Sunday, March 29, 2015

First Home Hatched Chicks

I've reared plenty of chicks, but till now, I've always purchased day olds. I've never actually had any hatch right on the farm before. So this is a first! 

The first hen to hatch out some eggs is this feral chicken. She has lots of maternal instinct and was the first to become broody. So I slipped 6 eggs under her and let her brood them. Of the 6, 3 hatched. Since I wasn't sure the eggs were fertile, I'm pleased with the 3 chicks I got. She's not the biological mom of these chicks, but she doesn't know that. She's taking wonderful care of them. As you can see, she's eyeing me up. I think if I stepped any closer to those chicks she would have attacked. She's a brave hen. It makes putting out food for the chicks a real challenge. But the chicks come running anytime they hear me calling "chick, chick, chick". That poor hen practically has a stroke when she sees them running towards me, she surely doesn't approve of such behavior. 

I have two more hens sitting on eggs right now. One is a veteran at brooding and will hopefully end up with a dozen or more chicks. The other is a first timer so I only put 6 eggs under her. We shall see what happens in the next week. 


  1. Notafarmwifeyet commented via email, "Won't the hawks get those chicks?"

    While we do have a hawk that works our area, the mongoose is a far more dangerous predator. And if the hen were some domestic breed of chicken, I wouldn't be surprised to lose most or if not all of the chicks to a mongoose. But the feral hens around here are quite aggressive mothers. While they don't manage to rear all their chicks, getting 4-5 to adulthood is common among the ferals.

    Because the feral hens are such good mothers, I'm thinking of using them as my surrogate moms. Right now I only have one feral hen, but I plan to get more. My other two broody hens are both domestics, so I will have to keep the chicks better protected from predators.

  2. I was going to ask about the mongoose(s) (mongeese? :-). So you don't take any other precaution besides getting attack hens to protect the peeps?

  3. I set out traps for the mongoose. So do two other neighbors. Thus we can pretty much keep their numbers down. But one mongoose can wipe out a pen full of chicks in the matter of minutes. It actually happened to me once. I lost every juvenile chick.

    The hawks are a different matter. They are a protected species so I cannot harm or harass them. So I am doing three things to reduce hawk loss. First, I keep sacrificial roosters. They sound the alarm which sends the hens for cover. Then they stand up to the hawk, intending to fight I assume. But instead they become hawk dinner if they don't make a break for cover. Second, I purposely feed the plethora of doves that are around. I have a set place that I place food, making it easy for a hawk to grab one. The problem with this is the timing. The hawks don't keep a schedule, so they often miss the doves eating. It's only when they have chicks on the nest that they will come perch in the tree, looking for doves. Third, I'm getting better mother hens. The domestic hens are terrible at protecting the chicks. These feral hens are far better at it.

  4. So you don't have a big pen with underground barriers and a roof? Does chicken wire just melt in the acid rain? We currently have a big pen that the chickens stay in all the time. They don't free range but then we don't have a good place for them to do so. And we only have 5 hens and 1 rooster. The owners of this place (we're caretakers) don't like poop all over their patio furniture. That's the back story. I told Marty I would want a chain link fence around the property so the dogs and chickens wouldn't get out. (I know! 'spensive!) And loose dogs couldn't get in. And maybe we could get the lazy cats to stay in, too. But them I'm not so concerned about. I'd like to let the chicks free range ideally. Back on our little acreage in Tracy they free ranged. A few well timed shot gun blasts discouraged the coyotes and we shut the chickens up at night in a big covered pen. But I'd wager to guess that the feral chickens are almost like wild birds and can tolerate weather conditions, right? Do your feral chickens go into your hen house and lay their eggs in there? I'd also guess that ferals lay under bushes and their eggs are hard to find.

    Great advice about sacrificial roosters.