Tag Archives: chicks

Introducing Chicks to a Broody Hen

Sometimes this works with a broody hen, sometimes not.  Sometimes it works, but you have to be a lot more stealthy about it.  I’m lucky, because my broody Barnvelder hen, Josie, will just take chicks straight-up, with no fuss.

I just went to the feed store, and bought three chicks.

Frederika (Freddie)

Edith (Edie)

Both of these are Ameraucanas, and will hopefully lay green or blue eggs.  Edie is already my favorite.  I think she looks like a fat little owl.

And then there’s Charlotte (Lottie) who was supposed to be a Speckled Sussex, only there was some kind of problem at the hatchery, and we had to chose a different breed instead.  We chose a Buckeye.  They are supposedly great mousers!

Here is a video of Josie meeting her new babies.

Josie is such a great girl.  I used to get annoyed with her constant broodiness, but now I’ve learned to appeciate her mothering skills.  It’s so brilliant, being able to bring new chickens into your flock through this method.  There’s no fuss with pasty butt, heat lamps, or messy brooder boxes in your house.  And best of all, by the time they are grown up, they are peacefully intregated into your flock!  And if your hen is as friendly as Josie, she teaches her chicks not to fear humans.  It won’t be long before she’ll be showing them how to jump up on my lap!

I transfered Loki and his girl out of the roof garden coop, and into the smaller one, so I could clean the big coop out and use it for Josie and her babies.  While they are young, I like to give them a little extra  privacy away from the Big Hens Who Are Terrified of Babies.

Josie will be a couple of days coming out of her broody state.  If she were hatching eggs, she’d have to wait for all of them to finish hatching, so even though she has her babies, her body tells her she still needs to sit still on her nest and wait.  Meanwhile, she talks continually to her babies, teaches them to eat food (and not to eat poop).

Yesterday I introduced them, today I took a second video of them.

If you’re interested in why hens go broody, I HIGHLY recommend this article by the Holistic Hen. What she says makes so much sense.  It’s completely true that Josie used to be the absolute bottom of the pecking order…and after her first batch of babies, went straight to the top.  The only hens that give her any sass at all are her two daughters.  Of course it doesn’t help that she’s such a natural mother that when she finds something yummy to eat, she can’t resist giving the “Come babies, come babies, I found food for you!” call.  Her two-year old daughters come running, and when Josie sees them, she realizes her mistake and snaps up the goody herself, leaving her daughters standing around looking confused.

And let’s end this blog with two ducklings in a basket.  Just because I can.


Quail, Chicken, and Garden Update

Wow.  What an experience hatching quail has been!  Some good, some bad.  We’ll get to that in a moment, but first let me catch you up on the chickens.

Elizabeth/Bess  (who frequently goes by the name “Little Blue”) is a real sweetie.  If all Blue Andalusians are this affectionate, I highly recommend the breed!  She never fails to come over to sit on my lap and be petted.  She and Ellie (my adult snuggler) are now sharing space on my lap…at the same time.  They are little wary of each other, but willing to set aside their differences in order to be held.  The other day, I was holding both of them, and Ellie put her head down close to Bess to have a good look at her.  Mama Josie noticed, and came scuttling over, hackles raised, to give Ellie a warning growl.  You can look, but don’t you dare touch!

The chicks and the grown hens are now sharing a living space 24/7, and getting along great.  Josie, who used to be at the bottom of the pecking order, has now risen to the top, and is enjoying herself more than ever before.  I hope this change in status will last, since she’s a sweet, gentle girl who doesn’t abuse her power like certain other hens do *coughLedacough*These babies have completely changed her life.  Last night mama and babies perched with the Big Girls for the first time instead of sleeping in the nest box.  I think this means they are officially grown up.

In the garden, we had a super spectacular bloom – just a perfect rose.  This is Glamis Castle:

AND we have raspberries!  Yum!

And now – to the quail!

I discovered that baby quail really like to climb up and sit on things.  The humidity sponges in the incubator.  Unhatched eggs.  The thermometer.

Thanks, guys – now how I am going to tell if your humidity and temperature are right?

