Brooding Ginger Finds a Family


Why do they always crowd the nest box?

Three hens, two eggs a day, family of four. Not the equation I envisioned when we built our Coop de Ville . We need more eggs. After trying every trick with our current flock it was obvious that the only road to more eggs (besides the farmers market) is more chickens. Adding new chickens to the mix isn’t easy, but it’s possible. After quite the adventure I’m excited to announce that our brood has expanded, welcoming three new little chicks to our family.

Yes, “mothering” chickens is a good stand-in for all of us hankering for one more baby fix that ain’t gonna happen. Hmm…maybe that’s the tactic I can try to get the goat I’m dreaming about? Baby or goat? I digress, big surprise. Back to project EGG.

maryanne attempting to brood

Katherine over at Island Seed and Feed helped me devise a strategy for introducing new chicks to the mix. First, we needed a brooding hen. She recommended putting six wooden eggs in our nesting box — the more colorful the better, the girls had fun painting them bright pink.

brooding chicken

All of the chickens took turns trying out the eggs, Ginger, who happens to be our best layer (possible correlation?) decided she was the rightful mama.  With conviction she would puff up to twice her size and make lots of soft clucks as she protected her little nest.

how to add baby chicks to a brooding hen

With an established brooding hen the second phase of our plan went into action: order one-day old baby chicks to be delivered at the three week mark of Ginger sitting on her wooden eggs. That’s the gestational time for a fertilized egg to hatch. How the chicken knows to expect babies right at time is wild, but she does!

Hen and babies

Adding baby chicks to a brooding hen

On the appointed day at precisely 9:00 pm PST the girls and I tiptoed out with flashlight lamps stuck to our foreheads, each carefully cradling a baby chick. Ginger was sleeping as we slipped the wooden eggs out and tucked the babies under her wings (think Tooth Fairy stress level times ten). That did the trick.

An hour later I peeked in the coop and all was well. Mama was still sitting over her chicks nestled in tight. I admit, I didn’t really sleep all night, worrying and wondering if we were going to pull this off. The bags under my eyes were worth the sight of seeing Ginger and the babes in the morning. We found a proud mama and three happy chicks in the thick of bonding.

Chicken coop design

The best thing about this type of integration  into our coop is that the mama hen will protect her chicks (no matter what type) from the rest of the mature hens.  This method also means no fussing with heat lamps. Mama makes sure to keep them warm.

Still, to protect our hearts through this process (remember what happened with Penny?) I wouldn’t let the girls name the chicks until we were sure we had a match. It’s been exciting and amazing for our family to watch Ginger take on her new role of mother. I’m happy to announce Pip, Hiccup and Nutmeg have been welcomed to the family. Now, let’s get laying!