Do Mama Hens ever remember/ recognize their babies?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by wbruder17, Oct 10, 2011.

  1. wbruder17

    wbruder17 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 7, 2010
    Portland, OR
    After I take the babies away from Mama at about 2 weeks to make ME their Mama and imprint people on them, I will, obviously, introduce them to the flock. Will a mama ever know they are HER children? I have several pairs of hens who have been raised together and are buddies. Some of them are broody and are seperated to hatch and raise chicks. Whenever the hen is re-introduced to the flock, her previous "buddy" immediately recognizes her and they rekindle their friendship, so I KNOW they are able to tell each other apart and "remember" each other. Its happened with the Silkie Sisters as well as Henwyn (Austrolorpe) and her bff Raptor (brown leghorn). As soon as Henwyn came back from her hatching hiatus, Raptor. Was ALL OVER HER. Pecking her, following her around, and then free ranging together, side by side, like old times. So I KNOW raptor remembered Henwyn after 5 weeks away and missed her.

    What about with babies?
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    My broody mamas don't seem to recognize their own chicks once they have stopped mothering them around 4 - 8 weeks. They do return to their old adult buddies, though.

    I am concerned about your removing the chicks at 2 weeks, though. Personally, I would not do this until the mama signals she is through mothering. I've read some pretty sad stories about mamas freaking out when their mothering instinct is strong and they have their chicks removed.

    Some mamas readily allow "their human" to handle their chicks, IME, and others can be trained to allow it pretty easily. Birds imprint right after birth, so the chicks won't imprint on you anyway. It will be more a matter of taming them and getting them used to being handled.
  3. wbruder17

    wbruder17 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 7, 2010
    Portland, OR
    I sort of disagree with you. Yes it is hard on the mama, but they usually. Get over it. Same as weaning puppies, horses, whatever. Its done all the time.The chicks DO adopt me as their mama. I handle them from hatching with Mama arouund, but Mama is too big to keep in the brooder with 9 chicks and they freak out too much when I try to hold them if Mama is around. As it is now, Henwyn is eating, drinking, ranging with the other hens, and still occasionally pacing the fence, but she did that before anyway.

    The chickies however, as with all my other chicks before them, peep when they hear me coming, fly onto my arms and hands and eat out of my hand. They run to the front of the cage when I open the door, not the back to get away from me, and Several enjoy being held and scratched under the chin.... I am still working on the more shy ones.

    I feel this is necessary in order to let my broodies do what they want, have the experiience of being Mama, then also having super friendly chicks that likke to be held.
  4. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I have some hens that are among my friendliest that I never tried to tame. I have others who I did try with, even a particular group of 4 who were raised in a brooder rather than by a mama, who never got friendly. Another group of 4 that I handled and worked with a fair amount became 2 who are tame and 2 who run from me; this group was raised by a mama. I don't really put a lot of effort in to tame them, though, so I might have more who would sit on my lap if I had tried harder. Also, I have several breeds, and at least here, this divides out into friendlier and not so friendly breeds. Either way, I won't be taking chicks from a mama before she "kicks them out of the house."

    There's nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree, though.
  5. woodmort

    woodmort Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 6, 2010
    Oxford NY
  6. BigDaddy'sGurl

    BigDaddy'sGurl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 14, 2010
    Wilkesboro NC
    I've reached the point where I don't want to have anymore hens go broody. Besides the issue of the brooder being too small for a large hen with the chicks, I find that my hen-raised chicks are much harder to tame later. Also, the hen makes a huge mess in the shavings trying to "show" her babies what to eat even though she inadvertantly throws the waterers and feed dishes around doing so. [​IMG]

    Turns into a constant cleaning and headache dealing with a puffed up mother hen who won't let you even reach into the brooder to add more food. I just took my last 3 hen-raised chicks from their mother (they are 4 weeks old) and it was against the hen's wishes, but I'd had enough of wasted feed and ruined shavings within a day or two of replacing them.

    But to answer the original question: no, my hens never know their own offspring once I've separated them for a day or two. [​IMG]
  7. MIKE555444

    MIKE555444 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 8, 2009
    Pliny, West Virgina
    Interesting question... as I think about it they don't seem to "mother" them once they reach 6-7 weeks BUT I don't think I have ever seen them "bully" those that were in her brood either like the other mature hens will most certainly do.
  8. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    Hmmmm. I know one hen of mine mourned for her chick which drowned in the ducks' kiddie pool. Not quite the same thing, I guess.

    I have a momma whose 4 chicks are now ranging freely away from her, and she away from them, but sometimes when they see her they rush over to her, singly or in concert. And, at night, they still want to tuck up under her wings or next to her, and she allows it. They're at least two-thirds if not three-quarters of her size now. She's a bantam dark Brahma and they are.... cross breeds, eggs from a couple different hens.
  9. Pinky

    Pinky Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 15, 2008
    South GA
    I usually have at least 2 hens in each of my flocks who go broody every year. I've never taken their chicks from them, but if a chick from one broody(A) goes to a different broody(B), the chick is chased back to it's mother(A) by the other broody(B), even if the chick looks just like the other broody's chicks.
  10. galanie

    galanie Treat Dispenser No More

    Aug 20, 2010
    Quote:I noticed that with my last batch my broody raised. The first one she raised, she did bully later. But it was snotty cockerel and really deserved that treatment. These guys are sweet and mellow, and she doesn't bully them like she would other young birds.

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