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Found Dead Chicks Under Hen--Help!

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

My 12 month old buff went broody about 3 weeks ago, and I mean very broody--if I took her out of her nesting box and put her in a corner of the yard, she would sprint back to it faster than I could, regardless if there were eggs in it or not. I even scattered a few eggs in the roost to see what would happen, and 30 minutes later all of the eggs had been moved and were under her.

 

I've always wanted to let a hen raise chicks, so I gave it a shot. I placed her and her nesting box (eggs included) in a closed off area, and three days ago around 11pm slipped a couple 5-6 day old chicks under her wings and took the eggs. She seemed to adopt them right away, but I noticed she didn't get up at all, not even once (her food was barely touched, like only the chicks were eating, and there was not a single dropping in the enclosure).

 

This morning I heard the hen squawking, and found her pacing inside the enclosure, puffed up like a balloon with her wings out. She also had taken her first broody poo in days, and it was about the size of a goose egg. The chicks were in the middle of the nesting box and mostly buried in slightly damp but still warm wood shavings, like they had been smothered. I tried showing them to the hen to see if she cared, and she looked at them for a few seconds before walking away and stepping on one in the process. I took out the dead chicks and put a few eggs next to the box, and the hen immediately quieted down and rolled each egg into the box and sat on them.

 

I feel like the hen at least mostly adopted the chicks, because she stayed with them very diligently and didn't leave her nesting box until they died, but treated them like eggs--they looked like they were rolled under her and smothered. She still has a very strong interest in sitting on and protecting her eggs. Right now she is in the broody-breaker, but I don't have high hopes it will work.

 

Did I do something wrong? Is there still any chance of her adopting and raising chicks? Do I need to let her sit on her eggs for longer, or is she just a bad mother hen? This is the first time she has gone broody btw.


Edited by billygoat162 - 4/24/16 at 4:43pm
post #2 of 7
Thread Starter 

It's also worth mentioning that she has lost weight and is missing most of her chest and neck feathers (I'm not sure if she pulled out the neck feathers or if other hens did, because she would not allow any other hen into her nesting box once she went broody). She also has not laid an egg in probably 3 weeks.

post #3 of 7

The feather pulling was likely her, it is wants called a broody patch this is what helps keep the eggs warm while she sits on them.  She may not lose that broodiness for a while.  You may want to place some eggs under her and let them hatch.  Some hens are know not to adopt chicks she need not hatch. 

I live in Northeastern New Mexico. Live on a 2.5 acres with my husband of 38 yrs.(husband pass away 6/13/16), 2 dogs, 2 cats,    I have SLC, Blue laced Red Wy, Partridge Cochin, Blue, Black & White Cochins, Americanas, Cuckoo Marans Roo, Dominque Roo,  Blue Bar Roo, Buff Orps, Lavender Wy, Black & Blue French Cooper Marans, French Wheaton Marans, Cuckoo Marans , Dominque , Blue bar  Whiting...

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I live in Northeastern New Mexico. Live on a 2.5 acres with my husband of 38 yrs.(husband pass away 6/13/16), 2 dogs, 2 cats,    I have SLC, Blue laced Red Wy, Partridge Cochin, Blue, Black & White Cochins, Americanas, Cuckoo Marans Roo, Dominque Roo,  Blue Bar Roo, Buff Orps, Lavender Wy, Black & Blue French Cooper Marans, French Wheaton Marans, Cuckoo Marans , Dominque , Blue bar  Whiting...

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post #4 of 7

Were the day old chicks from the feed store? Feed store chicks can be very tricky to foster. They often succumb to transition stress, and I have pulled more than one dead feed store chick out from under a loving hen. They've been hatched in artificial settings, transported long distance, kept in a feed store, then placed with a hen all within a very short time span. That many transitions frequently overwhelms their systems (let alone the introduction of the new bacteria and coccidia from your soil environment which is foreign to their systems). If I foster with feed store chicks, I ask when the chicks arrived and tend to do better with a 3 day old chick...still little enough to be "baby" but recovered from the transition day of shipping.

 

Also, fostering is often a tricky process as both the mother and the chicks need to be mentally prepared for the transition.

