Aw, look, it's a real chick! Not that the chicks I hatch in the incubator aren't real chickens, but somehow the chicks that mom's hen hatched on Easter weekend seem more legitimate. The little fella in the photo above is just a day old, and posing for this picture may have been his first experience outside his mother's feathers.
The mamma hen is the one on the left, and the auntie hen on the right wishes she were sitting on eggs too so she spent a lot of time in the neighboring nest box. She was even known to take a turn sitting on the eggs when the mamma got up to take a short break. When a hen gets the urge to sit on eggs (called going broody), it's hard to dissuade them. The problem with a broody hen is that they stop laying eggs while they are broody, and even if you take all the eggs away they still sit there, which just demonstrates how strongly their instincts control their little chicken brains. Helen went broody this spring too, but I managed to break her out of it by blocking her from the nest box for a few nights and dipping her back side in cold water. From what I've read, the key to getting them to stop being broody is to lower their body temperature. So preventing Helen from keeping her butt warm by sitting on it, and dipping her in cold water seemed to do the trick. I first tried explaining to her that because she has no rooster, sitting on her eggs was futile, but she was determined to try it anyway, so she got a dipping.
Mom lifted the mamma hen from the nest box so we could get a peak at the eggs. After I took this picture, three more of the eggs hatched. She didn't get all of her eggs to hatch, but considering she was a first time mamma, I think she did pretty good. Not as good as I did with the incubator (ten of twelve), but I've had a little more practice. Not that I'm bragging or anything (I win! High five).
It was fun to show the nieces the newly hatched chicks, and the mamma hens defensive response to being disturbed from the nest. She can make her feathers stick straight out, which makes her look much larger and more ferocious than she really is. Mom was brave and picked her up anyway.
I think auntie hen gets to try hatching some eggs next time.