A light sussex x silkie bantam, one of the best cross breed bantams for incubating and brooding young birds.
Given the frustrating nature of our recent disastrous incubation experiment, we have been looking at natural incubators over the last few days. It's easy to get so involved with the technical details of incubation that you lose sight of the fact that this process takes place under every female bird every spring. Electric incubators include insulation foam, heating elements and water reservoirs, but the same equipment (or an equivalent) can be found in the design of all birds.
Despite massive advances in modern incubator technology, the best way to incubate eggs will always be under a hen. Obviously, this is not suitable for for large scale incubation projects, and there are times when keeping hens for the purpose of hatching and caring for young birds is not really practical, but the smallholder with a clutch of eggs stands to learn as much by putting them under a bird as they would by placing them in an incubator.
Of all poultry species, bantams are know to be the best for hatching and rearing chicks. They are determined sitters, and they are prepared to defend their brood with a courage that is quite out of proportion to their size. Light sussex x silkie bantams are known to be the best of the best, and these sedate little birds are actually quite widespread across the country, where they are used specifically for incubation purposes.
Their own eggs are rather small, but give them something useful to sit on and they will show themselves to be reliable little broodie hens. Having bought two from a local breeder, we're all now looking forward to the spring, when these pullets will start to come into their own.