August 3, 2011

The Mathematics of Baby Chicks

1 setting hen

 +  1 clutch of 9 eggs (fertilization rate questionable)

+ 1 box of 16 mail order chicks =






?????????????????






1st hatched

Mail order chicks slipped in after dark

The goats were the first to visit the next morning

His Lordship's squawks send them running back to Mama 

The biggest chicks were out & about first

Mama eats from the chick feeder & drops bits on the ground for the babies

"Are you my mother?"

Everybody gets tended to

All adds up to one big happy family


Filling in the blanks:
  • Mama Welsummer spent her first night on the nest on July 10th. The next morning I put 8 eggs under her. I targeted hatch day as July 31st.
  • The next day when she got up for a stretch, I counted nine eggs.
  • I tried to candle them after one week and then two, but never did see what I was supposed to.
  • Ordered 15 Buff Orpington chicks from an expected July 27 hatch.
  • 16 chicks arrived via the post office July 29
  • Sunday the 31st, I noted Mama sitting on the nest, clucking very softly.
  • Later that day, one black chick head appeared. She continued her soft clucks, but that was all I saw.
  • After dark that night, I put the Buff Orpington chicks under her. At that time I saw 2 black chick heads. 

I was concerned that the newly hatched chicks, being smaller, might get crushed by the bigger chicks. In our case, everything worked out. The home hatched chicks knew they could hide under Mama, and spent the night there. The Buff Orpingtons just encircled Mama and huddled close. 

Of the 9 eggs in her nest, 2 hatched out completely: a Barred Holland egg and a Welsummer egg. One chick died before it made it completely out of the shell. I wasn't certain any would hatch, so this is a blessing indeed. Even though I doubted that all of the eggs had been fertilized, I did wonder what would happen if they all hatched and we ended up 25 chicks. I was concerned it would be too many for Mama Hen to keep warm. Considering our hatch rate, I'm glad I got them.

We lost one of the Buff Orpingtons on day 2, so we now have 17 baby chicks. It's interesting, because even the mail order chicks heed Mama's warning clucks. They all come running if she gives an alarm. Or they run to her if any loud noise startles them. And she's somehow able to round them all up and get them in the nest when it's naptime.

I don't know which of the three Welsummer eggs hatched. It might be Mama's, it might be one of the other Wellie's. As far as Mama's concerned, every single one of those chicks is hers.


Good thing chickens can't count.

38 comments:

Mrs. Trixi said...

I love it. Do you have her penned in some way? I would love to let mine free range and probably will once they are bigger but for now they are in a chicken tractor.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

What a great post, I love all the pictures. Isn't it amazing how Mama so lovingly adopted all those baby chicks and cares for them as if they are her own. Adorable!

Tree Hugger said...

Live baby chicks in the mail????? I would be on needles and pens after seeing the last box I've received - busted even with extra insurance and fragile marked on box.
Momma Hen is wonderful!!

The Apple Pie Gal said...

How adorable! I just love that Mama hen for adopting all those peeps! Sounds like the timing worked out really well too. Good planning on your part! Sorry more didn't hatch for you and that you lost the baby buff, but very excited that all are adjusting nicely!

Susan said...

How nice to have a hen to look after them all! Beats the heck out of a brooder in the laundry room. Great pictures.

Laura said...

Aren't they a hoot! I love having baby chicks, and the hearing the noises that the hens make. My Roo takes just as much interest in the chicks as the hens, encouraging them to eat, etc., just like mom. It's really fun to watch.

I think you'll be really happy with the buff orps. They're a good dual-purpose chicken, that lays sufficiently well for home use - I hope you plan to eat some of these little guys... 25 chickens (if all are pullets) lay enormous amounts of eggs! I once had 30, and couldn't keep up. I can't keep up with my current 7 laying hens, and have 6 in the wings (so to speak), that are 3 months old. I need to look up your freezing eggs info!

Sherri B. said...

How very sweet they all are and she looks like a very good mom! Ours only hatched out 2 also and we didn't know if there would be any either.

Benita said...

Awww! She's a good mama.

And they are so cute! Are the Buffs for eggs or for eating?

Deb W said...

