The breeds of chickens we've chosen have (supposedly) still had the brooding instinct in them. Well, that hasn't been our experience. When hens in a hatchery consistently have their eggs taken away from them and hatched in an incubator, how can they be expected to maintain their natural instincts?
The only chickens we've had go broody with any consistency were a couple of our little bantam hens. We lost the last of them this spring at the ripe old age of 104. Actually, we lost track of her age but she must have been somewhere around eight years old. And she gave us one last egg (remarkably!) about a month before she died.
But, as usual, I digress.
Lo and behold, our Muscovy duck hens have proven to be good setters and wonderful mothers.
Several weeks ago, two of them decided their maternal instincts had come to the forefront and they wanted babies.
Papa Pea moved both of them and their clutch of eggs (a duck egg and several chicken eggs -- sneaky, aren't we?) to their own maternity ward where they've been happily (although seeming to be drugged . . . how can they sit and sit and sit for weeeeks without going completely bonkers?) keeping their eggs protected and warm.
About two weeks ago, three little chicken babies hatched under the first duck hen. She seemed oblivious of them as they bounced around her, hopping up on her back, napping beside her and burrowing under her to sleep next to her remaining eggs.
Then three days ago, one more egg hatched and it was a duckling. Mama Duck must have known there was one more viable egg she wanted to hatch out!
One brown chick and duckling in front,
one black chick and
another brown one behind.
Now Mama Duck has taken all four of her babies out into the big world of the poultry yard and the little family couldn't be happier.
And we're happy, too, to have some replacement chickens for our flock. Good job, Mama Duck. You've more than earned your keep.