Sunday, 14 October 2012

Hen and Chicks

As promised, better late than never, I have gathered together some pictures of India and her brood. These are day old chicks. A few hours out of the incubator. India had hatched some of her own also and we "donated" a batch of 12 others so she had 14 altogether. We didnt actually think she would be able to keep that many warm, but she did. She could hardly sit down and her wings were spread out so there was plenty of room where it was nice and warm and protected.

You can see in the other pictures how many little heads pop out when they think there is food to be had. Chicks raised by a hen are much stronger and take on food and water much better than chicks who have had to work it out for themselves. They also get exposure to a less than hygienic existence. I firmly believe that for chicks to be strong and healthy they need to be exposed to bugs at an early age. Bugs but not filth I mean. It builds up their immunity and makes them more able to cope when they are older.  They dont need the heat that brooder raised chicks need and they spend a great deal of time away from the warmth of the hen as they practice foraging for themselves.  She will call them over when she thinks they need to try something new.  If you are raising chicks this way you need to be aware that the chicks will be fair game for any birds like magpies, crows, seaguls, and raptors like hawks, falcons and owls.  Your friendly neighbourhood cat or dog or a passing rat will steal them away also. A protective mother hen will protect them to the death if she needs to and she will be formidable but its best not to take the chance. The chicks will huddle under the hen all night so they need somewhere protected from the elements and predators at night too. It will give the hen a bit of relaxation time as she will feel safe and not anxious.

 The chicks here are hitching a ride. They get to borrow some of the hens warmth while avoiding the log jam underneath.  As the chicks grow the hen will stand more and more upright trying to cover the increasing size of the brood.

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