After a recent egg-eating issue we are down to 24 laying hens and 1 rooster. We added the 13 largest chicks to their coop (8 from our first incubator hatch and 5 purchased Cuckoo Marans pullets). Then we have 38 younger chicks in the winter coop (23 from our second incubator hatch, 5 purchased Welsummer chicks, and 10 chicks hatched by our first broody hen, Mama Sally). That adds up to 76 chickens of the laying variety, and when combined with the *84 Cornish Cross (meat) birds, totals 160 chickens on our little 2 acres!
As much as we didn't want to add any additional chicks to this mix, we really didn't want to discourage the broodiness trait. When we first got chickens, we promised ourselves that we would allow them to eat and behave... well, like chickens. At least as much as is practical.
Then, the solution became obvious. One of my favorite principles in permaculture is that "the problem is the solution." In this case, we decided to move some turkey eggs out of our home incubator and under the broody hens. Initially I slid the eggs under my favorite hen, Mama Sally, as she is a proven broody and mama. It appears that she is taking turns sitting on the eggs with the other (unnamed) Black Star hen.
I was a bit nervous leaving our precious turkey eggs with the hens since only 8 of 19 eggs appeared to be fertile, but I decided that we are more likely to screw up the incubation than the hens. We are still fairly new to chickens and had never heard of hens taking turns sitting on the same clutch of eggs, but it seems to be working out okay. I don't really worry about the eggs ever being left unattended, because either both hens are squished together, sitting on the same clutch of eggs, or the "off-duty" hen is anxiously pacing outside, awaiting her turn. If everything works out, we should have a few turkey poults running around with two chicken mamas later in the week. We will keep you posted!
*We still have some pastured chickens available. They will be processed on Thursday, July 9. If interested, click here.