Lessons from Hatching Chicks in Late Winter


Happy, healthy chicks, despite a rough beginning. Photo by Jo deVries

Last year, I got back into raising chickens after taking a couple years off to write a book. Demand for birds was high in 2020; I was lucky to get what I did. I started the season with a selection of adult birds of different breeds. The birds bred, and I was blessed with a great variety of chicks. I hatched out 35 chicks and kept my four favourite chickens and 10 Guinea fowl.

I thought that the Guinea fowl were going to become my new flock of bug eaters as we had become so close, when they were little.That feeling didn’t last long.  The Guinea fowl were great until they reached maturity — then total hysteria every time I entered the coop. That was it; I’d had enough. I posted an ad, and they were gone the next week. The chickens were on their own to deal with the ticks.

Supporting a Broody Hen

In December, the chicks I had hatched began reaching maturity and started laying eggs themselves. I had a good idea which hens would be the first to sit on their eggs, to go broody. When a chick is only a month old, you can put very young chicks with it, to help determine the nature of the bird. Chicks that will develop into broody hens usually have that type of disposition even as young birds; their mothering instinct is already in place.

In the middle of February, my hen Sandy went broody. I debated for a while, whether it was too early to hatch out chicks in mid-March; sometimes we still have snow in April. Yet, she was willing, and I was keen to get a jump on the season. I left Sandy to sit on 10 eggs. After feeling guilty about the frigid temperatures, I crocheted a wool pad to help insulate the eggs. Sandy hated it. I had been silly enough to introduce it to her during daylight hours. When I slipped it under her in the evening, she was fine.

5/11/2021 9:28:00 AM

Just like you should not help a butterfly emerge from a cocoon because the struggle to release itself develops the wings and makes them strong enough for the butterfly to fly.......the struggle that the chick goes thru to emerge from the egg shell helps in the survival ability of the baby chickens......They need to "break out of their shell" on their own......Chickens have been hatching by themselves without human help and the species has survived for at least 7 thousand years ( according to the Biblical Creation account )......Human interference/ help often does more harm in the long run than just letting things happen as God intended them to happen.

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