I LIVE on a small farm in the north of Sweden. Recently, when two of my hens started incubating eggs, I took notice of their actions. A couple of days after the first chicks were hatched, some of them went out for a stroll and happened to pass by the other hen. Presuming that the chicks belonged to her, she immediately got up, left her eggs, and began to gather them under her. The chicks did not seem to care which hen took care of them.
I tried to get the hen to return the “stolen” chicks and resume sitting on her own eggs, but my efforts were futile. I was just about to throw the abandoned eggs into the trash when I stopped and thought, ‘There might still be life in them!’ Then I got an idea.
A large colony of bees maintains a constant temperature of about 93 degrees Fahrenheit [34°C] in their beehive. So I took the eggs and placed them on a bed of cotton on top of the brood chamber inside one of my beehives. Then I put two cups of water near them to help keep the “nest” humid. I turned the eggs over every day, thus imitating the broody hen.
After a few days, I heard distinct peeps coming from several of the eggs. A short time later, a wet little chick broke out of its shell! I immediately picked it up and put it under the hen who had deserted her eggs. Happily, she accepted it. Soon she had a brood of 12 downy little chicks to look after, thanks to the busy bees.—Contributed