Da Chicks Gots a New Mama

I really didn’t want to keep the newly hatched chicks indoors under a lamp during the night while putting them outside in a pen during the day. There would always be the risk that a sudden storm would blow up, wetting and chilling the chicks while I was gone. Soooooo, off to find a suitable mama hen to see if somebody wanted to adopt.

Since these are large breed chicks, it would make sense to choose a large breed mama, right? Heh. Well, most large breed chickens do not have the maternal instincts of my lil’ bantams. I picked out a tiny lil’ black bantam hen, a young one who’d never hatched out any chicks, and placed her with the chicks. She didn’t hurt them and talked to them a bit, but didn’t seem to know what to do. I left her in there for about half an hour, returned her and replaced her with an older bantam hen. Young bantam hen didn’t want me to catch her to return her to the pen with the others. Older potential mama hen was VERY upset about being removed from her pen and friends and being placed with the chicks, and spent the entire time squawking in protest and pacing back and forth along the pen walls. She didn’t deliberately harm them, but she did step on them when they got in the way.

About that time, SwampMan hollered that we needed to go to town NOW, DAMNIT, and quit messing with the chickens. Okay, fine. The chicks went back to the incubator. That hen went back to her pen.

When we returned, I picked up another older hen. I put her in with the chicks to see if she would bond with them. She picked them. Bummer. No abusive chick killer hens wanted! The chicks were peeping loudly in protest because they were getting cold. It was starting to get dark. The hens were going to roost. Did I screw up in my method this time? Usually I sneak chicks under a hen at night so that she has a chance to get used to them by morning and is usually (but not always) bonded to them by then. I went back to the bantam pen, returned potential chick killer hen, and retrieved the first hen I’d tried to give her another shot at motherhood. If she didn’t want them, I would put the chicks back in the incubator and find another hen, put her in the pen in the dark, and then sneak the chicks under her.

She heard the chicks peeping and started “talking” to them before I put her in the pen. Good sign. I went to feed the cats, then came back. I didn’t hear any peeping. I didn’t see the hen, either. Yikes. I rushed back to the pen and the hen was on the ground fluffed up over the chicks, keeping them warm. She appeared calm and happy. The chicks were warm, calm and quiet. Ah, good. I think they might have a mommy now, but I’ll check frequently during the evening in case she changes her mind.

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