One of the main reasons we chose the Buff Orpington Heritage breed was because the hens are known to go broody (want to sit on and hatch out thier eggs) and usually good mothers. Many chicken breeds have been crossed or line bred to focus on a specific trait like egg production or meat production while this Orpington has remained a pretty functional “dual purpose” breed that has not lost the maternal instinct. For more info you can see previous posts on chicken breeds or look it up. Back to our Chicken Yard………..
We have a decent sized chicken house (8×8), but felt it might be best to separate the broody hen that wanted to stay in nesting box. The other hens seem to know what is up and were making it a point to lay eggs in her box..even with her in it. Many times they would climb in on top of her and lay an egg which she would dutifully accept and roll under her. This is a great natural thing, but can be an issue if she sits on eggs that were added over many days and kind of complicated things for us. . Because they hatch in a relatively set time line they would be likely to hatch on different days keeping her on the unhatched eggs many days after her new chicks are ready to ramble out. Since the hens only leave the nest once a day to poop and eat and drink, she would have to leave the little ones to ramble on their own if she had chicks over a 4 or 5 day period. When we blocked her off completely in the hen house there was such a commotion from the other two hens trying to get in there and “Steve” the roo trying to keep the peace we almost were thankful when we had another hen go broody.We marked the ones from the first few days and left them with her. Two weeks later we took 4 fertilized eggs and tried our hand at incubating them in an aquarium.
A few weeks later another hen “Henny” went broody so we decided to let her sit and then raise out the eggs from the incubator. Of course that only left one Buff O’ hen laying eggs for us to eat and with the BO roo. As a side note, she was not happy to have “ALL” of his attention. after a few days it settled down. We keep the blue Orpingtons separated and they are not quite to egg laying age. I’ll be glad when all these hens get back to laying. I’m starting to see why broodiness is not sought after by alot of people. That said….It will all work out since what we wanted was more chicks from what we feel is a very good blood line.
In the end, with two broody hens it was worth the trouble to make them a small shelter outside the main chicken house, but still within the protected walls of the chicken yard. We sectioned off an area with cattle panel wrapped with 1/2 hardware cloth. Then we surrounded the area with black silt fence to keeps the dogs and other animals from bothering them. My wife separated the re-purposed wood duck house box into two small shelters so each hen would have her own spot. We covered the top with a few pieces of old tin. She added a small collapsible wire cage in front of each nesting area so tbey would have a small protected place for food and water and to roam when they hatched. Penny, the first hen, hatched out all 11 of her babies without issue. About 2 weeks later Henny hatched the four incubated eggs and everything was going fine.
When we let them out together a week or two later, we were surprised that they worked together with the chicks. One would take a break while the other would have all the chicks and then they would switch out. Henny was the obviously betterr mom and soon Penny seemed to lose interest and spend more and more time trying to get out with the adult birds. Henny seems to do fine with all of them so we let Penny out and she did not seem to want to return. That night she roosted with the other adult chickens and left the other mama hen to raise all of them. Everything seemed fine at first, but Henny, now controlling all the chicks, started favoring her four smaller chicks and mades sure they get first chance at food. We tried to bring the other mama bird back, but it was not meant to be. I am not sure if putting them together with different age chicks was the issue or maybe letting the one hen only set a short time and giving her almost ready incubated eggs caused some confusion. It seems natural that she would want the smaller birds to get more food, but also seems she knows her brood from the other one. We will have to wait and see how it plays out.
It is the coolest thing to see the chicks scurrying around with their mama hen learning and catching bugs. Sometimes when it’s hot and I need a break I just walk over there and toss in a cricket or something….HAHA! It’s starts a commotion that you can’t help but laugh at. Soon she will have these little fluff balls completely free ranging during the day and back in the big chicken house at night. Won’t be long until they are raised up to egg layin or table age and we get to be a part of it all. Tell me that is not better than getting your food from a box!