Hen aggressive toward new chicks

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by ksbosley, Jun 21, 2017.

  1. ksbosley

    ksbosley In the Brooder

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    Mar 17, 2016
    Laporte, CO
    Hello all. Looking for some advice on a naughty hen.

    I've got an Ameraucana who went broody. And instead of trying to break her of it, we bought some hatching eggs for her to sit on. The chicks have now hatched (6 little fluffballs!), and "mom" is taking care of them beautifully.

    However, one of our other hens, a Blue Splash Marans, has shown some signs of aggression toward the chicks. She hovers over mom and chicks in the coop, puffs herself up (see attached pic) sometimes with wings outstretched, and I've even seen her peck at the babies. This is obviously not acceptable. The worst part is that, before the chicks, she was the dumbest, friendliest bird in our little flock! I have her separated from the flock for now (in an enclosed run - she stayed out there last night too), but I'm looking for some advice on what to do next. I really hate to label her as an "aggressive" bird, because she's shown no signs of it in the past; I can typically pick her up and pet her no problem.

    Did we screw up by letting momma hatch the eggs in the coop? It seemed so natural. That's where she was already sitting, so we let her keep sitting in there. I don't really want to take mom and chicks out of there, because it seems like the Marans will just be crummy to them again once they're reintroduced. And my other adult bird (another Ameraucana) pays them no mind whatsoever. Will the Marans get used to them eventually? Do I cut my losses now and say goodbye to her? Any advice is much appreciated, and thank you.
     

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  2. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Free Ranging

    Hi, welcome to BYC! :frow

    Congrats on your babies! :wee

    Sounds completely normal. My hens hatch and raise their chicks with the flock. Usually the older girls and roosters pay no mind. Teenagers are the ones I *usually* have issues with. However, there may be other pecking order issues going on.

    Is the mama lower in the pecking order than the one we will just call the "chick bully" for now? If so it may be a little difficult for her. However in my experience, it doesn't take long before the broody will open up a can of crazy mama all over the bully! All of my Silkies are lower in the order. :love But of my top 2 hens, the second one is raising chicks and #1 is making sure they ALL know they are below her.

    I have had one chick bully create SOO much confusion she was able to make the broody peck her OWN chicks! And pretty sure it caused at least 1 chick death in my coop. :mad:

    I usually stalk the bully a little when she is hovering like that and make sure they KNOW it's unacceptable. I go after them shewing in their direction, poke them a little when they are too focused, which makes them redirect their focus to avoiding me. ;) And it usually gets to where when they see me at least they head away from bullying the mama. Of course, I'm not trying to make the hens think I'm a bully or scared of me.. so it's not major crazy behavior. :p

    I might do some supervised introduction time. And that's exactly what I do when I know I have someone I need to watch around new babies. Since I'm fortunate enough to stay home, I usually somewhat supervise for the first couple days in the nest and the first couple days after she brings them out. A hen would have to make me REALLY mad to get rid of her... but I have done so specifically for chick bullying. However by the time she went to her new home (with disclosure) the issue had past and 1 chick was dead. But I have new chicks all the time and no room for that behavior.

    Interesting how your hen is puffing up... almost like a broody protecting her own chicks. She may be seeing these little guys as intruders since that's how my broody's treat other hens' chicks. My bully hens do not puff up. They usually just peck, chase, or steal food even straight from broody mama while she's clucking to her babies.

    I wouldn't personally cut my losses just yet, especially IF you like her. :old If your broody is able to stand up to the bully, let her do it. The broody hen will lead her chicks away from danger to safety and they will know their place in the pecking order early on. Chicks also learn VERY fast which hags they should avoid! :) I let them try to work it out and intervene only if needed. Otherwise they will work it out again when you aren't around.

    One idea... get a nice squirt bottle with long enough stream to get the bully. She may not associate it with you, but the effect of approach mama, get sprayed might work well enough for her to wanna avoid the situation.

    Most of my hens get off easy with adoptee's. Hens that sit long enough to hatch eggs themselves get special consideration at my place... that's no easy feat! :pop

    Best wishes for a positive outcome! :fl
    What kind of chicks did your mama hatch?:celebrate
     
    ksbosley and Boone Farm like this.
  3. ksbosley

    ksbosley In the Brooder

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    Mar 17, 2016
    Laporte, CO
    Thank you so much! Honestly, I have no idea what they'll grow into. We got the eggs from a local farmer who has a pretty sizable flock and multiple roosters. So they'll be a barnyard mix of (hopefully female) surprises!

