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The Great Chick Experiment 2013

As you may or may not know, I am an almost year-old chicken owner. As in, I have had chickens in my life for approximately 1 year. I purchased my original brood as day-old chicks from MyPetChicken.com. We have been very pleased with the birds, but since ordering our chicks, I learned that breeding facilities aren’t always the most humane of operations. I will not go into detail here, but let’s just say that when people {like me} request a certain gender of chickens {for us, 4 boys and 12 girls} there ends up being a surplus of chicks, which may or may not be dealt with in a less-than-pleasant way. Read more here if you want the {extremely gorey} details. Anyway, I decided quickly that I would prefer to stay away from commercial hatcheries in the future, and committed to breeding my own replacement hens going forward.

One of our hennies was getting a little nasty earlier this week, pecking my hands and making an odd growling sound when I attempted to remove her eggs, so she seemed willing and determined to sit on a few eggs for a while. Hoping that these are definite signs of “broodiness,” last night I moved our 3 Buff Orpington hens and our Buff Orpington rooster into the Love Shack for a few weeks in semi-solitary confinement.

Here’s my plan:

  1. Isolate the Buff Orpingtons, the breed we have that’s more inclined to WANT to rear a brood of chicks.
  2. Mark a few eggs and leave them in the nesting area for the “broody” henny to babysit. Here’s where it gets complicated. Since we have 2 other not-Buff roosters, I assume the fertilized eggs already inside my Buff hens are…mixed breed chicks. Since I want purebred chicks, I need to wait for the eggs inside to make their way out before keeping any for incubating. I need something for her to do in the meantime, and don’t want the nest to fill up, so there are 4 marked eggs in the nest. I’ll collect everything else for 3 weeks, assuming those are not purebred eggs.
  3. IF a hen is still feeling broody in 3 weeks, she’ll get to sit on whatever eggs are laid by the Buffs in isolation; I think we will shoot for 10 total. If no one wants to sit, I can at least assume that all the eggs inside are purebred, and whenever another one decides to sit, I will stop collecting again immediately.

While I have no experience with this kind of thing, I do have some really great friends around me who are eager to offer suggestions, and I think my plan has a reasonably good chance of success. Luckily, there really is no pressure to have chicks this year. My hens are only going to be one in June, and won’t need replacing until next spring at the earliest. And since I wasn’t sure exactly when to expect the broody behavior to set in, I am a little concerned I may have missed my chance. I think I will isolate the breeding chickens on April 1 next year, hoping to have the 2-3 week mix-breed eggs out before any hennies go broody. And in the meantime, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a successful chicken mating season!
**I’ll update the post with a picture tomorrow!

Update, April 22nd
First, here’s a picture.Broody Hen

And now an update: I’ve decided to alter my plan a little bit. I began to worry that our hennie wouldn’t still be interested in sitting around to hatch some eggs by the time I had enough purebred eggs for her, especially since now I’m only getting 1/day from my Buff Mamas. {Come to think of it, I wonder if she’s not letting anyone in and they’re laying somewhere else……?} Anyway, I decided to just let her keep the 4 she started with on Thursday night, and hope that she’ll hatch some of them out around May 9 or so. Then, if another hennie decides to go broody later in the season, we’ll already have the Buffs isolated and can have a clutch of purebred eggs for her in no time. At least I hope. We’ll see what happens!

4 thoughts on “The Great Chick Experiment 2013

    • Go for it – if you can provide a secure home for them, that is! It’s tough in coyote country! We have heard of some friends losing birds to hawks and fox around here. Knock on wood; we’ve been safe so far….. Have you guys considered putting up an electric fence? You certainly have plenty of room!

  1. I have no idea how “marking” an egg makes any difference. What do you write on them? Can chickens read? (highly recommend following the “here” link in this post…)

    • I marked the eggs so that *I* would know which ones she was keeping and which ones I can collect. Though she doesn’t get off the nest often, when she does, someone else is laying an egg there, I guess hoping Mama will take care of it.

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