 

Some hens adapt very quickly to chicks placed under them even though they did not go through the interim phase of hearing the cheeps within the shells the week of hatch. The hens really do hear them, and call encouragement to them. That begins the bonding process with the chicks and also helps shift the hen from setting mode to mothering mode.

 

I'm not sure from your post...was she sitting on a nest for 3 weeks? Or had she only been sitting on that nest for a couple of days before you placed chicks (broody but not re-settled for long?).

 

How soon you place chicks can be a big factor if the hen had not been deeply settled on that nesting spot long enough. If the hen has been settled on that spot, then placed with chicks, her hormones are generally ready to accept them. Often 2 weeks is enough time, but less than 10 days setting, most hens are not deep enough into their brood and may reject the chicks or not take care of them, being restless when they break from the brood trance.

 

From what you describe, she was still in the brooding eggs phase, seemed to adjust to the chicks under her being in the trance, but was not up and moving around yet taking care of them?  They may have been weak from transition stress, so simply succumbed to that and lack of food and water. Then she roused from the trance and discovered her surroundings changed, which stressed her further.

 

When I attempt feed store fostering, as stated I choose slightly older chicks, then load the chicks up with Chick Saver before I attempt to place with a hen who has been very settled for at least 2 weeks, closer to 3 if a newer broody. Then I watch very carefully as most feed store chicks are terrified of the big hen. I often have to replace for the next hour or two until they get the idea that the hen is warmth and comfort (although that doesn't sound like that was your issue). I will place food and water close by so that the chicks can get to it if foster mom has trouble transitioning from nesting to chick brooding....but it is not uncommon for a hen to want to linger for 2 days on the nest as she knows with real eggs there can be a 2 day delay between the first hatched and the last. With feed store chicks, that can be too long as they've already burned up their energy stores in the long shipment. If the weather is cooler, that change in environment is also stressing as they get cold moving from the hen to the food and water.  Day 2 and 3 is the most common time that I lose feed store chicks from transition loss if mother has accepted them as her own.

 

If it were me, and she is still really broody, I would find some fertile eggs and put them under her. You can try feed store chicks again, but you may go through a few before it grafts well and the chicks survive as you are working with both the hen and the chick transition since she is a new mom. Feed store fostering can be frustrating in the best of circumstances....I've had some good results and some similar to yours even when I have done everything "right" and the hen was superlative. 

 

LofMc

Keeper of 15+ layers, common to specialty types for colorful egg baskets. Brooding Queens: The Queen Mum Silkie and 2 Bantam Cochin handmaids. Preparing to breed my own Olive Eggers! Barnevelder roo with Splash Marans and CL for egg color and color coding :D Former 4H leader, GDB Puppy Raiser, Homeschooler. Current ESL tutor. Proud new grandma. Loving wife to a very tolerant husband.
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Keeper of 15+ layers, common to specialty types for colorful egg baskets. Brooding Queens: The Queen Mum Silkie and 2 Bantam Cochin handmaids. Preparing to breed my own Olive Eggers! Barnevelder roo with Splash Marans and CL for egg color and color coding :D Former 4H leader, GDB Puppy Raiser, Homeschooler. Current ESL tutor. Proud new grandma. Loving wife to a very tolerant husband.
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post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

They were feed store chicks. The hen had been sitting on a nest in the roost (everyone's favorite nesting box naturally) for about 3 weeks before I took out the nesting box and put it in an enclosure. She was in the same nest but in a different enclosure for about a day before I slipped in the chicks, which sounds like it was a mistake.

 

The hen let the chicks sleep under her wings, but wasn't up to walking around and taking care of them. She was very much still in "I have to hatch these eggs no matter what" mode, even though her 'eggs' were walking around and chirping. She's been in broody jail with nothing but hardware cloth and a light breeze for about 30 hours now and is still as broody as ever. It warmed up a lot so I've been dunking her bottom half in water every so often, but that little hen is like a furnace--after ten minutes she is completely dry and poofy as ever. She reminds me of the dinosaur from the original Jurassic Park movie that puffs out its neck like a cobra before attacking.

