Today's arrivals were a new batch pullets. These female chicks will grow and add to our laying flock or be sold to others to join their flocks after we brood them. This smaller batch of 25 (we will have 250 arrive when the meat chick order comes in a month) will spend the next month sheltered in the barn. The boys did not set up the big brooder Mike built a couple of years ago but found on the second floor of the barn the small brooder I made from an old folding, louvered closet door. Our new barn kitten, Shadow, watched intently as the chicks where taken from the box and shown the food and water in the brooder. Soon after the chicks were safely in the brooder the laying hens came over loudly clucking to check things out.
Life for these chicks certainly is different than for the broods one of our hens hatch. For a day or two after hatching a hen will keep the chicks on or near the nest as they do not yet need food or water. Just prior to hatching all chicks consume the egg yolk. The fat and water in the yolks allows them to not eat or drink for the first days of life. Not only does this allow for them to be mailed from a hatchery but it also allows the hen to safely get the chicks out of where she has sat on the eggs.
Our hens have brooded eggs in some pretty unusual places. There is a metal ceiling in the first floor of the barn, this creates a space because of the depth of the beams. A hen layed a clutch of eggs between the ceiling of the first level and the floor of the second. One day when walking into the barn I could hear scratching in the ceiling. The boys climbed with a flashlight to look into this dark layer and sure enough a Speckled Sussex had a dozen babies. We placed some food and water there for a couple of days but she soon encouraged them to follow her out.
A hen with a brood of chicks is great fun to watch not only will she expand her feathers to tuck each safely and warmly underneath but she manages to protect them from the interested dogs and barn cats. I am always amazed when a hen will take her chicks out and about any time of day no matter the temperature. When you order chicks we are told to keep chicks in a brooder at 95 degrees the first week and 5 degrees less the next week. A mama creates the perfect conditions without a heat lamp or thermometer. For the last couple of years we have relied on hens to provide us with additional pullets but to maintain diversity it was time to bring in new blood.
|Together for warmth|