Help! Unexpected chicks!


6 Years
Sep 18, 2013
We recently moved to a property where we're caring for chickens. We're very new to this and know little more than how to feed and water them. I just went to do this and discovered a hen going nuts inside the enclosure, and six baby chicks outside! One of the chicks appears not to be doing well. We moved them inside with the hen, who took them under her wings, and I put a small bowl of water next to the dishpan of water that serves the rest of the flock.

We've been gathering eggs all along, but two chickens have escaped and only one has been accounted for and has to be returned to the enclosure repeatedly. There are six hens and one rooster, all eating layer crumble and kitchen scraps and whatever chickens find on the ground in Hawaii. I know layer feed isn't appropriate for chicks. I think I need to get rope and suspend the feeder at adult chicken height. There is also a cat on the property!

What to do? For at least the short term, if we don't give the chicks away or let them go feral with the mothering hen (she was feral to begin with). It could be a fun project with the kids and a way to keep up egg production down the line, though I've heard chicks don't have a high survival rate. Thanks!
You have some potential for challenges there, or it may just work out without you doing a lot. It’s hard to say.

Raising the adult feeder won’t help. By the time they are two weeks old, the chicks will be flying up to it. I suggest feeding Grower to all of them and offer oyster shell on the side so the ones that need the extra calcium for the egg shells can get it.

It sounds like your chicks can go through the enclosure fence but the adults can’t. Mine’s the same way. I just let them go into the pasture next door. Yes, they are at some more risk, but I haven’t lost one yet doing that. That doesn’t mean I won’t lose one tomorrow, just that I haven’t yet. A snake or mongoose could get in your enclosure too and the hen won’t be much help against them. There is a risk with living animals. Sometimes I’m amazed at how many make it. If they are just getting out at just one or two places, you can maybe close that off to keep them contained.

My chicks normally have a real high survival rate, whether in a brooder or with a broody. The only exception to that is when I hatch chicks from those tiny pullet eggs. Those tiny chicks are just more delicate. I sometimes lose some of them but a chick from a normal egg almost always makes it.
We have a cat that catches birds, but one of our chickens will follow it around and once even chased it off!! I think you will be fine about the cat because the mom will chase it off.
Thanks to you both! "Oyster shell on the side" - is this sold at feed stores, and any idea how to give it so only the hens get it? Or will the chicks simply not be interested? We were told to crush up our discarded eggshells beyond recognition and include them with the kitchen scraps. Will that be sufficient?

The chick that didn't seem to be doing well is behaving like the others now. Going out ASAP to get a bag of grower feed!
Well, we did lose that one was laying in the dirt the next morning and took a whole day to die. Poor thing.

The other five seem to be doing great. Mama hen is doing her job!

Is oyster shell something you can easily find at feed stores?
Three-plus weeks later, and the five chicks are doing great.

And then three days ago, what should I discover? A hen and a whole bunch of new chicks in the yard! The next day, when I had time, I caught each of the ELEVEN chicks without much of a fight from the hen, and carried the box of them to the enclosure. The hen followed me in and a happy family reunion followed. After a head count, I realized this hen was either the other runaway we hadn't seen in months, or an entirely new feral hen.

The family got out somehow today, and I got them back in. Noticed the rooster didn't seem very receptive. Later I discovered three chicks drowned in the dishpan of water, and only seven following the hen. And tonight, one dead on the ground inside the enclosure, its head bloody and pecked to the bone.

I'm a bit tired of the carnage, and we know a couple folks who may be interested in taking chickens, so:

1) At what age could the chicks be given away, and at what age will we be able to tell the difference between males and females? I suppose a hen and her chicks could be given away as a unit....

2) Am I being a bad chicken mom by putting former runaways or new hens in with the flock?


New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom