Just before the birth of our second son I noticed one of our Buff Orpington gals was occupying one of the nesting boxes every time I went out to collect eggs. After a few days we decided she was, in fact, broody. Broody is a term used to describe a hen who shows an inclination to sit on a clutch of eggs. Cyrus cleaned out the brooding box and as everyone was roosting one evening he and Colven moved her and her menagerie of eggs to their new safe place. Not all the eggs were her own, we could tell by coloring. It's a good idea to move a broody hen away from the general population so that other hens don't hop onto her clutch while she is eating (she leaves them for about 20 minutes a day to eat and drink, some hens refuse to leave at all and can actually wither away to skin and bones while waiting for their clutch to hatch!) or end up pecking the chicks to death as they emerge. She has been dutifully sitting on this clutch for several weeks now. I believe the incubation period is 21 days. We've been checking on her daily and giving her seeds and snails from a distance. Cyrus knows first hand why you don't get too close to a mama hen and it goes something like PECK PECK PECK! :) Even hens closely guard their unborn.
Today we checked and here is what we saw! They hatched sometime in the last 24 hours. I couldn't tell if all six eggs hatched as she was quite puffed out and sitting still, with chicks bobbing under and around her, but I saw at least 3 chicks. Mama looks great and I love how protective she is, see how puffed up she gets when we peek in there? It's going to be fun to see these little chicks following their mama around the garden.
Update: Four of the six chicks hatched. We have no idea what happened to one of the eggs -- it's just plain gone and the other looked as if the chick was a bit younger than the others and after rolling the egg around for a day or so the hen decided to peck at it but the baby chick wasn't ready to be born yet. Guess nobody told that hen not to F with mother nature... ;)