Early May, our black australorp hen decided to go broody. For those that don't know, that means that the maternal instincts are kicking in and she is wanting to hatch some chickies. Except, there are two problems with that scenario.
1 - We don't have a rooster, so none of the eggs the hens have been laying have been fertile; and
2 - We collect the eggs every day, and once she went broody, she stopped laying.
That means that she was trying to hatch a nest full of straw, which doesn't work too well. Thinking that it was a passing thing, we just ignored her. And she continued to lay on that nest of straw.
Attempting to prompt her off her nest I gave her a little push out of the box, thinking she would get up and walk around. Wrong. She just fell forward as though she couldn't even walk. Hmmm.
Hating to waste a good thing, the services of Craigslist were sought. A day later, 18 fertile guinea eggs were purchased and placed under the broody hen. We figured one of two things would happen:
1 - She would get up and stop being broody. We would lose our fertile egg money, but we would get our laying hen back; or
2 - She would continue to stay broody and hatch out some guineas for us. (Since we no longer had guineas, and we had a very mild winter, there were lots of ticks that needed eating.)
Six weeks later after going broody, the first eggs started to hatch this past Tuesday. It was 26 days on the head, just as I was told by the fertile guinea egg proprietor.
Checking frequently, we pulled out the empty shells and kept waiting and counting. 1, 2, 3...6, 7, 8...11, 12, 13...
Thursday afternoon she decided enough was enough and she got up off the nest and went outside to get some fresh grass and clover. Counting all the keets (that's what baby guineas are called) we had a total of 15! Not bad for only buying a dozen, getting 18 and having 15 hatch out.
The little keets followed her all around. Everywhere mother hen pecked, they would peck. Everywhere she went, they would go. It was really quite amusing. Mother hen was protective and would puff up and get big whenever anyone, or another chicken, got close to her chickies.
I have to say that this is an easy way to raise chicks or keets compared to our last attempt. Mother hen takes care of them and shows them what to eat. The only issue we have is getting them back up into the chicken condo at night. Mother hen goes up and then they sit at the bottom of the ramp, squeeking away not knowing where she went. We have to catch them and put them up into the coop.
But thats OK, because they are just so cute, even sitting in their water! Rumor has it that if the keets are raised by chickens, they will be more docile and calm. Only time will tell.
Coming home Sunday evening from a friends house to make sure the keets made it up into the coop, we couldn't see them all. Some were under the coop, some under the ramp. After a bit of chasing and scooping, we got all we saw into the coop and back to mother hen. Unfortunately, there were only 12 to be seen. Sometime during the day, three went missing. Not sure if another chicken, the dog, or a snake in the woods got them, but we are going to keep them in the coop and run for the next few days until they get a bit more agile and hardy.
Checking again tonight, we still have 12, but one of them has a bad eye. Similar to the problem we had on the first batch. It still seems to get around. As long as the other keets leave it alone and don't keep picking at it, everything should be alright. Again, time will tell.