A Cautionary Tale of Two Broody Hens and the Unrecognizable Chicks

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Jackeltree, Jun 9, 2016.

  1. Jackeltree

    Jackeltree Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 26, 2012
    I feel like I should post this just so people don't make the same mistake I did....and also I'm wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience of a hen not recognizing her own chicks. Read on...

    I had one broody hen in the coop for two weeks and during that time I let the other chickens have access to the coop. I marked the original eggs with marker and took out the new eggs the other chickens laid from the nest each day. I planned to close off the coop to the other chickens once 21 days was near. Before that happened another hen got broody and laid on a nest about a foot away (the coop is very very small). I shut them both in and they peacefully laid on their respective nests for a week. The first hens chicks started hatching and all was good for two days while the hen was still sitting, waiting for the rest of the eggs to hatch. Then some of the chicks started going under the other hen...which she accepted just fine and I let it go. After a while I noticed that the first hen was attacking some of the chicks. I wasn't sure what was going on. Long story short...she thought that the chicks that were the same red color as the other hen were not her chicks (it was a shared nest so she had all different kinds of chicks) and she wound up killing two..it was really sad. She was attacking a third before I intervened and separated them. The third chick was unharmed and I put it and the rest of the unhatched eggs under the second hen. Two more chicks hatched overnight and were with the other still sitting hen for a day and a half before I reluctantly took them away to raise inside so the mama could concentrate on the week old eggs. The first hen, a Columbian Wyandotte, is a terrible mother. Her six remaining chicks are a few weeks old now and are doing well...but stepped on them a lot in the beginning and always scratches all of their food out of their bowl, mixing it with the dirt...So annoying. So far the second hen...a red sex link I think...is a great mother...she has seven new chicks. A third hen just got broody...so the saga continues!
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Some hens are not good mothers.....having another broody nearby can complicate matters.
    If you have a very very small coop, why are you letting them hatch more chicks?
    You can break the broodiness rather than letting them sit/hatch.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2016
  3. Jackeltree

    Jackeltree Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 26, 2012
    This is all definitely a learning experience for me. I will definitely not let two broody hens hang out together again and by writing this post hope a few people maybe read it and will take the same caution before something bad happens to them. I raised chickens as a kid now and then...which is why I wanted to start keeping them again. I'm a few years in now. The coop I have is small, but the enclosure is huge and within that enclosure I have another shelter which most of the chickens spend the night in and lay their eggs in. Chickens don't have many rights when it comes to existing in our world and I know how wonderful it is to be a mother, so if any hen of mine wants to hatch out eggs and be a mother, I'll do my best to help her with that. I have all three hens very far separated now (the first hen and her chicks are making their way around the garden eating weeds in a large bottomless cage I put together using an old play pen). I had a few hens taken by predators this spring...and with my luck, I'll get lots of roosters (my only other hatch, two years ago, I got 8 roosters and 2 hens...boo! Not to mention all the "pullets" I've gotten that ended up being roosters), so it doesn't hurt to have more chicks...I'll sell the ones I don't have room for...plus I hope to get at least one Olive Egger out of the bunch...we'll see. My chickens have a nice life here on our little "farm" and it gives us great pleasure to keep them. :)
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    First hen was not a bad mother and can be expected to do better next round assuming confusion promoted this go is not repeated. Chicks moving from first hen to second iniated bonding with second hen. During that critical interval the first hen and her chicks imprinting on each other got derailed. Chicks needing to get away from nest then went back to original hen where they were no longer recognized.

    I keep my incubating hens at least a few feet apart and so chicks cannot go between incubating hens. Dual parenting can work but is much less consistent than with a single hen.
  5. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I always try to be around during a hatch and separate the broody and chicks into a small fenced area to prevent what happened to you, as well as keeping them separated for a week or two before allowing them to mingle with the rest of the flock. As aart said, not every hen knows what a chick is and what to do with them, so you always need to be ready with a back up plan and a brooder if needed. Sorry you had a bad experience.
  6. ChickenLegs13

    ChickenLegs13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2013
    Lower Alabama
    This thread is why buying an electric hen was the best move I ever made.

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