Yes, it's a lovely thing to have new chicks about. My bantam Brahma hen went broody, so I bought some fertile eggs to put under her - 3 buff Orps, 1 black Orp, and 2 cochins (all bantams). Only the 3 buff Orps made it, but I consider myself blessed to have those 3! (photos on my blog)

I'm glad to see your mama hen is coping with such a large family!

Renee said...

how wonderful! Any chance your other hens might get broody?

One of my friends who raises chickens gave us a bunch of eggs last week. Some of them are so tiny (from her newest layers). I tried to candle them to make sure we don't have any surprises when I go to break them...they looked okay (no different than store bought).

I'm glad that mamma chicken can't count too. :D

The Weekend Homesteader said...

That picture with the chick on mama's back is too cute!

Leigh said...

Mrs. Trixi, yes, I made a pen in one of our two goat stalls. It's got enough room for them to run around, but not so much as to get lost. A chicken tractor would be a good idea for the babies too. All of my chickens free range, but I'm still concerned about the little ones getting hurt or picked off.

CaliforniaGrammy, thanks! I've never seen a mother hen with chicks before, so it's been really interesting to observe.

Tree Hugger, scary ins't it? This is the second time I've ordered chicks via the mail and I'd do it again. The P.O. calls when they come in, around 5 a.m. That way I can go get them early and get them off to a good start!

APG, it took some research to find a hatchery that had the kind of chicks I wanted, when I needed them. I really hoped to split the order with Speckled Sussex, but they were out for 2011. I told Dan that's what I would get next time we have a broody hen.

Susan, beats the heck out of all those baby chick chores! Like a brooder light and pasty butt. Mama Hen does it all!

Laura, that is so neat about your rooster! I'm a little worried about when to let the chicks mingle with the chickens. They can see one another through the fence, so at least the know the other exists.

I ordered straight run specifically so we could try both the eggs and the meat. I've found that 7 laying hens has been a good number for the two of us, plus having some to give away. I really don't need more than a couple more hens. Eventually, it would be nice to hatch out a brood once a year to cycle out the old ones and keep the eggs coming.

Sherri, it's a real guessing game, isn't it? Mama Wellsummer has turned out to be a very good mom indeed, which is a relief.

Benita, I ordered straight run so we could have both. Dan loves chicken so we're trying to find a decent dual purpose breed. Won't be like raising broilers, but at least we can have the best of both worlds.

Deb, I'm on my way to see your pix!

Renee, neat huh? I don't know if I'll get another broody hen or not. If I do, there's another breed I want to try. Several of the other hens are very interested in the little guys (from the other side of the fence). Not sure if they're taking notes or not. :)

Candace, isn't it neat? I never realized what natural chick behavior was. It's a treat to watch. :)

Jane said...

I just love watching mama's with their chicks. It is so cute how they talk to them. And she did a good job with getting two hatched. I currently have a hen on a nest of what seems like 1000 eggs and they are all over due. I just dont have the heart to kick her off yet. Since other hens were laying in the same nest, some may still be viable. But she is trying her hardest.

Michelle said...

I loved reading about this. I've never had - and will likely never have - a hen with chicks, so it's that much more special.

Michelle said...

Just a note after six or more months of having Speckled Sussex. They lay the smallest eggs of all my hens, even though they aren't the smallest chickens (they are by no means the largest ones, either).

What Pigs Don't Know said...

Awesome, Leigh! You know I love me some baby chicks! We're actually getting 35 more tomorrow! Don't have a mama to raise them though - well, I guess I'll be the mama. So cute - thanks for sharing! -Carrie

Peggy Arteberry said...

thank you for sharing! This was warm-hearted and wonderful to read. I am a newbie to chickens.. I've had mine almost a year. I love them and call them my "girls." ;-)

Mama Pea said...

We've hatched our own and ordered day old chicks, too, but I sure would prefer to always have a mama hen raise them if possible. That was so smart on your part to sneak those newbies under Mama Hen at night. Our ordered chicks seem to get along okay, but having a mama hen raise and teach the little ones has got to be the more natural way.

Norma from Misty Haven Alpacas said...

I loved this story and the pictures. That hen is so sweet.
N

Leigh said...

Jane, your gal is really a trooper. It's funny how they let others lay in their broody nest. I hope you get at least one keet out of the batch.

Michelle, thanks for the tidbit about the Speckled Sussex. I did read that they are prolific layers, but nothing about egg size. None of my hens lays very large eggs, except the Ameraucanas. They lay extra large and I love it!

