Broody Hen #1′s chicks are now nine weeks old, and Mom quit looking after them at about 7 weeks. At six weeks she started returning to the coop to lay eggs, during which time the little ones would wait patiently (huddled together) outdoors until she was done. Then they’d all go off together again; with her watching over them, finding them food, and generally acting motherly. Then suddenly at 7 weeks, she started driving them away from her, and went back to spending the night in the main coop while her little ones continued to sleep in the smaller coop we’d made for them. Today, we don’t observe her socializing with her little ones at all – I guess baby chickens have to grow up too. The two chicks stick together though and seem to be best buds.
Broody Hen #2′s chicks are about 5 weeks old now, and Mom is still watching over them. She hasn’t returned to the main coop to lay eggs again yet; and they’re all still spending the night in the small Eglu coop together. We were shocked when Broody #1 drove her chicks away, but we’re expecting it to happen for these little ones soon now too.
The mature hens and roosters ignore the chicks when they’re little, but start to interact with them more as they grow older. Based on these interactions, we think that the two chicks from the first clutch are a hen and a rooster respectively. The one we think’s a rooster comes running in defensive mode if we pick up his sister and she squawks; and the adult roosters are starting to act aggressively toward him. We can’t really discern the sex of the chicks from the five week old clutch yet.
Having the two hens go broody, incubate eggs, hatch them, and then raise the chicks has been a great experience - both fascinating and exciting. We’re looking forward to seeing how the chicks (both hens and roosters) integrate with the rest of the flock as they mature, and we’ve tagged the broody hens so we know who they are – unlike in factory flocks where broodiness is considered bad, we think they’re the most valuable birds in the flock! We also intend to tag the chicks – are birds raised by broody mothers more likely to be broody too?