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Four orphans! Found momma dead today

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by barbara4rb, May 7, 2009.

  1. barbara4rb

    barbara4rb In the Brooder

    Oct 22, 2007
    Albuquerque, NM
    I have free range chickens on my property. No one lives there, it is all fenced, but do get critters in at night--so can't let the hens sit on eggs on the ground. All the adult chickens roost in the trees at night.

    The hens are always looking for places to lay eggs. I mounted nest boxes in the carport, safe places and two hens sat on eggs the same time. On Apr 20 a black hen hatched out 8 babies. The other, a barred rock hatched out 4. I put each mom+kids+nest box into screened in "jails", that are built side by side. The mom w/ 8 is in an 8'x8', the mom w/ 4 is in an 8'x4'. Outside, some sun, but always have shade. Both plenty of water, food, etc.

    The chicks are growing, and all was well, until today. I found the barred rock dead in her nest box. The 4 chicks were OK. No sign of trauma, no discharge, just dead. Her head seemed bent around funny??? I know this hen is 2 years old. Up until now, she didn't like me looking at her/babies, seemed agitated, but would calm down when no one was around them.

    When I was getting her body out, the babies escaped. They stayed right by the jails, trying to get back inside with the other momma. I caught one and I tried placing it in w/ the black hen+chicks next door. OH that wasn't good. At first momma was OK, but the chicks went after the new-comer. I thought it'd be OK, since they're the same age and have shared a common wire wall, for the 17 days of their life.

    So I placed the four orphans back in their jail. They hang together and stare at the black momma + kids. They are eating, but seem abit lost. I plan on letting them grow up in there, and when they start climbing up on perches, roosts, etc, it'll be time to see if they can get themselves into the trees. (3 months??)

    Any one have any idea what happened to the momma hen?
    Any suggestions about helping these babies?
    It just made me sick when I found her today.


  2. Cheryl

    Cheryl Songster

    I have no idea what happened to your chicken, but you might be able to sneak in the chicks after dark when everyone is asleep. I have a bantam cochin mothering 2 ees that are 3 weeks old and a silkie who will be 2 weeks old on monday...all are doing well. good luck
  3. barnyardmom

    barnyardmom In the Brooder

    May 1, 2008
    waynesville, OH
    I agree with Cheryl, slip the chicks in after dark, a good momma will take them. As far as the hen goes, could have been a number of things, has she been wormed lately? sometimes we never know....
  4. swedishfish

    swedishfish Songster

    Apr 20, 2009
    I'm so sorry about your momma! [​IMG] I don't have any idea about what to do about the chicks. I imagine that they will be okay. Hope that sneaking them in at night will work!
  5. MysticScorpio82

    MysticScorpio82 Songster

    May 2, 2009
    Maine, USA
    I agree with cheryl as well, thry sneaking them in with the other momma tonight when she is asleep, however I would have a brooder set up as a back up plan. I hope everything works out ok!! [​IMG] [​IMG]
  6. barbara4rb

    barbara4rb In the Brooder

    Oct 22, 2007
    Albuquerque, NM
    Oh, I didn't even think about a brooder! Here in ABQ we're getting to 90+ during the day, but cooling down to 55-60 at night. I bet that's too cold for them???

    OK, researched here and found 95 deg first week, 90 the second. They are in their 3rd week, so I won't panic too much. I will stuff their nest box with lots of straw and find a furry dog toy or fluffy towel for comfort for them. I didn't think of the cooler nights since I was concerned trying to keep them cool during the day.

    Here's another question. The black hen with 8 babies is probably sleeping in her nest box. Assuming the 4 are in their nest box, can I just pick them up and stuff them into the black hen's box? Do I run the risk of waking everyone up??? Never done this before. (I have moved hens who were sitting in boxes at night, but never handled them. )

    I appreciate your help! Thanks.
    Last edited: May 7, 2009
  7. To answer your question, they are usually very calm at night. You can get away with sooooo much more then.

    If it were me I would set up a brooder because it ill only be for 3 or 4 more weeks at the most. And you will have piece of mind knowing the babies are safe and warm. Then you can take them back out there and they will follow the lead of the other chickens.

    But that's just what I would do.......I am one that always feels guilty if something bad happens and I could have prevented it. It's one of my faults.......[​IMG]

    Good Luck and keep us posted!

  8. barbara4rb

    barbara4rb In the Brooder

    Oct 22, 2007
    Albuquerque, NM
    UPDATE: Tonight I tried moving the 4 orphans into the other "jail" with the black hen and kids.

    It wasn't totally dark when I went there...but figured dark enough? Momma and kids were in their nest box. All quiet. The 4 orphans were outside still, sitting together in a corner of their pen, not up in their nest box. They carried on abit when I went in to get them. Poor things. Finally got them in a bucket and climbed into the other pen. When I placed one into the black hen's nest box, it scooted right in--all quiet. Ahhh good. This might work. When I placed the second one into the nest box, there was momma staring out. She wanted nothing to do with the newbie and rushed it out of the box. WELLLLLL OK. So I spent the next few minutes trying to round up the two orphans. I had to roust out all babies. Momma was trying to kill me and the newbies. I managed to get the orphans and placed them back in the bucket. Momma settled down, climbed back in her box, and all her kids followed her.

    I took the 4 orphans back to their "jail". I moved the nest box down on the ground (had it up on a crate)... I filled their nest box with alot of clean straw. By this time, all four orphans--still in the bucket--were piled together and making contented little cheaping sounds. I gently turned the bucket on its side facing into the nest box opening. No one moved. All 4 were still together. So I left them there.

    I probably messed up because it wasn't completely dark. But the 4 little ones are safe in their jail. The other free range chickens come by and visit, and the roosting tree is very near these pens. I am hoping that these chicks will watch the adults climb up in the tree every night and will follow when they're bigger.

    Sigh. Thanks for all your suggestions.
  9. m2wandc

    m2wandc Songster

    Apr 19, 2009
    I still vote for the brooder...easy peasy to set up, I had to make one today and it took maybe 15 minutes.
  10. ilovechickens

    ilovechickens Songster

    Jun 14, 2008
    West Central Wisconsin
    go with the brooder, it is easy to set up and it will allow your chicks a good chance to be safe, eat, and drink.[​IMG] you don't need much either.

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