Alfresco Broodies

This warm dry summer has been a godsend for raising chicks, even in late July/early August we discovered two girls who thought hatching and raising chicks alfresco was the way to go.

Bonnie our Gold Brahma's eggs

The ample clutch illustrated above is Bonnie’s one of our Brahma girls.

Unfortunately, all the brahma’s have been broody on and off all summer. The other two girls of Bonnie’s flock are also broody right now in the coop, leaving the two boys of this flock with no girls to parade around with. Our other flock of brahma’s near the house are now out of being broody (for the time being).

As Bonnie had been missing for a couple of nights, I guessed she might be out in the open somewhere, but where? Day three she suddenly appeared to feed on mixed grain with the brahma boys and the other two girls. Right I thought, now is the time to see where she goes when she has finished feeding on the grain. I followed her to a rough grass area with bracken, sure enough she slowly disappeared into a clump of grass and bracken to what I assumed was her nest. To my amazement she had been sitting on no less than 10 eggs! She certainly had been very busy.

We decided that she really must be safe and secure in a broody coop and not outside with all the risks that go with that. Luckily we had just one small broody coop unoccupied. There is always a risk in transferring a broody with eggs to a new nest. We transferred the eggs first and then Bonnie, glad to say, apart from a brief couple of minutes when she was wondering where she was, the sight of the eggs proved too much and she went inside and settled down over them.

After a couple of weeks more we had a quick look inside the coop. To our astonishment she had hatched 9 out of the original 10, there was still one single egg left unhatched. We left her to it and kept our fingers crossed that the unhatched egg might hatch overnight. Come the morning and all 10 were chirping away loudly. We decided to move her and the chicks to a safer place, at least for first few days. So we gently lifted her out and put the chicks into a bucket to transport them all to a brooder inside the house. On the journey to the house, we kept letting her see the chicks in the bucket, just so she knew we weren’t kidnapping them.

One day earlier in the same week around dusk, we heard cheaping coming from within the depths of the rugosa rose bushes. After much searching trying to locate where the sound was coming from, we finally saw a couple of chicks and then a little later mum with all six! This wee Silver Laced Wyandotte bantam had (in the open), brooded and hatched these ‘babes in the wood’. She and her charges were given a safe haven in a broody coop as well.

Again, unbelievably two days later, more cheeps coming from the same hedge of rugosa roses. This time it was late afternoon, so it wasn’t so fraught as the last time. The cheeps belonged to a trio of Araucana chicks, but mum was no where to be found. We then had to locate the mother. I knew which bird it was as she had insisted on sleeping outside during this recent hot weather.

When I’ve put our hens to bed recently and popped my head inside the coop, it has felt like a sauna inside. so her staying outside was very understandable. Eventually we found mum and tried to re-introduce her to the cheeping chicks she had abandoned. Nope, she wasn’t interested in the slightest. We then decided to move the chicks inside the house, to a vacant brooder and try again to see if their mother would do her duty. This time she made her feelings very plain and started to bang against the wired lid of the brooder, trying her best to escape as fast as she could.

Right, ok we thought, we now have a slight problem. Cheeping chicks and no mother. I then remembered that little Solitaire, our Belgium bantam. She had been broody for days and had recently moved in with the Japanese bantams, all of whom are a lot quieter and more her own size than the mixed bantams she usually shacked up with. As soon as Solitaire caught sight of the chicks she started making clucking noises, some hens exist soley to be mothers and Solitaire just loves looking after chicks.

Solitaire and Araucana chicks

As it is now heading towards the end of August, we’re hoping that there are no more chicks hidden away somewhere. Our Silver Pencilled Hamburghs are definately under suspicion as we’ve not had any eggs from them for weeks. All of them turn up at bedtime, as we do a head count. There must be a huge pile of Hamburgh eggs somewhere waiting to be found, probably in our nearest neighbours land, oh well!

As a footnote to this article, Bonnie’s brood are now growing fast. We let them out into the garden for short periods only. As we have mink around we are taking no chances, besides they are still on the small side, even for Brahmas.

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