Summer Chicks & Broody Hens

Hamburgh  Chicks hatched in March 2013

Hamburgh Chicks hatched in March 2013

We have had a very busy spring and summer this year, being almost knee deep in chicks! Our first lot were Silver Pencilled Hamburghs hatched in March. They were hatched in an incubator, so no problem with uncovered eggs. If you are looking at incubators and finding the choice a bit overwhelming, we would strongly suggest spending a bit of money and getting one of the RCom incubators. We have a couple of these and they are first rate, automatic turning of the eggs, and more importantly, full humidity control and temperature control via a digital panel.

Useful as an incubator is, we much prefer hatching with a broody. This year we were lucky as we had a choice of broodies, almost every coop had one by the time May arrived. So we chose the ever reliable Japanese bantams to hatch some white large fowl Silkies and some Vorwerks. We got 3 out of 6 Silkie eggs to hatch which wasn’t bad. The Vorwerk hatch was better 8 out 12. The Vorwerks are classed as a rare breed and as we already had 2 boys, we thought we’d try and hatch some more and get a flock going.

White Silkie Chicks

White Silkie Chicks

The surrogate Japanese bantams are wonderful mothers, organising themselves into mini co-operative groups. We had a group of 5 taking on the task. This time around though there was a fair amount of squabbling between them unfortunately, the eggs got rolled around a bit, no sooner had a female gone outside to feed than her companions pinched her eggs. It finally quietened down a little when the eggs hatched. By this time even the cockerels got in on the act, they often took on the job of brooding the chicks, so enabling a female or two to take time out to water and feed themselves.

Japanese bantams - Surrogate Mums

Japanese bantams - Surrogate Mums

Normally any broody with eggs are provided with private quarters away from the flock for obvious reasons, but Japanese bantams seem to buck the trend. We have raised a number of chicks within this flock, usually more Japanese bantams, but they are more than happy to act as surrogate mothers when the need arises.

Back to our trusty incubator again, we successfully raised some more Silver Laced Wyandotte bantams. Over the years the SLW bantams had dwindled down to 3 individuals, one of which (Fifi) passed away only a few days ago. This time, out of 12 eggs we got 8 to hatch and now around 10 weeks old they are a very lively bunch. This little group also have 3 black large fowl Silkies, who were raised together with the SLW bantams.

Also getting in on the act was a little Japanese/Wyandotte bantam cross. Down near the shed is a coop with some bantams, one of which decided she’d go on walkabout. Come the evening we had one missing, ah well we thought, not the end of the world. She was still missing by the end of week 2, probably out in the open brooding somewhere we imagined. She did appear on a couple of mornings to feed and then disappeared again.

One morning I was walking towards this coop and saw something I wasn’t prepared for, the missing girl had appeared with no less than 13 chicks in tow, all of whom were cheeping loudly. A rather large unplanned pregnancy!

We moved her to a secure little coop designed especially for broodies. This coop has served us well, it has already helped to raise some hamburghs. The little girl looked very happy with all her chicks underneath her in the coop, a bit more secure than out in the open.

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