help! my newly hatched chicks are being killed by my older chickens


In the Brooder
12 Years
Mar 16, 2007
I had a hen that hatched 4 chicks yesterday. Today I went out to check on them and there were only 2. I waited around in the coop for a few minutes to see what might have happened to the 2 that were missing.

While watching, several of my 6 month old RIR hens went up to the momma hen while sitting on the chicks. When the momma stood up to defend her space, one of the RIR hens grabbed one of the 2 remaining babies and ran with it shaking it violently. Several of the other RIR hens started pecking it. I ran them off and put it back with the mother hen.

Why are they attacking and killing the new babies? I have never had this happen before.

I moved the hen, 2 babies and 2 unhatched eggs into a cage where they can't be messed with.

When I let them out eventually, will the momma hen be able to defend the chicks?
They're trying to eat it. Same as when a chicken catches a frog. Chickens are too dumb to know what a chick is. Only the sitting hen had the dose of motherly hormones, which is why they'll be a mother to anything that hatches.

I always separate the mother hen with chicks in a cardboard box until the chicks can fly out (or another pen) It takes maybe two weeks. Then the chicks are big enough to run a little better. Better yet build a small chicken tractor for the purpose.

Big birds will always attack smaller birds, that's why I don't put birds of different ages together until near mature size. Not convenient but worth it.
I dont know which is normal.....but i had a broody hatch 7 babies for me. I put them all in a cage in the coop. One day in their first week, they got out of the cage and none of the adult birds bothered them at all. In fact, when i was trying to catch them all to put them back in the cage, the adult chickens were trying to save them from me. So i dont know which is more common behavior, but i think i feel lucky that mine did not hurt my babies.
It also may have to do with the RIRs in general. They are not typically a broody breed of chicken and they are excellent foragers. Mine used to get frogs, small snakes and I saw her with a little shrew a few times. They will eat anything where my others have not been as bold.

Best thing with babies and mama is to separate the in some way from the others. It may work out if you don't be err on the side of safety.

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