Then end of last year was a pretty dismal time around here, regarding our flock of chooks. We lost some to the fox, some to unknown causes, chicks either failed to hatch, or died soon after (the fox took my 2 good mother hens...). The last attempt at hatching chickens was going well, till about 2 days before hatching, the hen abandoned the eggs (it was very hot, and her broody cage was probably not situated in the best position, she was also bothered by lice). Out of her 4 eggs one chick hatched. Since its as much work to care for one chick (and keep it warm) as it is for a few more, I few 'day old' chicks to keep it company.
Raising chicks in a brooder is not really my ideal scenario. Although they are all doing great, after having watched our mother hens care for and teach the young chicks how to behave, I think its the best way to do it. I've been feeding them as natural diet as I can manage. Lots of egg (with crushed garlic and dried nettles), millet, seasame seed, a little wheat and rolled oats. I also collect some wood lice (slaters) for them.
What I find amazing is that even these chicks who haven't really seen adult chooks, know how to scratch and have a real appetite for bugs. Its quite incredible that an animal regarded as unitelligent as the chook can have so many inbuilt instincts.
The kids are enjoying these chicks, they actually get to pick them up (probably more than I would like) and watch them, which is harder with a protective mother hen about!!! I'm thinking that we have 2 roosters and 4 hens, but only time will tell!