The Surrogate Chicken: Introducing Chicks to Broody Hens

Inside: Learn how to go about introducing chicks to broody hens for natural nurturing. Discover the benefits and steps in this insightful guide.

The process of introducing chicks to broody hens allows these maternal birds to serve as surrogate chicken mothers, providing warmth, protection, and valuable life lessons to the young ones. And you don't have to have a brooder set up somewhere safe and warm for chicks.

broody hen with chicks outside with The Surrogate Chicken Introducing Chicks to Broody Hen text overlay

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The Surrogate Chicken: Introducing Chicks to Broody Hens

We have done this with great success using a silkie hen as a surrogate. Silkies are a small breed of chickens that go broody often. And they make great mothers! Not all hens that go broody are going to make great mothers. We had a great experience giving 10 chicks to a broody hen and hopefully, these tips will help you too.

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Understanding Broody Behavior Before Introducing Chicks to Broody Hens

Broodiness is an instinct in hens that causes them to want to sit on eggs and raise chicks.

During this period, broody hens will become more protective of their nesting area, exhibit nesting behaviors, and even pluck out their breast feathers to create a warmer environment for eggs. This is the behavior you want to see in broody hens before you choose her for surrogate motherhood.

Benefits of Using a Broody Hen as a Surrogate

The decision to use a broody hen as a surrogate mother offers several advantages over brooders.

  • Broody hens provide a constant source of warmth for the chicks, crucial for their early development.
  • Hens impart important social and behavioral cues to the chicks, teaching them how to forage, communicate, and interact within a flock.
  • You don't have to have a heat source going for heat.
broody hen

There are some cons to having a surrogate hen take on your chicks too. Such as:

  • You probably won't be able to handle the chicks as much.
  • The hen can decide to stop caring for the chicks at any point.
  • You have less ability to protect chicks from danger in some cases – depending on where you have the broody hen.
  • You can't brood as many chicks under a hen as you can in a brooder.

Preparation Before Introducing Chicks to A Broody Hen

Before introducing chicks to a broody hen, it's essential to make necessary preparations to ensure the well-being of both the hen and the chicks.

A safe place to keep the hen and her chicks, somewhere she feels comfortable, somewhere safe from predators getting them.

Feed and waterers, shavings are all necessary still of course. And be prepared forthe broody hen to bite you when you refill those waterers and feeders. Our hen saw us as a threat to her chicks and would try to take big chunks out of us when we reached into her safe space.

3 yellow chicks in the grass

Introducing Chicks to the Broody Hens

The process of introducing chicks to a broody hen requires patience and careful observation.

One common method involves slipping day-old chicks under the broody hen at night when she is in a deep sleep.

Alternatively, chicks can be gradually introduced to the broody hen during the day, allowing her to become accustomed to their presence.

We brought a broody hen into the house, in a crate, and gave her an egg to sit on to make sure she was still interested in brooding. She sat on her egg and an hour later we carefully put ten, week-old chicks behind her.

I swear that chicken's eyes were about to pop out of her head when she saw those chicks. BUT she gathered those babies up under her quickly and happily. We did make sure to remove the egg.

hen and chicks

Monitoring and Care

Once the chicks have been introduced to the broody hen, it's crucial to monitor their interaction closely. Ensure that the broody hen accepts the chicks and provides them with adequate care, including access to food and water.

A good mother hen is going to lead her chicks to food and water. She is going to keep them under her so they stay warm.

Bonding Between Chicks and A Broody Hen

As the days pass, a strong bond forms between the broody hen and her adopted chicks. The hen diligently cares for the chicks, keeping them warm, teaching them to peck for food, and protecting them from potential threats.

Under her watchful eye, the chicks thrive, growing stronger and more independent with each passing day.

When we moved the chicks outside, they were going to be in a coop different than the hen, we were starting a new flock, a breed new to us. The runs are all connected but separate, and momma hen sat against the wire to her chicks run for a few days keeping watch over them still.

We have had a broody hen hatch her eggs as well and when we introduced her and her chicks back into the flock, she protected her chicks from the other hens, and honestly very quickly the other hens stopped even bothering to well, bother them.

broody hen with chicks in grass

Introducing chicks to a broody hen offers a natural and easy approach to growing your flock. By using the instincts of broody hens, we can create a nurturing environment for newly hatched chicks, fostering their growth and development in the most natural way possible.

I highly recommend it if you have the opportunity to do so.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can I put a broody hen in with baby chicks? Some breeders have success with placing day-old chicks under a broody hen. The older the chicks are the less likely they are to take to a hen, but you can always try carefully.

    Will a broody hen adopt 2-week old chicks? It depends entirely on the hen. Some hens will readily accept chicks as long as they are broody, some will need to sit for about the right amount of time, and you'll need to sneak them in at night.

    How many chicks can a broody hen take care of? A standard hen can easily keep 12 or more chicks warm; a banty can cover several. It depends on the size of the hen and the size of the chicks.

    Want More?

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