turned out to be very handy for chickens). I put shavings in the bottom half of it, stuck it in the brooder, and put the eggs inside. Then, while i was going for the lid and figuring out how i was going to keep her from coming out of there, she discovered them....EGGS. I think she just hadn't noticed them before. But then when she watched me move them into this big special nest, something finally clicked, and she got very clucky and back to her broody self. Whew! And there she has sat for the last 12 days.
Pretty much everything has gone well.
At first, Rhodie forgot to get up to poop, so i started standing her up from time to time, and she seemed to get the idea. Little Mama, however, kept a pristine nest, got up and had food and water as needed, and had no problems until today.
Today....well actually, last night, i noticed that she had pooped on her eggs. That seemed weird this late in the game. Then this morning, when i went to clean them (she was up on a roost at the time), she pooped on my hand too. Little Mama seemed to have a little case of cabin fever, so i let her and Rhodie out for a while before letting the flock out of the coop. Their very first stop.....a dust bath.
I kind of felt bad. Poor girls! They just wanted to freshen up!
I made the main flock wait until the girls were done taking an extra long break, and then Rhodie went back to her nest. Little Mama needed more convincing.
Here's Rhodie's kitty box nest.
Here's Little Mama's poopy nest. It looked so good before. I have since cleaned up the poopy eggs as well as i could with a dry cloth.
Here is their little eating and drinking station in the middle of the brooder.
Rhodie was back to fussing at me for my existence in her presence pretty quickly.
Little Mama, however, seems to be turning her back on me for forcing her back into the brooder. She was enjoying her sabatical a little too much.
For comparison's sake, here are the meaningful stats so far.
Greta and Mathilde brooded together and raised their chicks together, so i lumped their numbers together as well. They started with a total of 14 eggs, hatched 9, and 4 survived to this date. They are now 10 weeks old.
Kuku started with 5 eggs, successfully hatched 2 chicks, and both survive to this date. They are 7 weeks old.
Kyckling started with 5 eggs and successfully hatched all five. Either she has a poor maternal instinct, or a couple of occasions in which she was accidentally locked away from her chicks caused her broody radar to turn off. Only one of those babies survives to date, and he is now 5 weeks old.
Current (4th and 5th) hatches:
Little Mama started with 13 eggs. She dubbed one of them a dud around day ten, and is still sitting on the remaining dozen. Hopefully the poop on the eggs from today won't have an ill effect on the chicks inside. We will see.
Rhodie started with a dozen and is still sitting on a dozen. Also hoping the poop exposure won't cause a problem.
Rhodie's and Little Mama's chicks are sold as soon as they are hatched, so i won't get as much data from them. Still, it's interesting to see what will happen.
These are my experiments in broodiness so far.