The decision to allow the broody hen to incubate some chicks, despite the impending cold weather, is turning out to be a very good one; thanks again to all who wrote with encouragement to allow her to do so. The most recent post I published about Henny Penny and her chicks was based on information from the neighbor who was watching our farm while we were out of town for Yeoman Farm Baby's adoption. (I got the hen set up in her new nest before the adoption trip, but the chicks didn't start hatching until we were gone.) It turns out, she managed to hatch six of the seventeen eggs she was sitting on --- which is not bad at all, given the terrible weather (and the fact that other hens laid five additional eggs on top of her original twelve, which made it more difficult for her to incubate them and led to different hatching dates for the various eggs).
The six chicks are doing very well, and have already grown to be noticeably larger than newly-hatched chicks usually look. (Which makes sense, because they began hatching two weeks ago.) The chicken tractor has proven extremely effective in keeping the new little chicken family together, ensuring that food and water are always close by, and protecting the chicks from being trampled or scattered by other animals. Thanks again to Rachael for reminding me of the value of using a chicken tractor to enclose a brood hen.
Just how good of a mother is Henny Penny? The temperature got down to 15F both Friday night and Saturday night, and to 23F last night --- normally a death sentence for featherless baby birds. But when I came out to check on them each morning, all six chicks were peeping happily. Henny Penny had ensured that all six spent each night in the shelter of her warm body, providing the featherly protection that they are still trying to grow for themselves. The only thing I needed to get for them each morning was fresh water; their waterer was naturally frozen solid.