Contrary to popular belief, hens can go broody even in the heart of winter. They will also successfully keep their babies warm better than any heat lamp. The babies thrive and become active foragers very early on. There is nothing quite like watching a hen brood her babies.
This year, I had a Buff Orpington go broody for quite a while. Twice I let her set on eggs but moving her from the nest box caused her not to settle and attempts were failed. Still she was insistent she was ready to be a Mom.
I hatched out some chicks for this Spring and decided to allow her to adopt them of she was willing. I took 2 out to start, in the hopes she would accept them.
Broody's will often accept brand new hatchlings if they are no more than a couple days old. It is best to watch for soft clucking. Panic and pecking will often lead to the chicks death. Be prepared to remove the chicks if aggression occurs.
In Georgia's case, she readily accepted the first two. I left them be in the nest box for the day checking on the often. By the evening she had pulled the hay all up around her in order to have privacy. By then I knew she was ready so I moved her to a secure brooding spot. She took to it instantly with no arguing and I gave her 3 more peeps.
She is now the proud Mama of 5 little ones.
I am a 2nd grade teacher by day and a full time farm wife by evening (and weekends and the summer!).