I can’t believe it worked

Neil and I were plotting to try and get a chicken mama or two to nest IN THE COOP this year. Our free range birds are wily creatures, and every year since we got them they’ve nested outside in the woods. Last year we lost two potential mama hens this way (turns out there are predators in the woods too, who knew!?)

But they love to lay eggs outside, even when they’re not nesting the heritage breed birds have those genes that make them want to hide their eggs. Earlier this spring we found they were hiding some (bunches really) in the hallway of the coop, behind the old dog crate and the icky bits of sheep fleece that I’m saving* for garden mulch.

And that’s when our plan started. If we left the eggs there – just the right number (8-16) would one of the hens nest there when she felt the mood? I’ve been carefully picking up the oldest and leaving a good sized clutch in the hall for over a month now. Neil picked up the rest of the eggs yesterday, but carefully left the “hidden” clutch alone.

And last evening there was a mutt hen sitting on them, protecting them and squawking at me! I really can’t believe we tricked one into nesting inside! Very exciting. These will be third(ish) generation farm chickens. The mutt chickens are our three newest hens, who were hatched late last summer. And their mother was hatched in our woods as well.

Any number of things could still go wrong. I could have left the older eggs in the clutch by accident. Our new rooster could be, um, not fulfilling his side of the bargain. She could be too young or not have the right temperament for nesting for 3 weeks straight. She could do what her mama did and decide all she really wants to do is nest and not attend baby chicks.

But if everything goes right then in 21 days I’ll have adorable baby chicken pictures to show off!

*where do you save such things if you don’t have a chicken coop hallway I wonder?

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3 responses to “I can’t believe it worked

  1. Good luck!!! We had two broody hens hatch out 13 chicken mutts in our coop last week. So far, they are doing great, but we keep holding our breath. The hens went broody within a day of each other, so all the chicks are about the same age.

    We were certain this would fail because everything we’ve read said not to let them brood in the coop with other chickens and not to let two mamas even see each other – let alone brood in the same area.

    So far, so good, though. The mamas have set the ground rules and the other birds are giving the chicks a wide berth. They’ve also settled in and made their own nests with comfortable space between them. The chicks and the moms seem very content to be a little community, with chicks trading moms at will.

    I hope everything works out! We had a turkey hen spend *a* night in the tall grass of our fenced-in pasture and it drove me crazy. It must stink when a hen disappears off into the woods. 21 days is a long time.

    • I’ve heard the warning about two mama hens not getting along. But I’ve also heard plenty of stories like yours where they get along fine. If it were me I’d assume if they nested near each other by choice that it’d be ok.

      I have no idea why you wouldn’t want them in the coop with the other birds. We’ve always scooped the mamas up and moved them inside once the babies hatch (earlier if we can, but finding their nests is hard!) I’ve never had the other chickens harrass the chicks. My old roo even looked out for them and fed them treats just like their mama would.

      • They filled my head with ideas of egg breakage and displacement by pushy hens. They said my broody hen would leave the nest to get a drink and then return to the wrong nest box.

        Last year we had a hen try to brood unsuccessfully. Other hens kept laying eggs on top of her and the situation became confused with lots of broken eggs. Fortunately, our broody hens seem a little more confident and stubborn this year. I’m glad to know others have had success this way. Everything we were reading seemed more intensive than we wanted. We were willing to give up a little success if we could let the chickens do their own thing with as little intervention as possible.

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