Broody Hen Killed her Chicks?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Greg0ry, Jun 13, 2017.

  1. Greg0ry

    Greg0ry New Egg

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    Jun 13, 2017
    I have black australorp hens and rooster. Recently, one of the hens went broody so I decided to let her handle the eggs this time. She had 8 eggs, 6 of them hatched. All was good.

    About 2 days later, when she left the coop to feed and water herself, I checked the chicks - 2 were dead in the nest, the other 4 were fine. I assumed they must have been weak hatchlings. This morning, 3 more were dead. Only 1 remains alive. :(

    I have raised chicks myself a number of times successfully, but never had a hen brood with so much dedication so I wanted her to take on the responsibility of raising her chicks. But, even though she is nesting with them, and the nest is plenty large enough - she has managed to kill almost all of them.

    Anyone else experience this? *CAN* hens raise their own broods like wild birds?? (How did chickens ever make it this far without humans keeping them alive???)

    Thanks!
     
  2. IZZYBELLA

    IZZYBELLA Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm sorry to hear this has happened. I was in the same boat and posted a similar question last week! Broodies can indeed raise chicks very successfully (I have done it before). However, as BYCers taught me, apparently some broodies do not make good moms. Do you think you can find some chicks to keep your remaining one company?
     
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  3. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    Can chickens raise their own broods? Absolutely, and do a fabulous job. So good in fact, that I stopped heat lamp raising after burning a coop down and went solely with hen raising.

    But not all hens make good mothers.

    However, before assuming your hen killed the chicks herself, I have a question to ask? Is this a communal nest that she used to hatch the chicks. The only time I've had good hatchings to find dead chicks under a broody hen was when the hen was in a communal nest. I inadvertently watched one day as another hen came into the nest to lay and saw momma trying to hunker down, refusing to budge off her chicks. The result is dead chicks as the weight of both hens came bearing down upon them either suffocating or crushing them.

    Another option with larger hens is that simply getting in and out of the nest they kill chicks by stepping on them.

    Look at the bodies (if you can still). Are they simply dead with no visible trauma? Or is there some sort of trauma visible...a broken rib, squished appearance, bloody head? If a hen is killing her own chicks, she may throw them against something and you find the chicks flung away. Or, they peck their heads.

    Also consider genetic problems or bacterial. Do the chicks have swollen legs and abdomens? If somehow the nest was especially soiled, they can contract bacterial infections in their abdomens freshly after hatch, especially if their navals were not fully closed. You will see a bit more of that under a broody where conditions are distinctly not sanitary. However, I've done a lot of broody hatches, and I've only had a couple of omphalitis cases, and both were in rare breeds with open navals, so I suspicion genetic weakneess or malformation as well.

    And finally, if they simply were dead, even huddled together in the middle of the nest, and you have cool weather, mom may have gotten up and forgotten to keep them warm. If it wasn't clear where mom went, or not easy for the chicks to follow her out of the nest box, the chicks could conceivably try to huddle together and have succumbed to chilling.

    I'm sorry to hear your hen has had such a poor result with her hatchlings, but it will take some investigation to determine if it was a bad mother, bad mothering, or simply a bad location.

    LofMc
     
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  4. Greg0ry

    Greg0ry New Egg

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    Jun 13, 2017
    So, all chickens and chicks are healthy. They look great actually. At this time, only 2 hens and the rooster use this coop. Other hens never go into the coop. Perhaps because the temperatures are so warm recently. (Still though, gets into the 70s at night).

    She is a big hen, and I saw her inadvertently step on one of the chicks when she was departing her nest. The chickens have no trauma except they do appear to be flattened from her weight. Perhaps when she falls asleep she is suffocating them accidentally? The other hen is using a different nesting box to lay (there are 5 boxes in this coop).

    This broody hen is one that I raised who is likely the daughter of the rooster and the more mature hen who is continuing to lay in this coop.

    We already have too many chickens, but this is still very sad of course. The chicks acted very healthy and active. I have not given them *any* food or water this time though, because I want the hen to do this work. However, I cannot tell if she is or not...
     
  5. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    Too much interference stresses Hens...If a first time Broody?...They are over whelmed and human interference causes more stress....leave food and water out for her and chicks and Chicks and leave her alone totally to bond with her hatchlings for two days.....
     
  6. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    I have not given them *any* food or water this time though, because I want the hen to do this work.

    There may have been your problem. Chicks can live without food or water for 2 days, then they need both, especially water. They can succumb to stress very quickly without water, and it sounds like you've got warmer weather.

    While momma may have been able to get up to food and water, it may have been hard for the chicks to figure out where that was. Momma probably tried to lead them there, but if it wasn't visible to them, they won't follow. It takes about 4 days for chicks to get steady enough on their feet to follow momma down ramps and across coop runs.

    A broody hen should have feed and water close by...enough steps away so she has to get up to get it, but close by so that the chicks can see it and she can lead them there without having to go up and over or down anything....at least the first 5 days after hatch. By day 4 to 5 of age, the chicks generally will try to follow momma, but often get confused and do a lot of cheeping if you've got any raised type of ramp....I keep water above and below to protect chicks until they figure things out. You can get stranded chicks then. (I've got a coop with a long walkway.) By 2 weeks of age, the chicks follow momma everywhere, up and down ramps.

    So it sounds like less than ideal water situation for the chicks and perhaps a heavy hen.

    LofMc
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2017
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  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Chicks were sick.
     
  8. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    ?...???
     
  9. Greg0ry

    Greg0ry New Egg

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    Jun 13, 2017
    Thank you Lady. So then, hens do not feed their young like wild birds do in that case? I thought they would regurgitate nutrients for their young?
     
  10. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    No, no, no. LOL. Sorry. (Easy misunderstanding to make)
    Momma leads chicks to food and water. They eat and drink like adults.
    If they can't follow, being too wobbly or confused (first few days), they will huddle in the nest cheeping...and die.
    Sorry.
    LofMc
     

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