3. INCUBATOR EGG SWAP
Broody hens do not announce their intent to sit, which makes it impossible to rely on them to hatch when it is convenient for us, such as when we have eggs we’d like to set. A hen has no concept of time, she doesn’t know it takes three weeks to hatch chicks from eggs, so it’s entirely possible to take eggs out of an incubator and give them to a broody hen to finish the job.
I was gifted some Silkie hatching eggs by legendary poultry author, Gail Damerow several weeks ago, which have been developing in my office in an incubator. I could give the eggs to Ellen to hatch, which would spare her the full course of broodiness and negative health consequences associated with it, but I’d rather watch the chicks hatch inside the incubator with my peeps on Facebook Live!
4. INSTAMOM-GRAFT CHICKS TO A SURROGATE HEN
The fourth option for managing a broody hen is chicken surrogacy: make her an Instamom! I only recommend this route with a hen who has demonstrated previously that she is a good mother. The worst case scenario of employing this strategy with an untested broody is that she could kill the chicks.
Given that my local Tractor Supply Stores are brimming with spring chicks, I can buy baby chicks to give to Ellen to raise. #chickenmath The process for grafting chicks to a broody hen is simple: wait until she is asleep at night and tuck the chicks underneath her. She will wake up in the morning with her mission fulfilled, blissfully unaware that she didn’t hatch the chicks herself.
Only attempt the Instamom route with chicks that are younger than 5 days old. They will imprint on her up until then, but beyond that age, they may not. I always recommend keeping a close watch on the behavior of the surrogate hen and the chicks when facilitating surrogacy. Either could reject or abandon the other without warning, so be sure to keep a brooder setup handy in case the grafting fails.