Free range chicks hatched and mom flew up tree to roost

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Island Chicks, Nov 25, 2013.

  1. Island Chicks

    Island Chicks New Egg

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    My chickens roost in a mango tree and have complete freedom around our property. One disappeared only to reappear with 12 chicks yesterday! Last night she flew up into the tree to roost and left her chicks! We gathered them and her and put them all in our coop which is 4 ft off the ground.
    If I put a piece of plywood from ground to coop, will chicks be able to walk up it?
    Where do moms and chicks normally roost in the wild? I'm thinking I can re-train the hen to roost in coop with chicks, am I correct?
    Any comments would be appreciated. I'm going to put the plywood up today.
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Sounds to me like she lacks complete maternal instinct, to leave them behind just to obey a roosting instinct. You may well be able to retrain her to sleep in a cage with them. They may be able to make it up to her to roost beside her, but if they're too young and it's too cold, you'll lose some due to that. They can't easily snuggle her on a perch. Also, they will most likely fall off or knock each other off, and you'll lose some like that. Definitely best to retrain her to roost elsewhere. You may have to catch her every night for a week to make her bond to the cage. You may have to lock her in there for a week if that fails. Don't know what she's like. Anyway, best wishes with that.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    If you have a mango tree you should have pretty warm weather compared to a whole lot of us. At last that’s working for you.

    What does a hen do in the wild? Don’t know, but I can base some guesses off of what I’ve seen. Most of my hens take their chicks to a corner of the coop and sleep on the ground in a protected corner. So many do that I’d assume that’s common in the wild, find a protected spot on the ground and sleep there.

    On rare occasions I have a hen try to get her chicks to hop up into a nest maybe a foot off the floor of the coop, usually not the nest they were hatched in but another. If the chicks make it, and they often do, they sleep there for a while and make a royal mess of it. If they don’t all make it, and sometimes some chicks don’t, the hen might ignore the ones that don’t make it or she might bring the others back off the nest and take them all to a corner of the coop. So yes, some have different instincts there, survival of the fittest or mothering them all which might mean moving to a less safe position.

    The earliest I’ve had a broody take her chicks to the roost is about two weeks. They had no real problems getting up there at two weeks. That was in summer. Some were under her but some were totally exposed. Nighttime temperatures were in the 70’s. They all did fine.

    I’d expect that broody to start mothering her chicks the next morning, but yeah, what do you do. I’m assuming they made it without heat so that’s not an issue. But I’d think protection from the elements, rain and wind specifically, and predators. The chicks are really vulnerable out like that.

    One option is to lock the broody and chicks up together in that coop overnight. I don’t know if you have a pen around it where you could leave them in there permanently or if that involves catching them every night. I’d think after a few night s of doing that the hen would catch on, but who really knows. They are all unique. It depends a bit on how steep that ramp is but the chicks should not physically have any trouble getting up there if it’s not too steep. The problem may be that they can’t figure out how to get up there. Some are just better at that than others, even with other chicks showing them how.

    Another option is to put a shelter under that mango tree. Lock the chicks in here at night, with or without the broody. I’d expect the chicks to learn to go in there on their own at night pretty quickly. In a surprisingly short time I’d expect the chicks to start following the broody up to the tree.

    Another option is to just raise them yourself in a brooder.

    I have had a broody totally wean her chicks as early as 2-1/2 weeks in the heat of summer. You might be looking at something like that.

    Good luck with it. That’s a challenge.
     
  4. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    I've had very similar experiences. Never any earlier than 2 weeks.

    That is not normal behaviour for a new mother of newly hatched chicks. At a couple days old, they would have trouble getting back in the coop. Getting out shouldn't be an issue. They can tumble a foot or two and be just fine, more if they have a soft landing.

    How warm is it at night there? With 12 of them, they could keep each other warm if free from drafts if it was relatively mild. I would intervene and remove the chicks and not allow her to hatch again. If she is not down on the ground with them, she can't protect them. That is what a broody is supposed to do.. Keep her brood safe and warm. If she can't manage that, I personally wouldn't allow her to brood in the future.
     
  5. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    As Ridge Runner said it is common for hens to take her chicks to a tree to roost at about 2 weeks of age. The mama hen knows she and her babies are safer in a tree than on the ground, in that respect she is smarter than us humans. Sometimes a flat board or a piece of brush or old Christmas tree leaned up against the roost tree will help the peeps bridge the gap from ground to roost.

    I like brooding coops with a wire floor raised a foot off the ground to start my chicks in. I fix them so the mama hen can't get out but at about 10 days old (weather permitting) I can open the chick door so that the chicks can get out. At first I only feed them inside the brood coop so there is a strong desire for the chicks to return. A flat board set up as a ramp parallel to the coop will help the chicks get back to the door or make sure that the chicks can find their way back inside. There is always a few to a whole passel of chicks who at first can't figure out this puzzle so check on them ever evening at Sun Down for awhile to be sure that they are ALL inside. Once they are close the door and they are safe from predators until tomorrow when you can turn them out again.

    HINT:
    The chicks stuck outside after dark 30 will all be huddled on the ground but directly under their mama like she was hovering them at long range, so take a flashlight.

    Then you can decide when you want the brood hen to go back to roosting in tees and not have to put your trust in her wild instinct. In a true free range situation the only alternative is to let the possums, skunks, coons, foxes etc cull your "best" brood hens and trust in Charles Darwin to select your fittest chicks.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  6. Island Chicks

    Island Chicks New Egg

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    Thanks everyone for all the info, it is very helpful!
    We actually got the hen to move to the coop and we put all her chicks in with her. They stayed there all day! She is keeping them all warm on the floor of the coop, although warmth is not an issue for us as the coolest it gets is 70. We put a board from the ground to the coop, but so far they haven't left the coop.
    I'm hoping this time in the coop will re-train the hen to roost in it instead of the tree, but the rooster and 2 other hens still do roost in the tree. I guess we will see.
    I kept the door open and board attached today for them to come and go, then closed it at night. I think I will continue that. My strategy is to not involve myself too much in the natural process but give the chickens somewhere to lay their eggs so I can serve fresh eggs!
    These 12 chicks just hatched yesterday and we didn't know where the hen had been hiding for 3 weeks!
    I'll keep posting on their progress.
    Thanks again!
     
  7. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    Aloha and good luck. It is good to hear things are going well.

    Everyone should remember however that this hen stole her nest away for 21 days or so before she started setting in order to incubate for 21 more days then show up with a dozen yard hatched biddies.

    She has to be a good brood hen to set so tight without anyone knowing and then to hatch so many peeps all on her own. I would let her hatch chicks for me anytime that she is in the mood.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
  8. forgetful

    forgetful Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I had a mother hen at my barn who brooded on a clutch that hatched two chicks. She managed somehow to have the chicks roosting six feet up with her at a week and a half. I watched the whole process one evening. The stall walls are made of foot wide pieces of lumber on their sides, with maybe four inches of space between them. The mother flew to the top, then started frantically calling to her chicks. The chicks, brave soul, then commenced in slowly jumping up each slat (which was quite impressive in itself, seeing as they are not staggered in any way), until they finally made it up to roost with mom. The mother was actually practicing good instincts, because we have a dreadful predator problem. Almost anything on the ground is bait at night. I don't know if your situation is similar, but sometimes the hens know what's up.
     
  9. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Good to hear it's working out. Best wishes.
     

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