    And we'd thought that the bully might be broody as well. Once momma got out of the nest with the babies the first time, bully got right in there after her (and broke one of the remaining eggs... I think it was accidental, and we were past hatching time anyway, but still :hit). At first, she just seemed really curious with her hovering and watching. But once I saw her peck at a baby, I promptly escorted her out of the coop :smack. Then the puffing up and posturing started.

    Strangely, momma is the top of the pecking order and usually a bit of a bully herself. And the bully is at the bottom! We've only got three three hens though, so there's never been all that much infighting. The middle one just minds her own business.

    Okay, we will try some supervised intro time and see how it goes. There's only about 4 hours out of any given day that no one is home, so I'll likely leave her locked in the run for that time. Seems like a good idea? She's got food, water, shade, and shelter in there. I'm really hoping that once bully realizes that the chicks aren't going anywhere, and that they aren't a threat, she'll cool down a little. We really DO like her, but pecking at the babies is not okay by me.

    Thanks for your response! I'll keep posted on how it's going... :fl
     
    EggSighted4Life likes this.
  4. chicklets81

    chicklets81 Chirping

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    It was interesting to see this post. I just had a broody hen sitting on 2 eggs, and on day 21, one of the chicks hatched in coop while I was at work, and the chick is now gone. You say you do not separate your hens when they are hatching babies, which I did not, but I guess you say you do supervise and shoo away problem hens. Is it really true that another hen will eat another hens babies? 1 hatched, but it was never found. The other egg pipped, but never made it out of egg.

    If this happens again, do I need to put mother hen in a cage before hatch day? Or will she eat her own chicks if confined?
     
  5. song of joy

    song of joy Crowing

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    It sounds like the bully hen is broody, which would explain her puffing up and outstretched wings. I'd recommend putting her in a broody buster cage for 2 days and then try reintroducing her to mamma and chicks. By that time the chicks will be a little stronger, and the mamma hen should be fully bonded and highly protective of her chicks.
     
    ksbosley likes this.
  6. song of joy

    song of joy Crowing

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    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    I've always separated my broody hens from the flock during incubation and for the first 4 to 7 days after hatch. They're usually in the same coop within sight of the rest of the flock, but not within reach. This reduces some of the things that can go wrong and reduces the amount of interference necessary on my part. It keeps hens from adding eggs to her nest during incubation . . . and breaking eggs. It gives the hen and chicks peace during the hatch. It keeps any early hatched chicks from wandering into the zone of overly curious or aggressive hens while momma hen is trying to hatch out the rest of the clutch. It gives the chicks time to "get their feet under them", gain strength and speed, learn to listen to mamma, learn that mamma is THE source of protection and warmth, and learn to eat and drink . . . all while undisturbed by the rest of the flock. After those 4 to 7 days, I open the barrier and let mamma hen integrate the chicks with the rest of the flock.

    This approach is the closest to what you'd find in most wild nesting birds. They pick a secluded spot where they can incubate, hatch, and raise up their nestlings undisturbed. Granted, hens are domesticated but this approach makes the most sense to me.

    In response to your question, a good broody will not attack or eat her chicks, but other hens might do so. That's not to say there aren't bad broodies out there. I had one homicidal hen that attacked chicks that I tried to foster to her, but I've had other hens that were great moms.

    As far as moving a broody hen to a cage for the hatch, that would be risky late in the game. You could set up the broody's nest within a cage from the start, and place it in the coop with the cage door secured open. The cage door could be closed prior to the anticipated hatch date, provided she has food and water available in the cage and room to stand up and relieve herself away from the nest. That way the chicks wouldn't be able to wander off.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2017
  7. IZZYBELLA

    IZZYBELLA Songster

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    You didn't screw up! Plenty of people have broodies hatch in the coop successfully. I have found that when a hen is broody, the hens who are lower than her in the pecking order (and often the friendliest hens!) are the ones who cause the most trouble with picking on broody and the chicks. I think they sense weakness and try to move up the pecking order. The top hen also makes a point to make sure the broody still knows who is boss, but it is kind of a one-time thing.

