Adoption of new (day old) chicks by non-brooding hen?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by samteel, Mar 11, 2012.

  1. samteel

    samteel Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 11, 2012
    Can hens be induced to adopt new chicks?
  2. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    no, it will be a wreck. The chicks could very well be killed.

    It is a hormonal thing. If they are broody, then the opposite is true, you can most often get them to accept chicks, but it is a one time thing, they won't accept some a few days later after you have given them the first batch.

    And, while I have heard of many wives tails to promote broody, it is really a combination of daylight hours, breed of chickens, and the movement of the chicken God's. Lord knows I have tried.

  3. satay

    satay oz-e-chick

    Sep 2, 2008
    Esk Qld Australia
    I would agree with Miss K some what on this. I have a couple of banty hens that at any time of year would take on babies. It will not happen with all hens though and unless you know the hen will take on others babies I would not risk it either. They will kill the babies. How did i know with my banties. They steal babies from other hens that have hatched and won't give them back. I gave them a couple of babies and watched. It all went well. Now i know I can rely on these to girls if i need them and they have taken care of many an incubated chicken for me.
  4. goldnchocolate

    goldnchocolate Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 9, 2008
    I agree with Mrs. K. The hen will kill the little "intruders" (the chicks) [​IMG]
  5. romea

    romea Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 4, 2014
    read this and be amazed:

    ... and here is my own brief experience/experiment:

    i have two silkies, dodo & ditto, who became broody at the same twice. the first time they raised their chicks together without much animosity. the second time around, both again became broody within a day apart but this time ditto abandoned her eggs - possibly because i was handling her a lot. she had been sneezing for quite a while and i had to force-feed her antibiotics. (broody hens, as you probably know, hardly eat or drink - so, unfortunately, there was no other way to get the appropriate dose into her.)

    for reasons i can only assume, the hatch was not very successful and only 3 chicks hatched. this made me contemplate getting an incubator - but i am also very aware of the multiple benefits for chicks to be raised by a hen. (the level of emotional [sic!] comfort makes me actually pity all those chicks who are left to themselves resp. an electric brooder.)

    for this reason, i, too, pondered the question if a non-broody hen would actually accept newly hatched chicks and once the youngest chick was 5 days old, i decided to test ditto who, by then, had been off any eggs for about 3 weeks, living with her flock and roaming freely during the day.

    i set up a pen outdoors and moved dodo and her chicks into it. once ditto spotted her, she engaged her in a fierce battle through the fence. no other hen showed much interest in these newcomers let alone such intense 'feelings'.
    i immediately removed dodo to put her back indoors and hence out of sight - but i decided to exposed her 3 chicks to ditto and placed her inside the pen where the chicks were left behind. i only did this for 2 maybe 3 minutes. obviously i wanted to keep this 'experiment' very short.

    although ditto had been in a heightened state just moments earlier, she did not attack the chicks and showed no signs of aggression. instead she seemed to alternate between a "keep calm and carry on"-type of attitude (casually pecking at the grass around her) and studying the chicks (no pecking, just peeking). while i would not have wanted to 'test-drive' any of my other hens, i am pretty sure that the little silkie would have adopted the chicks in no time.

    my conclusion is that the benefits of finding a surrogate mother for your hatchlings outweigh the risks by far. obviously, you would want to try a bantam breed (such as a silkie or cochin) known to be especially predisposed to 'motherhood' (and less likely cause a fatal injury with just one peck). you will want to further expose the chicks only in a calm environment that you can fully control (such as a small pen) and in which you are able intervene and catch the hen immediately.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2015

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