First comes the broody hen. Usually I find her staunchly defending her post on at least twenty eggs, spread out like a feather pancake futilely trying to cover them all.
They have no restraint. That’s why she goes in the box. I let her keep seven or eight eggs, and make up a bunk with hay and a glass of water and a dish of food. At times I have three boxes all lined up. In there each hen “sleeps” in her broody trance uninterrupted except for getting her vittles refreshed.
Then they hatch. Immediately, I move the whole family and unhatched eggs into a fresh box. That broody box has all poop and spilled feed and water under the hay, so they need a clean box to start life in. I find it takes two days usually for all the birds to hatch, and the chicks take it easy those first couple days, spending their time dozing under mom, transitioning to life outside the shell.
Then the chicks decide to pop out from underwing, and start hopping around, jumping in the water and stuff. They get another day or two in a more sizable box, with room to run around and spill all the food. Sometimes the hen is still sitting on an egg, but she will very soon give it up and start mothering.
Next they go into the indoor playpen, which is just a big box opened up against the screen door for ventilation, and arranged on the greenhouse floor, which is dirt, of course, and a layer of wood chips. Now the mom will start to teach chicken life skills. Scratching, drinking. The beak sweep, the beak wipe.
And of course, the dust bathing.
She can see the world out there through the screen door.
After a few days in the playpen, then they all go in the chickery.
Whoohoo! Grass! This is a frabjous day.
At night, I have to lift all the chicks and mom into a box and shut them in the greenhouse overnight, for safety. In the morning, I carry a cheeping box back outside and empty it into the chickery.
This hen thinks I’ve slept in too long, and it’s high time that they get let outside.
Eventually, after a week, two, or more, or single parenting, the family will be put into Silkieland with the main flock. I have to say, it’s working great. Waiting until the chicks are older to put them in the coop avoids the daily in and out woes. Their little chicken brains are developed enough after the chickery daycare to learn how to go in and out quite rapidly.