Can I combine mothers and chicks?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by tofupup, Dec 27, 2013.

  1. tofupup

    tofupup Chillin' With My Peeps

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    A few days ago, a mother game hen hatched one chick. They have been living in a dog crate happily inside the house.

    This morning, a game hen who went missing three weeks ago came home, bringing 8 tiny babies with her.

    Question #1: Since these babies are so close in age, can I put the different mothers and chicks together in the same dog crate, and then transfer them to a stall together when they get older? (It is awfully cold outside for babies.)

    Or will the mothers try to kill each others' babies and I will have a massacre on my hands when I try to combine them? (These are all game hens, so they are crazier than average hens. )

    Question #2: Since this new mama has so many babies, can I remove 2 of them from her and place one baby each under two of my other broody hens (who are sitting on wooden eggs) to break their broodiness?

    If the answer to question #2 is yes, then can I combine all 4 hens and chicks (2 broody moms + 2 real moms + all 9 babies) in one stall?

    Thanks for any advice!
     
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    A dog crate sounds too small for 2 broodies and their babies. When I've had two broodies together, I've needed more space to keep them from harassing each other, unless they actually brooded the eggs together.

    I'd think you could go ahead and put them in the stall, just give each hen a nest area and some hiding places for the littles.

    I've never tried to take a chick from momma and graft it onto another momma, but I'm not so sure it would work. Maybe a newly hatched chick, pulled basically as soon as the egg cracked, but if momma's off the nest those babies are a few days old and know who momma is at this point.

    If you're really worried about the cold, run a heat lamp out there. But, those momma hens are going to do just fine keeping the babies warm. The chicks will feather out faster than any other chicks you've ever seen!

    I'd either put your other two broodies in broody breaker cages or give them fertile eggs.
     
  3. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    In my experience a game hen is no more unbalanced than any other hen. If you put both of your mother hens and their chicks together, all in one dog crate, you best be prepared to find 9 dead chicks and two dead or dying mother hens when you look in on them again.

    I will say this again:

    Hens tolerate chicks smaller than their own better than they tolerate chicks larger than their own. It has nothing to do with the mental state of the hen, she is only trying to protect her own chicks from the treat that an older chicken represents.

    Hens are more disdainful of chicks that are in anyway dissimilar (like a different color) from her other biddies, even though the rejected chick is the same color as the mother hen and was hatched by her from an egg that she laid. Therefor a white hen may reject her own white chick if her other chicks are black, or vice versa with her next clutch. Notice I said "may"!!!!

    If you will make it a point to set at least 12 to 15 eggs (all the same size as the brood hens' eggs) under your setting hens, the hen will hopefully be to busy keeping track of 10 or 12 babies to notice many small differences in their chicks.

    Sometimes hens with too few chicks or hens that have lost their brood will attempt to drive off a competing hen and kidnap her chicks. This will most often result in all the chicks dying from collateral damage, especially in tight quarters.
     
  4. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Personally, I wouldn't mix them, particularly not in such tight quarters. There are hens who would be more than happy to work together to raise a combined batch of chicks, while others would beat each other (and the chicks by extension) absolutely bloody. I wouldn't worry about the cold. If mama hen was able to keep them warm in the egg, she'll be able to keep them warm now that they're out. If you're really concerned about it, you can put a heat lamp in their shelter, but she should be fine. For thousands of years before we had electricity, hens were keeping their chicks warm under their own power.
     
  5. tofupup

    tofupup Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I mean, I wasn't trying to be derogatory toward game hens by implying they are unbalanced. What I meant is that they are incredibly determined, having retained more of their wild nature than the domestic fowl used by the industry or sold in feed stores.

    Anyway, If I remove the the 3-day-old chick and hen from the equation by keeping her in the dog crate, I should be able to disperse the ten, day-old chicks among three mother hens successfully, right?

    That is the scenario at the moment: the 10, one-day old chicks are in the spare bedroom, split among three mothers, each in different nest boxes. At this moment, they look all fine, but I am in the next room and can hear any hullabaloo that might erupt.

    I am closing their boxes at night when they sleep .

    My rationale is that I do not think there is any way that one tiny bantam game hen could have successfully raised all ten of chicks on her own. She is tiny and not particularly fierce.

    Three chicks per hen sounds much more reasonable, and plus giving chicks to the other 2 broodies will break them of their trance, right? I don't want any more chickens at all, so I don't want to give them each their own fertile egg to hatch.

    If there are ten chicks here that are already born, I might as well disperse them among the willing mothers, right? How can one tiny bantam game hen raise all those chicks, esp in the winter? The father is a huge gamecock so I feel like the chicks will soon be towering over the mother.

    Suffice it to say, I'm reinforcing the pen after this so there are no more baby surprises.My crazy citified neighbor is already losing her mind over the few roosters I have here already because apparently she thinks she can live in the country without every having to encounter an animal or animal noise... but that's another story completely. .
     
  6. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That sounds like an excellent plan, and boo to citified neighbors. I'm afraid if someone moved out into the country next to me then started complaining about animal noises, I'd invest in a flock of peafowl just to spite them!
     
  7. tofupup

    tofupup Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Okay, I guess this is what happens when you mess with Mother Nature, but this is the latest hen situation: All three hens are with their sets of babies in the spare room. All are doing well except for the ACTUAL mother, the one who hatched them all; she is totally failing at her mothering skills.

    The other two mothers, who got the non-related, already-hatched chicks placed under them at night, are doing great, taking their adopted babies out hunting for food, calling to them, etc.

    However, the natural mother is still sitting in her box, hunched up, as if she is trying to hatch something, with her babies underneath her. She is not taking them out for food or water or clucking to them. Every once in a while, a chick will come out from under her and peck things (the food dish, the ground, the mom's face, etc.), but they are not racing around eating with the chicks who are with the other 2 hens.

    Question: At what point (if at all) should I remove the babies from the natural (semi-catatonic) mother and give them to the active mothers? I know this is stupid for me to be messing with the hens like this, but I wanted them all to be happy. I don't know why the natural mother is not leaving her nest, but I'm afraid her babies are going to end up dying if she doesn't snap out of it.
     
  8. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You might be able to get the surrogate mothers to take on the new chicks, but as long as the chicks under nutty-mama can get to food and water where they are at, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Because of the weather and the conditions here, our broody mama wasn't able to start leading her chicks around outside until they were a week or so old anyway, so I don't think your chicks are going to suffer any major setbacks to their development. The hen may actually be waiting for a sign from the chicks themselves that they are ready to do more than just hunker down and keep warm before she starts trying to forage. With our broody, the hen didn't leave the nest until the chicks started going out themselves.

    Make sure they have food and water nearby, but other than that, wait and see.
     
  9. CasadasHens

    CasadasHens Out Of The Brooder

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    Re: the semi-catatonic hen, I recently had a situation with 2 youngish hens sitting side by side on nests. One chick hatched and they ignored it and unfortunately it must have got chilled and died. A day or so later, another hatched and I took it upon myself to take food to it and make sure it was back underneath a hen afterwards. No more eggs hatched and it took quite a few days before the mothers woke up to the fact they were supposed to do something with the baby but they eventually started to take charge of it - together.
     
  10. gander007

    gander007 Chicken Obsessed

    You do not have enough room in a single dog box for two mother hens to live at the same time [​IMG]





    gander007 [​IMG]
     

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