    I think you could leave them in for now, but closely supervise and be ready to separate. The broody and this bully may have to fight it out and hopefully the broody will win and it will be over.

    Personally, I do separate my chicks and broody in a large cage in the garage, but do daily supervised free-range time with the whole flock. Based on how well the broody is protecting the chicks and whether or not she is getting bothered determines when I integrate them. I haven't found re-entry a problem for the broody and the chicks do learn to avoid certain hens quickly! I integrate at night and make sure that the chicks have plenty of areas to hide from the hens.

    Good luck - it is so hard watching how cruel nature can be!!

    You will get different answers, but my answer is yes. I have to separate the broody before hatch day, because I have had the other hens eat the first chick to hatch. Gruesome to watch them casing each other around carrying a dead chick and then pulling it apart and eating every last scrap. :-(
     
    ksbosley likes this.
  8. Clucksworth12

    Clucksworth12 Chirping

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    Apr 25, 2017
    Gordo, Alabama

    This is really normal. Chickens get bored sometimes and pick on weaker smaller things in this case chicks. The meaner hen seems to be acting like she is broody and the smaller chicks are a threat to her. Does she seem to want to set and brood? Or were any of the hatched eggs layed by her?
     
    ksbosley likes this.
  9. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Free Ranging

    You got a lot of great responses! :highfive:

    For me every time I try to move a broody and her whole nest, they will adamantly go back to their original site and leave behind whatever I moved. :barnie So if I do move a hen, I do it at night while the eggs are hatching OR while I'm tucking adoption chicks under. Only once have I had a hen leave actual chicks and go back to her original spot. I check often on hatch/adoption days and moved them under her where she was. After which time I noticed when a chick would come out from under her she would give it a peck. So we confiscated said chicks and brought them in to check them, They weren't hungry or thirsty but they were quite mad not to be under mama. Those chick were 6-10 days old when I tucked them in so I NEEDED to make sure they had food and water. Upon seeing that they were clearly not doing without and knowing the chicks from other hens got pecked more intently, we made the difficult decision to try again and tucked them back under. I often think the hens are taking too long to bring the babes to food and water, so I make it available very near by. This was the first time I realized that a hen can in fact peck their chick for their own protection! :love She basically made the chick go back under while she was teaching them her voice and learning theirs', ended up being my assessment. Also she gets to feel them moving under her and gain the understanding that they belong to her. If a hen just sees chicks that haven't been moving and peeping under her they usually get a swift peck. And it seems to take my girls a couple days before they food cluck to the chicks as well. I usually lift the hen so the chicks can see me tidbit for them and she eventually joins in. All this would not be possible for me if I didn't have all day to lolly gag around. In which case I would definitely think about using a good separating device. I usually try to be around when mama brings the chicks out so I can assess the dangers and respond accordingly.

    All broody's will be different, but I haven't had one eat their own chick yet. Seems like that is a higher issue with the excited chasing that another poster described. I have seen one of my hens eating another baby bird that fell out of a nest and another girl join the fun/chase. :sick Chickens do get bored, but that wasn't IMO your issue as much as standard pecking order and brutal nature type stuff.

    If you don't have the option of supervising, I would definitely consider an enclosure for mama and chicks. It gives them the best chance and if something does happen with that hen then you will know for next time when you consider letting her brood or not.. keeping in mind that not all will just know what to do their first time around. I also have discovered that the same hen may not provide the same experience for every brood. My Silkie raised her first brood 6 weeks but the 2nd brood was booted at 4 weeks.

    Sorry for the broody chick loss. After all the excitement and anticipation it can be quite a let down. :( Also, even when hatching my own, not all chicks make it.
     
  10. ksbosley

    ksbosley In the Brooder

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    Mar 17, 2016
    Laporte, CO
    She did seem broody at first. As soon as mamma got out of the nest with the chicks, she got in and sat down. There were still two eggs in there that didn't hatch. But she didn't stay long, and shortly after was when she started getting weird. We locked her away in the run (which is decent sized, inside a large fenced area where our birds can free range) for about 36 hours. She hasn't acted broody since, and has been much nicer - or at least ignored the babies. But she also hasn't laid an egg in about a week.
     

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