Hen attacking the chicks


10 Years
Mar 10, 2012
We ended up with one 3 year old hen left, so we got 3 chicks to give her a flock. (She had been a flock of 2.) The chicks were brooded inside her coop in a see but don't touch method. They are now 4 weeks old and we are starting to attempt integration. When they are in their separate cage, she roams around it making the grumpy broody hen screech, and pecks at the cage. When we put them, well supervised, into a separate fenced area with multiple food and water stations, she will first eat her fill of chick food, and then run at them. She has pulled a clump of 6 feathers out of one chick, but we've never seen blood. We yell and clap and chase her away when she goes into attack mode, but she just runs away, waits a bit, and attacks again. This has been 3 days of supervised visits, and not much improvement.

Should we keep them separated until the chicks get big enough to fight back? Should we give the chicks a safe retreat in coop and run and let them go at it? I'm assuming she'll be top hen, but at least they'll have more feathers and size when they're older. Our coop only has one pop door to the run, so it will be annoying to have to hand-move chicks for a few months.
Put her in the brooder for 2 or 3 days, and the chicks in the coop. Then let her out and supervise. Her status should have reduced and she will be joining their flock, not the other way round. If she stays mean, then you've got to try again when they are older. I've just rehomed a hen like this. She just hated chicks, was a bit spiteful and all is peace and calm now she has gone.
I've never seen an immature pullet fight back or stand up to a mature hen until they mature to a point they can joint the pecking order. With my pullets that's usually about the time they start to lay. Maybe a little before, maybe a little later, but in that ball park. Until they reach that point they usually avoid the adults, both during the day and at night. I have over 3,000 square feet outside and a pretty large coop so they can easily avoid the older ones. There are always exceptions. Sometimes mine might mingle quite a bit during the day well before they start to lay, but that's not normal.

With the number of chickens you have and have had you may not have a lot of room. I don't know how much room you have but that might be part of the problem. Having a single chicken in either the older or younger flock can make it harder too. That may be an issue. Sometimes you just get a hen that acts like a brute toward young chicks.

You brooded them in the coop with her. That is exactly what I do. For some reason that's not working out for you. So what can you do? Chicalina's suggestions might work. You can provide a "safe haven" in the coop and/or run where the chicks can go to be safe when she attacks. Many people on the forum do that. You can wait and try later, another week, another month, another few months. How hard would it be to add a lot more outside space?

Your goal is not to make them one big happy cuddly family right now but to keep the chicks from getting hurt until they mature enough to all live together. If you can keep them safe they will eventually get together but that may be several months.

I suggest you also consider rehoming the older hen, that would be a quick way to restore peace in your flock. I understand that's not the right answer for everyone but it is one I'd consider.

Good luck!
Thank you all. Of course I’d like to avoid rehoming her, but I will try switching her into the brooder. She was screaming at the chicks almost constantly while laying today.
Couple things here:

From your description, she might actually be starting to go broody because of exposure to the chicks, which would cause her to act more aggressively towards them because her hormones are telling her that these are a danger to her potential future clutch.

Regardless if she is or not, best bet at this time would be to provide the chicks with a safe "chick only" space, accessible only via chick sized openings so the babies can run in and out when they need refuge. In my set up that's accomplished with this wire closet shelf hooked in front of the brooder, leaving a gap about 3-4" wide on either side. The chicks have food and water inside the brooder as well as access to feeders and water outside.


In addition I keep the run cluttered up with various items so the chicks always have a variety of options to hide from the adults as needed. Examples of clutter: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/a-cluttered-run.1323792/

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