While we were away from this space last month, one of our new Black Copper Marans went broody. We decided that it might be a good time to replenish our flock, so we left a dozen eggs under mama hen. For twenty some odd days we waited, candling eggs, and wondering if this experiment of nature would actually work for us first year homesteaders. Around day twenty three we about gave up. It was a Friday and we decided that if they didn't hatch by Monday, we were going to call it quits and send the eggs to the compost bin. On Sunday evening, the first chick hatched, with each to follow over the next twenty four hours. We ended up with eight healthy chicks. We gave the other eggs a few more days, but nothing happened.
Having purchased our chicks through a hatchery last year, we had no idea about taking care of these mama hatched bundles of fuzz. To our amazement, we didn't have to do anything. We took care of mama, and she took care of her babies. The only thing we did intervene with was to bring them into the house. It was still in the upper 30's at night, and I was afraid the other hens or rooster might try to attack the chicks, so we set up a play pen for mama and her brood.
Here are our top five reasons to let mama hatch her own chicks...
1. No incubator needed. Mama rotated the eggs and got them just where they need to be for hatching.
2. No heat lamp. Being off grid, this was a concern of how we would keep newborn chicks warm. Mama took care of that.
3. Healthier chicks. Last year, almost every chick from the hatchery ended up with pasty butt. We spent weeks nursing sick chicks back to health. This year, we didn't have to nurse any babies.
4. Fast learners. Within hours, they were eating and drinking. Within days, the chicks were scratching at the dirt. It took days for the hatchery chicks to figure out the food and water, and weeks to figure out scratching. They also developed faster, physically. Their feathers came in quicker than the hatchery chicks.
5. Saves money. Other than feed, there was no cost for these new chicks.
Our chicks are all fully feathered right now and have been moved, with mama, to an outdoor pen until they are large enough to be introduced to the flock. Our other Black Copper is broody now and we're going to let her sit on a dozen eggs, too. We should have a few new chicks around the second week in July. Our plan is to keep the hens for eggs and raise the roosters as meat birds.