Are you chickadee girls getting to the latter stages of life, and perhaps not laying quite as often as they did in their prime?
Want to find a way to give them their purpose back in life and get the pantry full of eggs again?
Don’t have a rooster to bring up your own chicks? No problem, the answer to all these coop dramas is surrogate motherhood!
One spring, we had the misfortune of losing our most handsome and gentlemanly rooster to a cunning ferret attack (they are a common wild animal in Spain). Most experienced chicken-keepers have had to live through such a catastrophe at one point, and for us it was deeply shattering as we were hoping to expand our flock that coming spring.
Furthermore, it left the girls in our flock without a man in their lives and as a result they were not laying nearly as much as usual, and soon enough many of them were wasting a good deal of their time brooding atop unfertilized eggs. They just wanted to by mamas and it simply wasn’t going to be!
We of course considered simply buying more chickens and we’d done this in the past but we’d also experienced the loss of a hen or two as a result of the infighting whilst a new pecking order was being established. After just losing our prized cock we were reluctant to lose any more of our girls.
Soon after, by chance we met an Andalusian chicken breeder. After recounting our recent tragic loss (to which he expressed his heartfelt condolences), we asked about acquiring some of his beautiful hens, but did so cautiously, probing him as to how to best integrate new girls into the flock. His solution was simple – Fertilized eggs, obviously!
We then learned, that chicken eggs, when fertilized, don’t begin developing until a hen starts to brood atop them, giving them that magical perfect temperature needed for incubation. Until a hen decides to brood on an egg, an egg can safely be left for up to seven days in the nest.
During this time, this clever chicken breeder offered to remove twelve of his eggs (which he was quite sure were fertilized as his rooster had been very busy lately!) of varying different breeds, and guaranteed us that if we could sneakily slip them underneath our girls in the night – then 21 days later we would have a motley crew of new baby chicks!
We eagerly took him up on his offer, and that evening whilst a couple of our broody girls were fast asleep, we slipped the fertilized eggs underneath them. Our older hens were finally fulfilling their dream of motherhood.
They were disciplined in nesting these eggs with great care and attention and twenty-one days later – drumroll… we were greeted by that unmistakable chirp chirp of newborn baby chicks! Ten of the twelve eggs had hatched (an impressive hatch-rate is about 70%) and we soon had five differing varieties of new chickies running all over the place!
For those of you who would love to raise your own chicks but aren’t able to keep a rooster (perhaps the neighbours don’t appreciate his alarm each morning), or if you’ve lost your cock to a predator like we did, or if you simply want to diversify your flock and try out some new breeds – Surrogate motherhood through pre-fertilized eggs is the answer.
Give it a go, your girls will be really grateful at the chance to groom a new generation and soon your pantry will be overflowing with freshly laid eggs!