Hen getting tired of motherhood

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by elmo, Jun 9, 2010.

  1. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Here's my situation. I have three and only three chickens, all hens, that went broody and hatched out clutches of eggs the first week of May. The first clutch is about a week older than the second two. Because the hens were so agressive towards each other after the chicks hatched, I 've been keeping each hen and her chicks in separate pens. It's been something of a headache playing musical chicken pens, especially on rainy days, since my tractors aren't roofed.

    The hen with the oldest chicks (now about 5 1/2 weeks old) is starting to get very grumpy toward her chicks, one in particular (a little roo). I started to hear shrieking coming from their pen yesterday and noticed that instead of calling her chicks over to food she's found, she pecks them when they get under foot. It seems to me she's ready for them to grow up and move on....except that she's still defensive on their behalf if she senses a threat. One of the chicks got left behind in the run and as I was trying to shoo it out from under the coop with a rake handle, this hen came running from the other end of the yard to attack the rake.

    I would separate this hen from her chicks right now, except for two problems. The hen would have to be alone, because I have no other chickens she can join right now. She certainly can't join either one of my other two hens with their chicks. These hens are still content being mothers. And my other problem is lack of housing. I don't really have a fourth pen to keep this hen in all by herself.

    When the other two hens are ready to leave their chicks, I can put the three adults together, and split the chicks into two batches (bigger and smaller). That should work. But in the meantime, I'm kind of stumped.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Chicks are fully feathered at about 4 to 5 weeks, depending on breed. Check the link below. The older chicks don't "need" the mama any more, so she is ready to wean them. The younger ones shouldn't need their mamas either. I think they are old enough to split them now, the three hens together (watch for pecking order issues since they have been separated) them split the younger and older chicks like you planned. My only worry would be if it is rainy, you might want to cover the chicks tractor with a tarp or something to keep it dry. The shade would probably help too. I made sure my tractor had a corner that had solid sides and a top as a wind break too.

    Kansas State feather loss
    http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/library/lvstk2/mf2308.pdf

    Good luck!
     
  3. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 23, 2009
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    Ridgerunner,

    Thanks for your response!

    Can you believe, out of all the wonderful folks posting here, I was hoping you'd comment on my situation. I find myself reading your posts, agreeing emphatically, and thinking to myself "there's a wise chicken person."

    I had to go ahead and separate the hen from her chicks this morning...the shrieking was driving me batty. The hen was fine off on her own and all alone. It seems like she wants her life back. I can sympathize, somewhat. Her chicks are still crying for her, though.

    I have enough housing during the day...if it doesn't rain..to keep everyone separate who needs to be separate without splitting the younger chicks from their hens...which I hate to do until I have to do it. I'm soft hearted.

    But for the first time since hatch, it's raining today. Aaargh. So I pressed an old brooder into service and have one hen and her chicks in a cage on our breezeway. The hen isn't too thrilled to be in a small pen with a towel on the floor, but she'll just have to manage.

    I have to start trying to find good homes for the chicks that are roos. At this age, I have a good idea of which ones are based on their comb development. Three for sure in the first batch.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2010

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