Flygap.....Lol, about the only thing I’m a guru at anymore is shoveling manure! Horse manure, donkey manure, alpaca manure, goat manure, chicken manure, turkey manure, duck manure… J
Ok, pull up a chair and get comfy......
My girls sit and hatch all the time and I will even put turkey eggs under my chicken hens, which works great! Plus I end up with smarter turkeys which are notorious for being pretty brainless in general.
So far, I find hens who are at least a year or two old make the best brooders. I’ve had a few try it at about 9-10 months old, but they often fail as it takes dedication to stay on the eggs, but still get up to feed, drink, and go potty everyday.
Depending on where the hen chooses to sit as to whether I separate her or not. Although mine have their own area and nesting boxes, they are free to roam anywhere inside all my pastures and will choose a variety of places to try. If it is in a busy common nesting box, or she is getting picked on a lot (because she won’t move off the pile) or it’s a dangerous place (under the hay rack) I‘ll move her to a place I have set up for quarantine/emergency pen for my smaller animals or into a huge dog crate and close the door for a few days, with food and water of course.
Some hens will tolerate a move very early on, some not. Once they have been on their spot for say a week, moving them will make them abandon the eggs.
Usually, after the chicks hatch and if it was in a common area, then I will either pen off the area (again, depending on the nest sight) or I will move mum and chicks to the above mentioned QT pen or large crate. I have on occasion when everything is full up, placed hens and chicks into a large rabbit cage I bought just for that reason.
Some hens will care for the chicks for months, others get real tired of it after a month and a half and will want say… “see ya kids… you’re on your own now.”
The other chickens can and will attack the chicks even with a diligent mum, so I like to play it safe for the chicks sake and confine until they are big enough to run, hide, or otherwise be ok in a scuffle.
Mum hens range from mild tempered to “rip your face off if you touch my chicks!!“ so do be careful until you know how the hen will react to your touching the chicks. (Yeah, ask me how I know this!)
If you have a broody hen, but decide she is not the breed of bird you wasn’t to raise, you can purchase day old chicks after she has been setting for at least 10 to 15 days. You go in during the night and swap the chicks for the eggs under her and fool her into believing her babies hatched. Any earlier that 10 to 15 days and she won‘t buy it since total hatch time is 21 days, but after 15 it works really well.
Turkeys take 29 days, but my girls are dedicated and will sit forever until something peeps and hatches.
My current 5 chicks pictured on the last page were planned to be stuck under a broody hen since the weather has been so good, but none of my girls have set yet. Oh well, that’s why I usually wait until June to buy chicks and do the swap, but I got a really good deal this time sharing the purchase with a friend.
Oh, and yes, I have had a chicken pick her own spot, sit, hatch, and defend her chicks with no interference from me what-so-ever. But since I have lots of 4 legged farm critters the odds are stacked against them that they will get stepped on before they get big enough for mum to teach them the wise way of “how to be a chicken.”
Sorry for the novel....