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Clear your yard of any possible hazards for chicks.

Raising chicks naturally

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While the mother hen has the lead role in the chicken-raising show, Jessamy Millers says there are steps owners can take to ensure chicks are robust and healthy.

To hatch chicks naturally, fertile eggs and a broody hen are required. If you have a rooster in the flock, any eggs laid in spring and summer should be fertile and can be set to hatch. 

If you can’t keep a fella (difficult in urban areas), fertile eggs are readily available for purchase. Ask local breeders or try online, where options include Gumtree, breeders’ websites, poultry club pages and online noticeboards. Eggs can be packaged and posted across the country, but local birds have the advantage of being adapted to your conditions. Do your research, and when you have a suitable broody on hand, then purchase the eggs; a serious broody won’t go off the boil in a few days. 

Many breeds go broody periodically in the warmer months; Pekins and Silkies are notorious for this. Broody hens remain in the nest with feathers fluffed up, clucking, and growling when you come close. When this occurs, move the hen at night to a safe separate pen with some decoy eggs for her to sit on. Allow her a day to settle in, then remove the decoys and slip the fertile eggs under her the following night. Don’t count them yet, but chicks should hatch in 21 days. 

If none of the hens are broody when your eggs arrive, you may have to borrow an incubator.

Safety for your chicks is important

Compared to incubator chicks, those raised under a hen are often out and about in the yard at an early age, getting exercise and learning about the world. Take care to clear the area of possible hazards; if a bucket or bowl can tip upside down and trap a chick, it will! Luckily chicks are surprisingly robust, and it isn’t long before they are fluff free and laying eggs or, heaven forbid, crowing! 

Jessamy’s full article was published in our September/October 2021 issue (OG 128). There’s a selection of back issues available here — you can also subscribe and get the most recent issues delivered to your door!