The last two years I've incubated eggs in the incubator and under a broody hen at the same time. Most of the time the hens have "adopted" the incubator chicks and have been one big, happy family! The photo above is of Daisy & Lydia's combined brood in the spring of 2013. She shared responsibilities, and chicks obviously knew who their "Moms" were! I still had to supply additional heat, as the hens couldn't keep all the chicks warm at the same time. But, I think it's a good trade-off for what the hens taught their brood.
Also in 2013, I ordered "Surprise Special" pullet chicks from Ideal Hatchery, and when they arrived, I gave them to "Alix", a Black Sex Link hen.
But I made the mistake that she was still sitting on eggs due to hatch within the next day or two. So, she ended up trampling most of the chicks that were just hatching. Out of all the eggs she was sitting on, only 3 chicks survived to adulthood, even though all but a few of the hatchery chicks were mostly sold within a few days. Two of the chicks hatched from my flock that grew to adulthood was "David", a Freedom Ranger/Dominque rooster; and "Butternut", a Freedom Ranger/Red Star hen with short legs. Both of them were part of the breeding stock I used in 2014, so while Alix's last batch was partially a failure, it was also a sucess. Even though Alix was a good mother, I ended up selling her, as if I kept every hen that went broody, I'd probably have at least 5 -10 more hens than I do now!
In 2014, another hen, "Olive" hatched out chicks in the nesting box. Then I moved her into a separate coop with her mother "Lydia" (Partridge Chantecler - she's a "super broody") + lots of incubator chicks. They seemed to be ok, so I added some Cornish Rock chicks from TSC.
"Lydia" wouldn't allow "Olive" to come out of her "milk crate", so I partially separated them, giving Olive all the Cornish meaties. She fully accepted them, but became so protective of them, that she ended up killing several of Lydia's chicks that came too close. But, she did a wonderful job of teaching those lazy Cornish how to be more active and be more like "regular" chickens. Here's one of my favorite pictures of Olive and her brood, teaching them how to eat sprouted whole grains:
Overall, both Lydia and Olive are good broodies, just a little "crazy" at times. Last year, Lydia had so many chicks to care for & it was cold outside, I used my homemade "hover brooder". Well, Lydia decided to crawl under the hover brooder too, and positioned herself right under the light bulb (prob a 75 W).
As I watched, her feathers began to "smoke" and a nasty "burnt feather" smell filled the air!! The same thing had happened the in 2013, but I hadn't been there when it happened, so he ended up losing some of her feathers on her back.
But this time, I quickly pulled her out, and put a metal pan underneath it, so she couldn't fit, only the chicks.
She was not happy, but there was plenty of room outside the hover brooder for her to care for her chicks.
Lydia also loves to scratch & dig, and is very enthusiastic about teaching her chicks how to "dig" in their food dish! So much so, that she ended up either scratching all the food out of the dish or ends us burying the food dish under a thick layer of shavings and wood pellets. Last year, I finally moved the feeder against the wall & blocked her from accessing it with the hover brooder. She tried so desperately to get to that feeder, that she dug a "ditch" all the way around the hover brooder!
I eventually fully separated them into two "coops", and when they later on introduced their chicks to the rest of the flock, they did ok as long as they stayed away from each other. As the chicks got older though, the mothers became less protective and allowed their broods to co-mingle during the day.
Both Lydia & Olive were also much happier, so I think part of Lydia's "problem" is being bored and cooped up with the chicks. Once she's out and about with them, she seems to calm down. Also, then their efforts of digging holes in the compost was rewarded with earthworms for their broods. Or like in the photo below, the meaties could gorge themselves on food scraps!
Later on in 2015, ...
"Olive" went broody a 2nd time. But after the chicks hatched, I let "Daisy" (the white EE) raise them, as she's a much better mom. But I now know that Olive has to be separated from any other broody hen, whereas I've had "Lydia" and "Daisy" happily "share" chicks, but that's pretty rare.
Poor Daisy looks like an old grandmother in this photo, as I have someone in the flock that plucks all the "beards" of hens. And since Daisy is going to be 4 years old in April, she does hold the record for the oldest hen I currently own. And she will continue to live with me as long as she's healthy, lively and continues to go broody. She is the one who "started" this whole broody hens hatching chicks thing, so she has earned a special place in my heart.
"Confetti" (the bantam Cochin in the photo below with her summer brood) and her 1/2 sister "Cinderella" (RIP) were purchased from a lady I met on BYC. I wanted more broody hens (surprise, surpise!) and since they're bantam, they don't eat much. They both raised a brood in the summer of 2014, but sadly Cinderella died. Confetti, though, is still going strong, and even tried going broody during the early part of winter, along with Lydia. But I persuaded them to wait until warmer weather.
I love watching a hen and her chicks - it's so sweet, especially when they are under her feathers & poke out their head! And when they climb all over her like she's a play gym. And when she "talks" to them because she's found them a tasty morsel, to "come here", to "run for cover", and a sweet contented "chirping" when they're all snuggled underneath her feathers. Meet "Cinderella" and two of the SFH chicks she hatched:
Muscovy ducklings are also adorable, but the ones I have don't have as great mothering skills as the broody hens. They do ok, but tend to leave them unattended for too long, leaving them vulnerable to predators or being run over by Cornish "bulldozers". I've learned my lesson the hard way two years in a row. While I don't like it, the Muscovy mother & her ducklings must be confined until the ducklings are a few weeks old and strong enough to "fend for themselves".
Well, I hope you enjoyed this fun little "Spring fix". I just had a wonderful time looking though some of last year's photos - so delightful to see all those baby chicks, ducks & rabbits, especially when it's -16*F outside!