Carrie, you'll have your hands full! Hopefully some day one of your hens will raise a batch for you. I have to admit it's way easier that way. :)

Peggy, you're welcome! Glad you enjoyed the post. Chickens are great, aren't they?

Mama Pea, I have to say that hen raising is so much easier! I was relieved that she accepted those mail order chicks. I'd read mixed reports so I wasn't sure!

Norma, thanks!

HangKebon said...

OMG...Leigh...those baby chicks are so cute! ;)

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

I remember buying baby chicks with my grandma at the feed store many years ago. I can practically hear the cheap-cheaps from the pictures of your little guys :)

Amish Stories said...

Great now I've got more rooster's in the world to chase me around,lol. Only kidding and cute pictures. Richard

A Wild Thing@Sweet Repose said...

This conversation about planned parenthood really made me smile, you know, it's the simple things that make life so worthwhile, watching the goats check them out, then Mr. Big...how fun is that...a day in the life on the farm, thanks for the chuckles...now back to chasing my Mr. Big out of the hosta...argh!!!

sharon

BrokenRoadFarm said...

That is sooooo sweet!!!! They are all just adorable - even Mama!! Thank you for sharing :-)

Casey said...

I enjoyed reading this post so much.

Madness, Trouble and Squish said...

Ahhwww, they are so cute! I have to say - baby chicks in the mail is just weird!

Nikki said...

This is such a great post...I think I'll share it with the kids tomorrow since we could all use a break from Shark Week for some baby chicks.

Leigh said...

HangKebon, agreed!

Tanya, our feed stores sell them in the spring too, and I am always tempted to buy more. I was wishing I could get them locally this time, but mail order ended up being the only way I could get hatchlings this time of year.

Richard, aw, and more hens too, to lay more eggs!

Sharon, "planned parenthood," that's too funny. I'm only hoping the face to face meetings go as well!

BRF, you've got me curious, any eggs yet?!?

Casey, thanks!

MT&S, it is weird if you think about it. I wonder who came up with the idea in the first place!

Nikki, thanks! Quite a change of pace from sharks!

Lisa said...

That was incredibly great timing that the hatchery was able to fill your order in your timeframe for your mother hen. I've raised baby chicks both ways...but never thought to mingle mail-order chicks with a broody hen...Great idea! Love your photos and your 'story'.

Leigh said...

Lisa, to be honest I didn't think this idea was going to work out. Fortunately Cackle had the Buffs, and with a 15 chick minimum order. Don't know what we would have done if we'd had to order 25! I also read it can be touchy giving a mother hen strange chicks. That's why I did it right after dark on hatch day. Like I said, good thing chickens can't count! ;)

Toni aka irishlas said...

So very cute. What a good mama she is!

Have a wonderful weekend.

luckybunny said...

Adorable pictures! :) Great post and good luck :)

Illoura said...

It's a darling situation after the fact... at least you got some home-hatched chicks!
When you approach a hen after dark to do this sneaky deed, is she brain-dead? LOL, what I mean is, she was still sitting on her nest at night to keep her little chicks warm- so did she see you do it but not acknowledge your doing it, or is she really that helpless to understand that you were putting chicks all around her?

Now that I see how absolutely CUTE they are, I can hardly wait to get my own!
Thanks so much for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

what is really a hoot is watching a Silkie hatch and care for other hen's eggs...especially when the "babies" pass her up in size they still follow her around.
TinaH

The Cottage Garden Farmer said...

I've tried this trick with a broody as well, It's much better than using an incubator, the broody does all the work for you, and I got a better hatch rate too. Lovely chicks! Kathy

Leigh said...

Toni, she is and what a relief. I've heard stories that not all hens are!

Donna, thanks!

Illoura, it's funny about chickens after dark, isn't it? She actually pecked at my hand, but never protested what I put under her. :)

Tina, that's too funny. I've heard smaller hens like Bantams make wonderful setters and mothers.

Kathy, I agree with you so much. Interesting about your hatch rate. I read a lot about how unpredictable this method is, but really, there's no guarantee even with mail order chicks. We lost 5 of 24 with the first batch we ordered. From now on, I think this is the only way to go.

Crow said...

What a good Momma hen. And what good math skills you have! I love your blog BTW. It is going on my afternoon perch (aka blog roll.)