Introducing newly hatched chicks to a broody hen is just one method of increasing the size of your flock. This method is more delicate than placing eggs under a broody hen or purchasing immature chickens, but is still effective when executed correctly. You can coax a hen into accepting baby chicks if the circumstances are correct and you approach the issue with care.
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Set up an isolated living space for your broody hen. You must have a hen that is broody in order to assign chicks; non-broody hens will not take care of chicks or eggs. The space needs its own nest, a run for the hen and chicks, and sufficient protection from predators.
Place the chicks in a box and place it near the hen, but out of her sight. The hen should be able to hear the chicks peeping; this will change her mood. Look for signs that the hen is moving from aggressive to protective. The hen should start to purr. This method mirrors the noises coming from inside an egg and helps protect the chicks.
Leave the chick box near the hen for at least two hours. This will give the hen adequate time to shift into a protective and nurturing mood.
Place the chicks under the hen. You should do this at night, when the broody hen is least likely to notice you moving her around. Place each chick in your hand so that it is hidden from view of the hen, then slide it under the hen. Remove any fake eggs that may be under the hen as you place the chicks--one chick goes in, one egg comes out.
Wait to see if the hen has accepted the chicks. Unfortunately, there is no way to speed this along. The hen will take the chicks out in stages, moving farther from the nest each time. If you have not seen the chicks outside of the nest within one day of placing them, you will need to check the chicks to see if they survived the transition.
Tips and warnings
- Start this process at dusk; this gives the hen time to calm down and ensures she will be less responsive when you move in to place the chicks. Hens will accept chicks that are between one and four days old, but younger chicks are more likely to be accepted. Try to obtain healthy, day-old chicks for best results.
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