After four days of hatching, I think our last one hatched this morning.  That gives us a total of 16 chicks from 42 eggs.  I’m pretty happy with that percentage, since I was expecting at best a 50% hatch rate from the shipped eggs.  Three died in the shell of unknown causes, and four more probably would have died, had we not taken desperate measures and helped them hatch.  This is a last-ditch effort, and not recommended unless you are positive the chicks will die without help.  Remember that chicks can take a looong time to come naturally out of the shell, so you really have to watch them carefully and don’t just assume they’re in trouble when they are really fine.  It worked ok for us; all four chicks we helped survived, and are healthy.  One was really weak after the hatch; to the point where I thought her entire right side might be paralyzed.  She could not even sit upright, but kept falling over.  If she had been able to turn herself around in her shell and work herself free naturally, she would have strengthened those muscles and come out of the shell tired but good to go.  As it was, she was too big for her shell, and couldn’t move in there at all.  I had to spend a couple of hours working with her until her muscles were strong enough to allow her sit and walk normally.  Right now, she’s still a teeny bit unsteady on her feet, but every time I check her, she’s even stronger. I feel certain by tomorrow she’ll be completely normal.

It was a frightening thing, to hatch a chick!  You have to be so careful, because if the blood vessels aren’t completely detached, you can make them bleed to death.  Plus, you need to keep the humidity in the incubator high for the other eggs.  I took the whole incubator into the bathroom and ran the shower until it was like a sauna in there, before I opened the incubator for any reason.  That worked like an absolute charm!

And, the moment when the chick finally manages to hatch in your hand? Magical.  Even though you stayed up until the wee hours of the morning two nights in a row to help them hatch – because if you didn’t, you knew they would be dead by morning.

It’s hard to take a clear picture in a foggy bathroom!

Since the eggs took four days to finish hatching, we took the babies out in batches and put them in the brooder.

They are so small and so unbelievably cute.  They sleep in all manner of ways,

Stretched out:

On their stomachs (the fluffy feathers to the right is a feather boa, they love to snuggle into it and pretend they have a mama.)

And piled together in a puppy pile:

Among the sixteen chicks, we have six Italians, six Standards, and three Blondes.  And one surprise: an egg mixup.  See the yellow chick in the front?

I thought at first she was a  Standard, because she hatched from a “Standard egg”.  Only when all the other Standards hatched, and they were a difference color, did I google it.  I discovered she’s actually a Texas A&M.  She’ll be pure white when she’s grown.

Half of these little guys will be mine, half will go to my partner-in-madness.   I think I’ll keep the white one, as a reward for managing the incubator!  (Sorry Laura!)

As for cat Sookie, she’s never seen anything so marvelous as the contents of that brooder box in all her life!

(Yes, we do put a wire safety cover over it to prevent too much familiarity!)


A couple of posts ago, I talked about how Josie, our perpetually broody hen, finally managed to adopt three chicks and become a mother.  This is an update on those chicks.

They are getting so big!  They have wings now, and know how to use them.  They can flutter up and down from the Big Girls’ Perch, which makes them feel all kinds of important.  And they have very distinct personalities!

The one with the top knot is Isabella.  She’s a Cream Brabanter.

She’s the Adventurer, so her name definitely fits.  The original Isabella (Queen of Spain) was an adventurer too.  She’s friendly enough to me, and she’ll come sit on my lap now and then, but she never has time to sit for long.  She always has things to do!

The other day she did a circus act with her mother, and I only wish I’d had my camera on me.  She flew up onto her mother’s back, and stood there, wings fluttering for balance, as her mother walked the tightrope (otherwise known as the perch.)  It was adorable.

Freddie is an Ameraucana.

Freddie doesn’t mind being close to me, but she definitely does not like me to hold her.  She’ll come right up to me, but run away if I try to pick her up.  Silly chick.  She’s also the greediest.  I’ve never seen a chick run so fast as when her mother does the ‘dinner call’.  I could swear she teleports.

Bess is my baby.  She is a Blue Andalusian, and judging by her juvenile feathers, I think she’ll actually be blue.  Yay!

She loves to be cuddled and petted.  When she hears my voice, she flies onto the perch and runs up it, trying to get as close to me as she can.  I hold out my hand, and she steps onto it, then snuggles down and closes her eyes for a little nap.  She’s the sweetest little thing.

We’re still keeping them penned away from the Big Girls, but they have had a few play dates together.   The Big Girls try to avoid going anywhere near the chicks, but if they manage to get Josie alone, they will jump on her and remind her that she’s still on the bottom of the pecking order.

In garden news, we have little raspberries growing on the vines Laura S. gave me last year.

