So I had a young hen go broody so we decided to try this natural process. Other chickens were getting in with her and lay beside her. So we separated her, but she abandon the clutch. She was confused I think and went back to were she was and started over.(Her getting back to the old coop was our error). So we fixed the error and isolated her and she hatched out 5 of the 11 eggs. The chicks are about 9 days old. She was doing fine and then last night I heard the chicks crying after dark when I went and check all 5 of the chicks were out of the coop on the ground, 2 lifeless- the hen was back in the nest box, laying on two eggs that two of my leghorns had put there. (I don't know how the leghorns got in.) I brought the chicks put them under a light to warm them and nursed drink again. The chicks seem okay this morning. When I went to check the hen, she was up and immediately ran back to old coop and is trying to set on more eggs. I am removing the eggs often. So my questions are why did this happen? Do I put the chicks back with her? Or will she do this again? How do I stop her from setting if I don't put the chicks back?
Mother Hen abandoned all 5 chicks-Do I put the chicks back?
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Here's my suggestion:
I'll let someone more experienced answer the broody hen problem. But as far as the chicks go you may want to just put them in a brooder box with a heat lamp, water, and chick feed and hand rear them.
I would put her in a dog crate or pen with the chicks, where she cannot leave, and stay and watch her behavior with the chicks. If she won't cover them or tries to peck them, then remove them permanently to a brooder. If you have to remove her, then break her from sitting on eggs by keeping her penned without bedding. A roost in the pen is the easiest way to break her. Some chickens don't make good mothers, but the coop confusion may have been a problem.
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Sounds like her hormones are wonky. I would also isolated her with the chicks, throw some food down and see if she calls them to eat or if she ignores them.
Attacking the chicks is bad, but also not calling them and interacting with them is a problem. The chicks peep to her when they get cold so she can warm them up so she needs to be attentive to them and engaged. If she stops mothering them properly you will have to provide for them yourself.
IMO at this point if at all possible I would try to keep them in the main coop (rather than drag them into the house, which will make them "strangers" when they are re-introduced). Divide up an area with chicken wire or line a wire dog crate with plastic on the sides (so the chicks can't get out) as a temp brooder inside the coop. Instead of a heat lamp look up the mama-heating-pad alternatives for providing a warm place for them to huddle. THat is something you would make yourself with a heating pad.
Edited by Sonya9 - 10/30/15 at 10:00am
Is mom hen "clucking?" Mom hens tend to continuously "talk" to their babies by emitting a low, semi quiet "cluck cluck cluck" to them. If she's not clucking to them, that may be a bad sign. Like the others have said, try putting mom and babies back together. If she tries to call them over for food or clucks at them, she's most likely fine and will continue to care for them. If she doesn't and instead just paces back and forth, trying to get away and acts aggressively toward the chicks, remove them immediately. You're going to be mom then!
In regard to her behavior: broodies are stubborn. The nest she picked is the nest she is going to sit in. There are no substitutes. I'm surprised you got her to sit somewhere else. Sometimes broodies will acclimate to a new nest but for the most part, they want their original. She probably, for whatever reason, stopped recognizing the chicks as hers; the same process that goes on in a "homicidal broodies" head. They think the chicks are there to hurt their eggs... bizarre, I know, so she just went back to her nest to sit on her eggs. Or she could have just been confused, thinking her babies were under her when they were crying for help (I've seen it happen with mom hens) and then when you removed them to warm them, the peeping stopped. In her head, babies are dead. Time to make more. Back to the nest. HER nest.
I do all my incubation and hatching through broodies and I've seen a lot of things... and they still continue to surprise me with weird stuff. The main thing to remember is this: every broody is different! Each one raises babies differently (just like all species of moms!). So getting to know each individual mom hen is of utmost importance in catering to broodies.
If she doesn't accept her chicks back and you don't want her sitting on a new clutch, make a broody bin and stick her in there. It is going to take a long time to break her most likely so be patient.
Making a broody bin: a broody bin is nothing more than a cage of some sort with no substrate and a wire bottom. Making sure air passes through the bottom is the most important. I use a wire dog kennel with 1/4" hardware cloth spread across the bottom, elevated 1 foot off the ground so a nice draft comes up through the bottom. The objective is to make it uncomfortable and cool to sit on anything. Make sure food and water containers are firmly attached to the cage because she will knock them over first chance she gets from all the pacing she will be doing trying to get back to the nest!! Most people say to leave her in there until she lays an egg. I find that timeline to not be as concrete as most people say it is. I leave the broody in as long as she is "broody clucking." As soon as she appears to stop and starts making "regular" chicken noises, I leave her in for a couple more days. Then let her out. I always keep my broody bins in the coop so reintroduction is not difficult. I would guess your hen will be in the broody bin for at least two weeks.
Thank you so much for the advise. The Hen didn't have any interest in them. She sat the first day but the first night she roosted and has been out all weekend with the rest of the flock. I guess she was done.. We are in the process of trying the" mother heating pad" so we don't have to reintroduce them to the flock. Thanks Again!