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Articifically raised and hen raised chicks - some questions

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by james w, Apr 19, 2009.

  1. james w

    james w Out Of The Brooder

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    Last week I successfully hatched 16 chicks from an incubator and a further 7 hatched a few days later from underneath a hen. I removed the chicks in batches from underneath the hen as I was concerned that she might leave the nest thereby ruining the chances of the remaining chicks still to peep. I placed all the chicks in a brooder under lights. They are all doing fine with chick starter rations and 35 degrees c of heat.

    However, at this point, I am not sure how to proceed. I would like to give the hen a chance to raise some chicks. This only seems fair since she did all the hard work for 7 of the chicks and as a parent myself I don't like the thought of depriving the hen of her offspring. That said, I only have limited time and I wonder in the long run which is the best course of action for the chicks and the hen.

    Should I therefore:

    a) Return the hen to the coop with the other hens and cockerel and rear all the chicks myself
    b) Take 7 (or less or more) of the chicks and return them to her in the pen and nest I built for her

    If there is a chance she will attack the chicks or neglect them I would rather raise them myself but if she can do a better job than me, keeping them warm, etc, I am happy to give her some of the chicks.

    Does anyone have a solution to my dilemma?

    Thanks
     
  2. nzpouter

    nzpouter Chillin' With My Peeps

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    yep, done it plenty of times, slip 3-4 chicks under her at night, let her raise them for 3 weeks than remove them and let her back to the flock.
     
  3. james w

    james w Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 6, 2007
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    But three weeks hardly seems worth the effort. Will the chicks and hen benefit?
     
  4. UrbanPolish

    UrbanPolish Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 14, 2009
    I've had a few people tell me that chicks hatched/ raised under a hen are more likely to grow up and become broody than those raised in a brooder, and that they are just all around generally smarter birds. Assuming this is true, I would think it's worth it. But I'm really not sure if this may just be a myth...

    I've read in some places here that some hens take care of their chicks anywhere from 3-6 weeks, so as long as the hen isn't pecking at the chicks or something like that it would probably be ok to leave the chicks with her for as long as she feels broody.

    How bad do you need that hen to start reproducing again? That could also help you decide.
     
  5. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

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    Loxahatchee, Florida
    That's an interesting question. I don't know how much the hen would "benefit" but I think that chicks benefit from being with their Mama hen, even if it's only for 3 weeks.

    It seems that broody hens run on instinct, not emotion. They are certainly devoted to their job of continuing the species, but I don't think they feel a large amount of emotion towards their chicks, no matter how sweet they look tending to them. When their time is up, they'll leave them with seldom a backwards glance. And if their eggs or chicks are taken prematurely, they'll go back to the flock with little regret.

    I think that chicks get better care from a hen than from a brooder. They are kept at the best temperature, get lots of activity, and learn about all the tasty things there are in the world to eat. They pick up immunity to some illnesses by being in contact with the hen's poop, and hone their instincts while learning intelligent chicken behavior from their Mom.

    There probably are many benefits that we cannot even detect, to both the hen & the chicks when left together. If for no other reason, why make work for yourself when there's an animal ready to do the job for you? I hope it's not too late to get the hen to accept those chicks back under her care. Keep close watch to make sure she still wants them.
     
  6. CityGirlintheCountry

    CityGirlintheCountry Green Eggs and Hamlet

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    I have done both.

    Pros for hen raised-
    - My hen raised chicks are more acclimated to the great big world and seem to settle in faster than the house raised. (My house raised chicks freak out the first several field trips outside.)
    - My hen raised have no adjustment period into the flock as they are part of it from day one. I am currently having to do a bit of constuction work to prepare an area for the indoor babies to transition into the outdoor flock.
    - There is less mess for me if a hen raises them outside. Chicks are messy little critters.

    Pros for house raised-
    - I love having chicks in the house! I'm sitting here right now listening to the happy, contented little chirps of a brooder full of babies. It's very sweet.
    - My house raised chicks are friendlier since I am in there talking to them and handling them all the time. My hen raised chicks act like I am there to rip their little wings out.
    - I can keep an eye on the house raised and control their environment a little more. Most of my hen raised chicks have done just fine, but I have had the occasional loss to weather or random extreme conditions.

