We have 7 lovely chickens, two were given to us as they kept running away from their previous home (Janey and Mings), one was a gift from my other half (Freckles), she was part of a pair, but the older chook passed this last month, then I have four that we hatched from eggs cared for by Freckles, I was supposed to be hatching them for a friend, but fell in love with the little puffy chicks and he kindly let me keep them. The hatchlings are two Australian Langshans (black with feathers on their legs), Snowy and Nigel (thought she was a boy until she laid an egg and she is the most independent of them) and two mixed (friend expected them to be brown Hamburghs but they are definitely mixed with something) Caramel and Polly. Polly has always liked perching on my wrist to get a head scratch and some seed, hence the name, like a pirate bird.
Hatching them was interesting. I was given 9 eggs in total, 5 live hatched, 1 didn’t make hatch and one egg, fertilsed but did not develop, two candled clear (unfertilised). One that hatched was a rooster, we named him Egor as he was very oddly shaped and thought he looked more like a bush turkey than a chook. Once he began crowing he was moved to a friend’s farm as we could not have him here. Freckles, mum-chook, was a great broody, turned the eggs regularly and looked after the chicks. I had put in fresh food (seed mix) and water in the cage for her, once the chicks hatched they were all eating the seed mix and drinking within 20-40 mins of being born. I gave them a lot of fresh plant matter, fruits and vege. Bananas were their favourite, they still are. Especially Nigel, she would do almost anything for some banana. Once Freckles started to show signs of wanting to get up and forage I would get her out of the smaller cage (we put it on the ground in the main cage so the little ones and big ones socialsed with each other without the danger of aggression) each morning so she could do her thing but stay close to the little ones, she would call out when she wanted me to put her back in. Once they all got a bit bigger and couldn’t fit through the mesh, I moved them to a larger cage, still within the main pen, again getting Freckles out each morning and putting her in in the evening so she could keep the little ones warm. They all seemed to grow well and were quite content. Little Nigel had a slightly odd eye at birth, possible pressure point during development. And as she grew up we could see that her pupil stayed quite small, it did dilate but not by much. It did not stop her, she was the first to fly out of their nursery cage and the first to go and challenge one of the big chooks for her banana.
I never put them on chick starter, or had any special meal for them. I made sure they had full access to soil, grubs from my garden, seed mix, fruit and vege scraps and fresh water.
That was two years ago. The little ones grew well, and are very active and happy. The girls are great at eating all our scraps, trimming the grass down (never have to mow where they have been, or fertilise) and producing beautiful eggs.
I do not clip their wings, they have never left or tried to, even my two little adopted escapees. We have carpet pythons in the area so I always want them to be able to fly away if they need to. The local bush turkeys like to come and hang out, the tiny little babies even sneak into the cages just before door lock and sleep in the bottom. They are very cute and my chookies do not mind having them about. We had a big one that tried getting aggressive towards the girls, however they ganged up on him, and I hosed him with tank water when he was about, he has not come back in the yard after a couple of weeks of chasing.
I keep them healthy with fresh food, clean out their houses weekly and use diatomaceous earth on them and the cage/nesting boxes to keep lice and mites at bay, especially with the visiting wild turkeys bringing their little bodies into the hen house.
Oh and plus the girls make great fertiliser for the garden.