When one of your hens turns broody, consider the potential benefits of letting her hatch and raise some chicks.
Hens can turn broody even without the presence of eggs. Sometimes they'll even sit on rocks or fake eggs to make them hatch! So rather than taking all the fertile eggs from her to consume and ordering chicks online, let your broody hen raise a few with her own good sense.
Here are seven reasons to let your broody chickens do their thing when they lay eggs:
1. You can hatch chicks earlier in the spring with a broody hen.
Chicks hatched earlier in the spring are more likely to start laying earlier and to continue laying despite the onset of winter.
In my area of New England, if a chick reaches laying age before September 15 or so, they are likely to continue laying through the winter.
2. Less mess because there is no need to raise chicks indoors.
My first flock came through the mail. It was a chilly early spring, and I had no electricity in my coop, so they were in my house in a large chick brooder and an electric heat source (the Brinsea Ecoglow is what I used and what I recommend in place of a heat lamp if you don't have fertile eggs and a broody hen).
Brooding new chicks in the house is super cute for about two weeks. The beginning of week three, the stench and the dust is memorable enough so that you never ever, ever want to do it again.
Let your chickens hatch eggs in the coop!
3. With a broody hen, there is far less equipment.
There is no need for incubator or heat lamp or a heat source like an Ecoglow with a broody hen raising chicks.
The hen provides the necessary heat and turning for incubation right in a nesting box, and then provides all the heat needed for growing chicks thanks to those cozy breast feathers!
4. No more worry over live chicks lost or delayed in shipment.
This method eliminates shipment worries.
You have less suspense over weather extremes or delays during shipping and less stress about getting to the post office first thing in the morning for a live chick shipment.
5. Raising chicks with a broody hen seems to result in less risk of complications.
Pasty butt, or chicks getting too hot or too cold are issues rarely seen in the care of a broody hen.
Anecdotally, from the experiences of others and from my own, I've never encountered pasty butt in the chicken coop except with chicks received through the mail.
6. A broody hen is an "authentic" old-fashioned way of increasing your flock and a homestead skill you can be proud to have.
Increasing your flock this way is self-sufficient, especially if you have your own rooster, or easy access to hatching eggs (local or by mail).
7. There is nothing sweeter than seeing mama hen with a gaggle of new chicks following after her!
Not only does this make for cute photos ops of new chicks, it's a wonderful sight to see a good mother hen care for babies. Some good chicken breeds that tend to be broody are Buff Orpingtons, Brahmas, and Speckled Sussexes.
So the next time one of your hens goes broody, don't think of it as an inconvenience. Look on the bright side and consider the benefits of naturally increasing your flock with a broody hen.
Have you hatched chicks? Let us know the reasons you do or don't use a broody hen in the comments below!
All photos via Daphne Cybele.
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