Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Wednesday .... just another day in chicken land.

Lately we have discovered three hens making their appearance with clutches of chickens. Surrounding the poultry yards and shed there are plenty of shrubs that make ideal hiding spots for broody hens to sit on their clutches of eggs without being disturbed. The girls are getting crafty, realizing that they will be turfed out if they show signs of going broody in the laying nests. 
If you are wondering why we don't notice the hens missing, well, we have lots of free ranging hens  and if they don't return to the shed at locking up time each evening, they just get left out. 
It's always surprising and exciting to find a new clutch of chickens though. It's also surprising that predators (Mr Fox) doesn't get them. 

If you have your own hens you will probably notice how they all like to lay in the same one or two nests. Visit the hen house during the morning and we will see queues lining up to lay in just two of the many nests in their shed. They seem to be crossing their legs, squawking at the others to "Hurry up, this egg is going to pop out of me at any minute." In some of the nests there are three hens jostling for positions. 
Last week Brian was given this old cupboard so he made some modifications to it and it's the perfect answer to the problems. The girls have taken well to it and are spreading themselves out and enjoying their privacy. The egg numbers have increased too as we can easily find them all now.

As if there are not enough hens and chickens here lately, plus the thirty plus roosters that are ready for dispatching to the freezer, these chickens started hatching in the incubator yesterday.
There was some stress though. When Brian put the eggs into the incubator we both forgot to write down the date! Twenty one days from beginning of incubating - to hatching. We thought they were due to hatch on Monday,  but nothing was happening and the tension was building.  Thankfully, they did start to hatch yesterday (one day later) and the percentage was highest we have ever achieved. It could have been a disaster though as the humidity levels need to be raised at exactly the correct amount of days before hatching. Phew, such a relief.

As the first hatch-lings became strong enough they were transferred to the brooder that is set up in one of the sheds close to the house.
Now here is where the story gets interesting.  Brian allowed three hens in the hen house to go broody, each one sitting on a golf ball. They have been waiting patiently for their "eggs" to hatch for a couple of weeks.

By early evening, all of the chickens that were strong enough were carried to the hen house in a box.

They were introduced to their new mothers who greeted them with loving attention and gentle clucking. All seventy two of them!

 The surrogate mothers will raise them in a natural way, teaching the chicks to scratch and do what chickens do.
There will be plenty of organic chicken in our diet again this year and no need to buy from, or support, that dubious meat chicken industry.
The roosters will be for the table, the hens will become our future layers and a few will be sold to local chicken keepers. The demand is growing for Brian's lovely hens that are a cross breed from Cornish Game and Australorp with a couple of other breeds crossed in there over the years. They lay lovely eggs, and for the table they are superbly chunky with lots of breast meat.

Apologies for the poor quality of the photos as I tried to capture as it was all happening.
Isn't it lovely to have new life on the farm? I can never tire of it.
Cheers and I wish for you the happiest of days gaining pleasure from the simple things.

**Please note**  The video of the hens accepting the chicks is not playing for me but I don't know if it is just my computer. I hope it will work for you, it's so cute. :)


  1. oh so beautiful! Gosh I hope with our new hens and rooster (two years old and FRIENDLY!! woohoo!) That someone goes broody! The boys would love to watch and see it all. :)

    I'm surprised to hear you have so many roosters, it must be noisy at your house in the mornings! Do they all fight a lot?

    1. It sounds like it will not be very long before you are watching your own new chicks Emma.
      The roosters for the freezer are still a little young to start crowing. Thankfully, they reach their perfect eating weight just before crowing stage. They are not yet fighting, but their shenanigans of sizing each other up are funny to watch. Aren't we both fortunate to have men in our lives who are willing to do the dispatching of the poultry for the table? Worth their weight in gold! How did your rooster taste?

    2. Yes so lucky! I would really struggle to get the task done.

      He made beautiful full flavored broth, there was not a huge amount of meat on him and textually it was a lot stringier then we are used too but flavorsome for sure. As he was slow cooked it made it fall apart, but if I had of roasted him he would have been tough. Mind you he was an older rooster, well and truly learnt to crow. ;)


  2. all those lovely chickies! too cute! the video doesn't work for me either, bugga, cos it does look cute, perhaps a photo of them all out in their yard with their surrogate mums would suffice?
    sounds like you have a wonderful new breed going there too, clever hubby!
    hope to start breeding my own this year too, though not for the table just yet
    thanx for sharing

  3. I've never put that many chicks under one broody hen before and glad to see it works. I'll be trying that myself this spring. Your's look very healthy and there's nothing meaner than a mother hen to keep the fox out of the territory!!!
    Love your blog and look forward to each post!

  4. I'm so glad your plan worked. Those chicken mama's must be really proud of themselves hatching all those chicks from a couple of 'eggs'.

    We only managed a pathetic TWO chicks this year, but at least one of them was a cockerel, just as our old boy died his natural death.

  5. We just hatched 30 (and counting) and I noticed one bantam is clucky so I'm going to try this.... would be happy if she would even take 10 of them for us!

    1. Congratulations Liz. If she has been sitting tight for a week or more, she might take them, depending on her temperament. Brian suggests you put your brooding light next to the bantam. (Or the bantam into your brooding yard if it's large enough) She will mother all of the chicks. The chicks that don't fit under her will have the brooding light to keep warm and all of your chicks will be in the one yard. We did it this way with our last incubated chicks when we had only the one hen to mother them. Good luck and let us know how you go. :)


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