And the blueberries we planted last year are making little blueberries!

And those ‘White Soul’ strawberries I’m growing from seed?  Strawberries grow so slowly, but they have two true leaves now.  Two tiny true leaves!

It’s shaping up to be a great year in the garden.


Quail, Chickens, and the Garden

The last week (whenever I wasn’t at work) I was outside.  Seriously – on my days off, I was outside gardening and chickening from when I got up in the morning until it got dark!  The weather has been utterly fantastic, and there’s been nothing I want to do more.  It’s my favorite time in the garden.  It’s too early for the roses to be blooming, but everything is so lush and green.

The small vegetable patches are coming along well.  I have peas, beans, lettuce, nasturtiums, kale, onions, and sunflowers in this little square.  Oh, and dandelions!  Did you know nurseries sell dandelions as salad greens now?  While we have plenty of American dandelions (and I would never dig them out of my lawn as they are fantastic culinary herbs – and beautiful as well!) I was eager to try the fancy Italian version Christenson’s was selling.  Very cool.  Hopefully this is the beginning of Americans appreciating and savoring this ‘weed’.

I also have started a new vegetable patch, this one situated in one of the chicken yards.  They are fenced off from it for now, but at the end of the season, they’ll be allowed in the clean up.

They had a brilliant time helping me dig it out and prepare it for planting.

I love gardening with chickens – they make everything so much more enjoyable.  And they are such decorative additions.  The hen in the picture below is of Josie, our Barnvelder.  A few days ago, Josie had the best day of her life.

It began with tragedy, though.  Our much beloved and loving hen Molly developed Sour Crop, and after a couple days of feeling poorly, she died while I was holding her.

Since we were suddenly down a hen, and since I knew a couple of people who had just successfully had their broody hen adopt chicks purchased at the feed store, we decided to give that a try.  Josie, you see, is a Broody Hen.  She spends most of every summer sitting in the nest box, doing a pretty spot-on imitation of a basilisk.  See?

The feed store lady said it wouldn’t work.  She said it never worked.

This is me, Skeptical Feed Store Lady, informing you it can.

Josie now has three adopted babies.  In keeping with our tradition of naming the chickens after Royalty, meet Isabella, Elizabeth, and Frederika.

Isabella is a Cream Brabanter.  This is what she’ll look like when she’s grown up.


So unique!  But right now, she looks like this.

From certain angles, you can just see the ridge across her head where her mohawk will grow in.  She’s extremely adventurous, just like her famous namesake.

Elizabeth is a Blue Andalusian.  Or at least we hope she will be blue.  With blue chicks, you have only about a 50% chance she’ll end up actually blue.  She could be black, or splash.  But if she is blue, this is what she’ll look like, grown.

Right now, she is the most ethereally beautiful chick I’ve ever seen.

She’s nearly silver in the sunlight, and so tiny!

In contrast, Frederika is round, and fluffy, and looks rather owlish.  She also wears entirely too much eye liner for such a young chick!

Freddie is an Ameraucana.  She will lay blue eggs, and will have the most gorgeous bearded face.  There’s no telling right now what color she’ll be, but here’s one grown ameraucana hen to give you an example.


Josie can’t get over how marvelous her babies are.  After we gave them to her, she looked so astonished, and then she just began to purr and purr and purr.  Happiest day, ever.  And she’s so sweet.  Since she loves and trusts us, we can play with, handle, and cuddle the babies and she doesn’t mind.  The babies don’t mind, either – except when they’re rather be hunting worms in the yard.  (Yes, at just a few days old, they are already eating everything mom does!)

Yesterday, I went into their pen, and as soon as I sat down, Josie looked at me, then went off to have a dust bath, leaving me to baby sit.  The babies were a little freaked out by what their mother was doing, so they perched on my fingers and watched from a safe distance.  Best way of raising new chicks ever!

And what do the other hens think?  Although we keep them separate for right now, we’re carried them in and introduced them to their nieces.  Rather than being aggressive as I feared, they actually are quite skittish and freaked out by these tiny little cheeping invaders.  Their faces were quite something to behold when they first saw them – I wish I’d taken a video!

In other news, the quail coop is slowly coming along.  We laid wire in the bottom of the foundation as part of the predator-proofing.

And then we filled the dirt back in and planted various grasses for a natural quail habitat.  Now we’re working on the above ground parts.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be ordering the eggs!