Category: Incubation

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chick update

2015 chicks
more older chicks

We ordered 25 unsexed chicks from Cackle Hatchery this year.

Australorps, Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red, Buff Orpington, and Dominque were the breeds we selected.

Why didn’t we hatch them ourselves? Because we only have two good breeding hens and it’s always fun to experiment with a new breed.

We’ll probably use Cackle Hatchery again the next time we don’t want to incubate due to how strong and hardy these chicks are.

Lessons learned with broody hens

Broody hen

It seems like every spring, one of our hens goes broody. Unfortunately, our success rate with those broody hens has been close to nill.


One year, we learned the hard way that the broody setup needs to be perfect. The nest box should be on the ground so chicks can pop back inside easily if they’re chilled, and it definitely shouldn’t be in a spot that can get wet during rains.


Another year, a Cuckoo Marans did an admirable job hatching eight chicks in an area she chose for herself in a little-used corner of the barn. But  we couldn’t catch the hen and her chicks to move them somewhere safer…and slowly but surely the chicks got picked off by a black rat snake.


Broody henDuring several other years, we’ve missed the boat, watching a hen start to go broody…and then watching her relinquish her mothering instincts when
we failed to set up a good nesting spot in time. So this year, I decided to be proactive. Even though it’s January and surely a terrible time to be incubating eggs, when one of our Australorp mixes began hopping the fence to hide her eggs in the garden, we set her up in an isolation coop complete with nest basket, food, and water.


So far, she seems to be settling in — not clucking angrily about being separated from her fellows, but instead spending time on the nest. I currently have five golf balls in the basket to simulate a clutch, but if our hen begins setting seriously, I’ll replace the golf balls with fertilized eggs. Perhaps this will be the year a broody hen comes through for us?