A little miracle of nature has occurred, with my hens hatching some chicks on their own. Of course, this isn’t out of the ordinary… Chickens have been doing this for a long time without the need for me to incubate their eggs and raise them in a brooder. After I had collected sufficient eggs to run my incubator last month, I noticed that my hen was sitting on a batch of eggs. I thought I might give her a chance to raise her own little ones, considering that I already had enough for my incubator. Every couple of days I would check on her, and she would be sitting on her eggs. I would place some grains in front of her, so that she could eat while on the eggs, and left her to her task.
After 4 weeks, I began to suspect that she had made a mistake, and that she wasn’t going to hatch her eggs. Still, I left her to sit on them, as she seemed happy. It was around this time that another hen decided to set up herself right next to the first hen. She laid a batch of eggs and tried to hatch them too. Perhaps it was a new fashion…. To sit on eggs? Anyway, I left her too it as well.
A week later, as I went in to feed the hen as she sat on her (probably) dead eggs, I noticed something odd. A small paid of legs were visible standing under the hen’s wing. I starred at them for a moment, trying to puzzle through what this could mean. Surely they were not a baby chick… these eggs had to be dead. Then, on the chickens back… underneath her ruffled feathers… I spotted a movement. The small head of a chick poked through the feathers and looked at me. This was a great surprise.
A couple days later, I noticed that this mother hen was walking around with three baby chicks. I walked over and checked the eggs she had been brooding on… only three were open, the other 14 were sitting there.. looking like they had passed their expiry date. The other hen was sitting on her eggs next to this nest, eyeing me warily. I left the eggs alone and backed away.
A few days later, I went to feed the broody hens that was still on the eggs. I successfully navigated my way past the devil Rooster (I will eat him as soon as I find a replacement, or sooner if he attacks me) and set out some grain before the two hens. The mother hen was sitting on the eggs, with her three chicks around and on her. It was quite the pastoral scene, especially when the mother and her brood were eating together. The chicks were seemingly watching their mother and trying to emulate her (that could be my imagination). The hen who was sitting on her newly laid eggs seemed wary of me, yet didn’t do much but keep her eye on me. It was then that I noticed a chick emerge from under that hen, and begin to eat the food I placed in front of her. I counted the chicks again, there were now four! This new chick could not have come from the newly laid eggs, so I realised that both hens were looking after each others chicks. I did not realise that this occurred in chickens (I have seen Geese exhibit this nurturing instinct) so I was surprised and impressed.
A couple of days later, when I fed the chicks, I counted a total of 6. This number has stayed static for a while now. I am surprised that the hen waited over a week to see that all her chicks who would hatch, hatched. I have not seen this occur previously, usually the hen will take the first batch of hatchlings and leave the eggs to die. The other hen is still sitting on her eggs, yet the unhatched eggs from the first hen had disappeared. I don’t know where they went. I can now see why the Australorp is world renowned for being a good eggs producer, not only for the amount of eggs they lay, but also for their motherly nature.