Missy, a little brown leghorn we took in years ago, would hide a nest each year, then disappear and three weeks later, return with a new clutch of just-hatched chicks. She was a good mother hen, but is now getting too old to lay anymore (at least, I think so - she's been back in the coop every night so far this year). Anyway, we now have quite a few brown half-breed chickens, that still have the urge to set, and to fly. But a hen that's gone broody isn't laying any eggs, and I'm really getting tired of having ones that can fly over the garden fences digging up my plantings. I want some colorful, pure-bred chickens again.
I got one of our broody hens, Baldy, moved from a nest box to the dog run-turned-brooding pen a few nights ago - just scooped her up, along with her golf balls, on a dark night and she seemed content to stay. I think I could have slipped the new feed-store pure-bred chicks under her ok. But we like having the chickens as pets, ones that will come up and eat from our hands. Chicks raised by a mother hen aren't as friendly. So, on the way home from the feed store, we decided to raise the new babies inside like we used to do. When I got home, I took the golf balls away from Baldy (and BlackFluff too) and made them get out into the sunshine again - time to get back into egg production, ladies.
Chick Central, until they get enough feathers to withstand the cold nights outside, is in my guest room/home office/sewing room. The brood pen is a dog crate, set on my sewing/craft table that just spans across the end of the guest bed. I've flipped the crate upside-down, so that the windows are down at their level and slid a stick across through the bars for a low-level perch. For the time being, they're small enough to go back and forth underneath the perch, but eventually they'll want to use it. Since these chicks are already pretty good-sized and have strong legs, I've put newspapers down on the bottom for easily changed "diapers" (for just hatched babies, newspapers are too slick and could possibly lead to leg problems - add straw or sawdust on top of the paper).
I already had the chick-starter feed, a small feeder, and a small ceramic plant saucer for a water dish - small enough that they can't drown, heavy enough that they won't tip it over. Last item is their heat source - a nightlight fixture with a small vanity bulb (we've also used the big, outdoor, Christmas lightbulbs), plugged into an extension cord threaded through the window bars and taped to the ceiling so that it hangs down close enough for them to snuggle under and around. So, dear readers, meet the new girls - four Rhode Island Reds and two Plymouth Barred Rocks - heavier non-flying, good-laying breeds - chirping quietly and scratching about in there as I type.