My main beef with chickens (as stated in this article) is the cost of feed and chicks. Why buy a $3 chick and feed it $3 worth of feed, only to end up several months later with a butchered bird worth $5? Egg production is the same way. It doesn't make much sense to me, therefore, to go the traditional route of buying chicks and feed at the feed store. In my last chicken article I discussed some alternative feed options. Today I'd like to discuss an alternative to buying chicks and chick feed.
The hen that takes care of her own chicks is a dying breed. It's kind of a mystery how the whole thing works. I did some research on broody hens a while back, but left it at that. Several weeks ago I was farm-sitting and the farmers told me they didn't buy new laying hens because several of their hens were brooders. Whoa! I was delighted to find that the whole broody hen idea actually worked. At the end of the week they let me take home one of their brooders with her three adorable chicks.
I put my mama hen in with the milking goats. If one of the goats gets too close, she pecks at them. At night, her chicks huddle under her wings for warmth and protection. During the day, she shows them how to scratch around in the compost pile, looking for worms and bugs. It is so much fun to watch. I even took a video for you all. :)
For just Hubs and I, a couple hens will provide enough eggs and some meat. I'm hoping to get a few more laying hens before summer's end, as the chicks obviously aren't old enough to lay (plus I don't know if they're boys or girls!). The hens will be kept for egg-laying/brooding, and the roosters will eventually be butchered for meat. Before this I was thinking about incubating some eggs, but a broody hen is so much easier. Who really wants to be flipping eggs four times a day?
I believe that a broody hen is a perfect sustainable chicken solution for small-scale homesteaders. A mother hen will do all the work for you- feeding, watering, sheltering. She can even do a BETTER job than you can! That is, if you're lucky enough to find her.
Do you have a broody hen? Any tips for encouraging broodiness in hens?