Leaving the Nest

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Mama hen has left the brooder coop, taking her chicks with her.  They scramble around so quickly that I wasn’t able to get better pictures of them.

I love watching a mother hen and her chicks.  Whereas chickens are normally timid and easily frightened, a mother hen stands her ground and puffs up at perceived danger, to defend her chicks.  Whereas chickens normally quickly grab and gobble up any food they find, a mother hen stands over it clucking, to get the chicks’ attention.  Then she’ll pick it up and drop it a few times, to let the chicks understand what it is and what they’re to do with it.

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At night, and frequently during the day, she’ll gather the chicks under her wings, to warm them with the heat from her bare belly (brooding hens lose the feathers on their underside to enable them to warm the eggs and chicks).

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Very few chicks are raised naturally anymore.  Even on small, sustainable farms it is normal to use an incubator or to get chicks from hatcheries.

This mother hen was hatched on this farm and now she’s brooding chicks of her own.

That makes us happy.

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15 comments on “Leaving the Nest

  1. … as it should. I just loved reading this. What a sweet image of life on a farm.

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  2. shoreacres says:

    Wonderful photos of a wondeful experience. It’s a good reminder, too, of how our increasing distance from such natural processes makes so many Biblical images – from the Psalms to the Gospels – less powerful.

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    • Bill says:

      Absolutely true. One of the ones I like the most is from the creation account in chapter 1 of Genesis. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Literally the Hebrew word translated there as “hovering” is meant to convey the image of a hen brooding eggs–hovering over them, warming them with her body and bringing forth life.

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  3. El Guapo says:

    How often do you let the eggs mature to hatching?

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    • Bill says:

      Whenever we can. It’s really up to the hen. Usually they just lay their eggs and leave them. But sometimes a hen will “go broody”, meaning she will decide to sit on them to hatch them. She undergoes a dramatic personality change and loses the feathers on her belly. She’ll hunker down on the eggs for 3 weeks, rarely leaving them to eat or drink.
      This desire/instinct has been bred out of the commercial breeds, for obvious reasons. Many of our hens are from old-fashioned breeds though and they still go broody.
      It’s a bit of a challenge when they decide to go broody in the henhouse. There is a risk of getting the eggs mixed up. So this year we decided to move any broody hens to a separate brooder coop. Sometimes they won’t sit in it and we have to start over. We have a hen in the coop now sitting a large clutch scheduled to hatch in early September. We’ll see.

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  4. Sophie says:

    I love your hens. They’re such a great reminder of what healthy henhood looks like. Such a sharp contrast to the ones in battery cages.

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  5. Farmgirl says:

    How wonderful! Now that we have Henry Higgins, I do hope that perhaps next spring will bring naturally raised chicks at our farm too!

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  6. Ann Wood says:

    This makes me very happy and describes my young life when Dad decided to raise chickens!

    We have been buying store eggs this summer because we consume less and less, it seems. For a few weeks we had eggs that when hard boiled would get yellow scum on the whites in four days…we fix a dozen at a time for lunch boxes. I’ve never seen this happen in my life. I have not seen it since those weeks either but it was a bit scary. I was beginning to think there was some kind of disease in the commercial store bought eggs. I no longer hold eggs for more than 10 days or two weeks…throw them out if they can not be cooked in that period of time. Now with your eggs….so fresh it is hard to believe the difference. Your eggs opened my memory to those early days of my life.

    We got a new car in December with 260 miles on the odometer and are now up to 900 miles…that is the kind of year I’ve had but I’m believing for a better ending…for some farm fresh eggs – those that I’m able to drive and get!

    Think of you and Cherie often…

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    • Bill says:

      Ann, we would be so happy to bring you eggs. 🙂 You’re right on our way as we go to do our Monday deliveries.
      We miss seeing you every week and hope that you and yours are doing well.

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      • Ann Wood says:

        You are such a blessing! That would be so nice! Will let you know as soon as I use up what I have on hand – give me a week or so. The thought of having fresh farm eggs again is a delight to me! ❤

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  7. James says:

    Yes, there is something quite wonderful about using a broody hen for what they are created for- instead of trying to stop the broodiness. What is also fantastic is that a broody hen will also hatch eggs that aren’t theirs.

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    • Bill says:

      Yes, good point. It’s likely that this hen didn’t lay any of the eggs she hatched. We have another hen sitting now and I just gathered up a good clutch of all different kinds of eggs for her to sit on.

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