    Truthfully, my initial set was all house raised. They have done just peachy keen fine outside as adults. Two of them are silkies and are broody all the time (I tend to think broodiness has more to do with breed than rearing.) My hen raised chicks have all grown into healthy pullets. They were a lot less work.
    I think the answer is that it really doesn't matter which way you do it. It's whatever works out best for your world. The hen will ultimately be fine either way.

    edited to add that my hens quit being mama to the babies when they were about 5-6 weeks old anyway. It doesn't take long for the hen to tire of motherhood. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2009
  7. estpr13

    estpr13 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Good thread.

    I have just had my first broody hen experience. She had 4 to hatch out and I put her in a pen inside the chicken pen. Her pen was secured only with loose chicken wire. She was able to get out and did one day while I was giving treats to the girls but she went back in.

    Then one day I found her and all four chicks out with the other five hens and big roo. They were all ignoring the chicks and the broody would come to their rescue only if she perceived that someone was taking too much interest in them.

    At two weeks she was pretty much ignoring them, and they are growing like little weeds; foraging and dust bathing in the deep litter. I didn't know a two week old would dust bathe.

    They are now just over three weeks of age and the big roo was calling the girls for food after I threw in some treats and one of the chicks came and took a piece. I held my breath but the roo let the chick as if it was one of the hens. I really like that roo now.

    I think letting your hen keep a few chicks would be good for the hen, and the flock as they would get use to little ones being around quicker.
     
  8. james w

    james w Out Of The Brooder

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    OK, so I will give her back 5 (nice round number). At the moment she is still sitting on the nest with two eggs underneath. I candled these eggs last night and I don't think that they will hatch. The problem with the nest is that it is high up and if the hen left and tried to take the chicks with her there would be no way for the chicks to return.

    For this reason I used an old dog house and put a net around it. There is about 2sq metres of space. I could move the hen tomorrow night and place the chicks and remaining two eggs underneath her.

    Does this sound like a good plan of action?

    The rest of the flock is in another location. How long should I wait before returning the hen and the chicks to the main flock? I can't do it straight away as the floor of the coop is wire mesh and the chicks would fall through until a little bigger.
     
  9. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

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    That sounds like a good plan. It's usually better to move them at night, then they wake up & think the new is normal.

    There seems to be lots of variables in keeping hens with chicks. Some families do just fine on their own, Mama will keep them safe from other adult chickens and from other predators. In other circumstances it's better to confine the family to its own pen to keep the chicks from getting picked off by predators.

    I've kept chick families in many different settings. Some Mamas love to free-range all day with their chicks and do a great job of keeping them safe. Others do better if confined in their own pen. Once I lost one of my best broodies to a hawk, she must have been defending her chicks from it and got taken in their place. Another time I lost a chick that was free-ranging with its Mom and drowned in the goose pool. Once I kept two hens together in a small pen to brood their eggs. Their chicks hatched at the same time, but one hen pecked one of the other's chick to death. But I've heard of hens who will be more cooperative and set eggs and raise their chicks together. Recently I had several hens together with their chicks in one roomy uncovered pen. They all did fine and all the chicks survived. Then a few weeks later, after those hens & chicks moved out, the newest broody hatched 5 chicks but kept losing one chick a day until I put her & her last 2 in a covered rabbit cage.

    It's a lot of trial & error, and doesn't seem to be one ideal set-up for all yards, flocks, or broodies. I don't like losing the chicks or the hens, and do my best to keep them all safe. But I realize I'm raising replaceable common chickens, not any rare heritage breeds, not endangered California Condors.

    Mama will probably want to return to her flock long before the chicks are grown. The time varies from 2-10 weeks, depending on the hen. I keep the "graduated" chicks in a separate pen afterwards because they'll need to eat chick starter until they're 18-20 weeks old.

    I wish you & your Mama hen & all the chicks great success! It's really a pleasure to watch a good Mama hen tending her chickie family.
     
  10. CityGirlintheCountry

    CityGirlintheCountry Green Eggs and Hamlet

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    I put mine in a plastic dog crate on the floor of the coop. It works out great. Mama and babies have some protection, but can come and go as they please.
    Mine are in with the flock from the beginning. The other hens and roo leave the babies alone. Mama silkie turns into a tiny velociraptor when anyone gets too close to her babies. [​IMG]

    edited to add that mine stay in an enclosed run until they are lots bigger. I generally don't let mama and babies out to free range until the kids are of a pretty good size.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2009

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