Advice on Mother Hen with Babies


8 Years
Jul 18, 2011
Central NC
After 4 years of having chickens I finally had a mother hen hatch out 9 beautiful babies....right in the middle of winter. I have them in my basement in a open wired dog crate. We are in NC so I'm not using a heat lamp just depending on Mama for heat for her babies. Just wondering if the experts could tell me when I should try taking them all outside or should I separate the Mama from the babies? Any advice would be much appreciated.


6 Years
Jul 21, 2013
My Coop
My Coop
I had a momma this last spring and she did great. I separated her and the babies from the flock to keep the little ones safer. I kept her with the little ones until they were able to be outside without her warmth. Then I moved her back to the flock and raised the babies up and added them in later. She'll raise them for you and will protect them as best she can. So you can keep then together or separate her from them. I've seen babies in the snow before so I think the mom will keep them warm but if it were me I'd be worried about the cold too.


Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Dec 11, 2009
Colorado Rockies
The sooner you can get the little family back into the flock the better for all. The mama relies on her rank in the pecking order to defend her chicks and by removing her, she's losing status.

She has a 100 degree heating plant in her body to keep those chicks as warm as toast, no matter the temp around her. I would make sure there are no cold drafts that can cause problems with the chicks while they are running around. And I would definitely rig a safe pen for them in the coop so the other chickens don't get ideas about picking off any chicks.

When the chicks are a few weeks old, you can let them begin to mingle with the flock.

Unless your weather is below freezing, I'd move them right away.


Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
You might want to scan this thread, it’ pretty long. But someone let a broody hen raise chicks with the flock in weather a lot colder than yours. You might want to see how they did it. It is harder for a broody hen to raise the chicks in the winter, what might be a little inconvenience in the summer can be fatal in the winter, but as you can see, it can work. It can be harder for you too, say you get a power outage.

There is no one set way we do any of this. We are all over the board. Some let the hen hatch with the flock and raise the chicks with the flock. Some isolate when incubating or hatching. Some isolate the hen and chicks for different lengths of time, some take the chicks away and raise the chicks themselves. While I don’t isolate them I don’t consider others wrong, just different to me.

If you let the hen raise the chicks with the flock, she will handle integration for you. The chicks will still have to handle their own pecking order issues when she weans them, but they will do that by forming a sub-flock and avoiding the older chickens during the day until they mature enough to force their way into the pecking order. Brooder raised chicks do the same thing, but you have to handle integration instead of the hen.

Most broody hens do quite well raising their chicks with the flock. I’ve never lost a chick to another adult flock member doing that and I’ve had a lot of broody hens. But I think a big key to that is how much room she has to work with. If space is tight she can have problems, but if space is that tight you will probably have problems when you try to integrate them later.

I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know your facilities or set-up and I don’t know you. Since you haven’t had a broody in good weather before I can certainly understand your nervousness, you haven’t seen how well that hen can cope. If it were my flock with my set-up I’d let the broody handle it all, but I don’t know if that is the right answer for you.

There is a consideration that makes me nervous though. She has nine chicks. They are going to grow really fast. In a few weeks she will not be able to cover all of them. Those chicks can handle cold a lot better than most people would expect, but I’d be a lot happier if you only had six or seven. If they grow up outside they will feather out really fast. I’d think that at four weeks they’d be OK with the broody, just occasionally needing a bit of warmth. But I’d have concerns in the three to three and a half week time frame. You might watch them and see what the temperatures are when they get to that point and see how well they are covered at night.


7 Years
Dec 25, 2012
Big Bend of the Tennessee River's Right Bank.
Momma hens are like Pop Eye the Sailorman, when she's stood all she can stand, then she can't stand any more. When this happens she will gently reprimand her babies when they get to close or intrude on her personal space.. Fortunately they should be 4ish or maybe 5ish weeks old by then and be fully fledged.

You do your peeps little good by separating them from the flock. A baby chick raised by it's mother in the flock, is a member of the flock. But one reared with only its mother and siblings may take it upon itself to fight (defy really) the biggest and meanest hen for her place in the flock.

The worst or most deadly problem peeps face is moisture or wet conditions. A baby chicks' water fountain (even in the Summer) is an invitation to pneumonia and death.

Non of my hens are plugged into the power grid so power failures while sitting and brooding are no problem.
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8 Years
Jul 18, 2011
Central NC
All these comments are very helpful..The temps here at night are dipping really low into the low teens right now. I have plenty of space outside and my flock free ranges during the day and then puts themselves up at dusk and I shut the door. I think as soon as the temps are gonna stay above freezing for a week I'll get them into a makeshift coop with plastic on the outside to act as a wind barrier. It's amazing how much the chicks have grown since yesterday!! But Mama is a small hen so she will have trouble covering all nine of them. I may even rig a light in the coop outside. I just definitely want the Mama to maintain her status in the pecking order and she will do much better chance at integrating the babies than I will. I have 11 adults (5 are roosters which was all by accident) and then the 9 babies. I also have 23 eggs in my incubator but I only think 8 of those are for sure gonna hatch. My roosters do seem to get along with each other. Every now and then they will get in a chase across the yard which is hilarious to watch especially since one of my Bantams seems to be the king who chases one of my huge Orpingtons. Let me know if you think this is a good plan.

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