A good mother hen is worth her weight in grain; double, triple… decuple (that’s 10x) her weight in grain. Her skill-set is invaluable to your homestead.
In poultry, hens can be great mothers or just okay mothers or not want anything to do with these highly active, presumably annoying hatchlings.
We have a chicken hen named Nellie. She is almost seven years old and has become an invaluable member of our flock because she is the best poultry mother ever and most certainly receives the blue ribbon. Regardless of the species she greatly cares for each young bird she raises, teaching them wonderful skills of not only how to survive, but how to thrive. She keeps all of the hatchlings well into adulthood and recognizes birds which she has raised.
Peeking into our coop on a chilly winter night you will see her with a variety of birds she raised huddled beneath her completely extended wings. This is quite extraordinary as some are fully grown and her wings, all night long mind you, are extended directly out from her side, giving warmth to all. This cannot be comfortable. Still she adopts other hatchlings, willingly, from those who are left to their own devices too early. She is my standard for Mothering Skills in our flock. Not too many hens come around like her, but when they do, I keep them around until the day they naturally pass on – period. These skills are highly valued and a focus for my flock. Think of dear old Nellie when you watch your hens mothering their young.
The sad thing is that at almost eight years old, she sacrificed herself for a couple of young turkey poults she decided to raise after their mother rejected them. Nellie tried to fight off a fox and lost. I seriously miss that hen and mourn for her.
Be that as it may, I do have some of her (blood, not adopted) hens which are taking over for her and are rising to the challenge of expert hatchling raising.
Whether “mothering” is genetic or learned or both, we poultry breeders still do not know for sure. My personal belief is that it is both.