I’ve hatched chicks before, sometimes in the incubator, sometimes under a broody mama hen. Since baby chickens hatch pretty self sufficient (they pop out fully feathered, can get around pretty well within a few hours of hatching, and can eat and drink on their own as long as you show them where the food and water is) I usually raise them inside in a little playpen so I can give them lots of attention…or, uhm…so I can watch them and snuggle them and take lots of pictures of them and give them tons of treats. We call it ChickTV.
This is the first time I’ve let a mother hen raise chicks, and I’ve been surprised by what an excellent job hens do taking care of their babies. I didn’t think mother hens had much to do besides keeping their babies warm, but Pickles has proven me wrong. She does keep them warm, but she’s also great at reminding them to drink, showing them how to look for food and catch bugs, and does a great job cracking sunflower seeds and other large pieces of food into tiny pieces they can eat. She pecks at the food until it’s crushed, picks up a tiny bit in her beak, then calls her babies over with a cute little cluck. They all come running and she drops the little pieces of food into their mouths. She’s careful about making sure each one gets enough to eat before she eats anything herself.
It’s the year of Downton Abbey-themed names here, so these three newbies are Mary, Edith and Sybil. They’re probably all roosters. : )