A few weeks ago one of our hens started getting really broody. She would protectively guard the eggs when I would go to collect them each day. Now, it wouldn't do her any good to guard those eggs, because we don't keep a rooster around.
This may sound silly, but I related her plight to those of many of my friends who have struggled to have kids and couldn't. Here was a hen who wanted nothing more than to sit on a nest for weeks on end and have some cute little babies to tend and raise and tend.
So, I put an ad on Craigslist to see if anyone had some fertilized eggs that my little Fluffy could sit upon. I got one response and picked up 5 eggs from her a few days later.
For three weeks Fluffy sat patiently in her little nest (we isolated her from the other hens), and kept those little eggs at just the right temperature. Yesterday we moved her cage/nest and set her up with her own private yard so the big hens wouldn't attack the babies when they hatched and I saw one cute baby fluffy face poking out from under the big fluffy chicken.
Today we head out to feed the chickens their scratch for their evening treat and out pops Fluffy with four little fluffy chicks following her. It was amazing to watch her teach them how to scratch and eat, and she talked to them the entire time.
Then she climbed back into her nest and called and encouraged her little babies to hop into bed. They listen a whole lot better than my kids! Soon they all hopped up into the nest and burrowed under the covers (mom) and settled down for the night.
We've been hatching eggs for awhile, but there's something just heartwarming about seeing nature at work - even if she is the adopted mother to those chicks.
Now I truly understand the meaning of the phrase "Mother Hen"