 

I'm going to give her a couple more days in the broody buster, but if that doesn't work I'll take a look at the buy/sell/trade on here for some eggs. If I buy them locally it looks like they will either be mixed breed roulette with lots of noisy varieties thrown in, or will be terribly overpriced. Right now I would like her to gain some weight back and stop pulling out feathers (her chest is about as bare as a chicken from a supermarket), and if breaking her doesn't work then giving her some fertilized eggs seems like the next best option. I didn't realize chicks made noise from inside the egg, giving the hen so much time to transition. She was never aggressive towards the chicks even though she was aggressive towards the other hens, so I guess she just didn't transition properly. The brood is strong in this one, I guess it takes a lot to change her mood.

post #6 of 7

She sounds like she may simply need to hatch her own.

 

Some Buff Orps are very stubborn broodies.

 

If you ever want a hen to brood, I discourage trying to bust the brood as you can may a very confused hen who doesn't brood well when you want her to.

 

LofMc

Keeper of 15+ layers, common to specialty types for colorful egg baskets. Brooding Queens: The Queen Mum Silkie and 2 Bantam Cochin handmaids. Preparing to breed my own Olive Eggers! Barnevelder roo with Splash Marans and CL for egg color and color coding :D Former 4H leader, GDB Puppy Raiser, Homeschooler. Current ESL tutor. Proud new grandma. Loving wife to a very tolerant husband.
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Keeper of 15+ layers, common to specialty types for colorful egg baskets. Brooding Queens: The Queen Mum Silkie and 2 Bantam Cochin handmaids. Preparing to breed my own Olive Eggers! Barnevelder roo with Splash Marans and CL for egg color and color coding :D Former 4H leader, GDB Puppy Raiser, Homeschooler. Current ESL tutor. Proud new grandma. Loving wife to a very tolerant husband.
Reply
post #7 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by billygoat162 View Post
 

My 12 month old buff went broody about 3 weeks ago, and I mean very broody--if I took her out of her nesting box and put her in a corner of the yard, she would sprint back to it faster than I could, regardless if there were eggs in it or not. I even scattered a few eggs in the roost to see what would happen, and 30 minutes later all of the eggs had been moved and were under her.

 

I've always wanted to let a hen raise chicks, so I gave it a shot. I placed her and her nesting box (eggs included) in a closed off area, and three days ago around 11pm slipped a couple 5-6 day old chicks under her wings and took the eggs. She seemed to adopt them right away, but I noticed she didn't get up at all, not even once (her food was barely touched, like only the chicks were eating, and there was not a single dropping in the enclosure).

 

This morning I heard the hen squawking, and found her pacing inside the enclosure, puffed up like a balloon with her wings out. She also had taken her first broody poo in days, and it was about the size of a goose egg. The chicks were in the middle of the nesting box and mostly buried in slightly damp but still warm wood shavings, like they had been smothered. I tried showing them to the hen to see if she cared, and she looked at them for a few seconds before walking away and stepping on one in the process. I took out the dead chicks and put a few eggs next to the box, and the hen immediately quieted down and rolled each egg into the box and sat on them.

 

I feel like the hen at least mostly adopted the chicks, because she stayed with them very diligently and didn't leave her nesting box until they died, but treated them like eggs--they looked like they were rolled under her and smothered. She still has a very strong interest in sitting on and protecting her eggs. Right now she is in the broody-breaker, but I don't have high hopes it will work.

 

Did I do something wrong? Is there still any chance of her adopting and raising chicks? Do I need to let her sit on her eggs for longer, or is she just a bad mother hen? This is the first time she has gone broody btw.

It's hard to fool mother Nature as well as a Natural Mother.  To a hen 5 or 6 day old chicks are in no respect a substitute for day old or newly hatched chicks.  I suspect that your hen killed the older chicks thinking that they were imposters or intruders.  Then she went looking for her own babies.  "I know I left them around here someplace"  She is saying in hen speak.  While there is definitely Chicken math..... as you've shown, Chickens definitely can't do math.

Keep your chickens safe from predators, buy and wear fur. 
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Keep your chickens safe from predators, buy and wear fur. 
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