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Hen imprinting on chicks

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Blisschick, Aug 25, 2010.

  1. Blisschick

    Blisschick not rusty

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    Feb 20, 2007
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    I'm pretty sure someone else has noticed this, but I just had to share because I thought it was so cool...

    In the past, I had a black hen hatch a few chicks, some which came out black, some white, and a few with the chipmunk markings. I had another set of chicks hatch about the same time in the incubator and wanted to give them to her to raise, since she only had about 5 she hatched herself. She had no problem with taking in the black chick, but the other chicks were Blue laced red, so have a different coloring and marking altogether. She pecked these chicks and basically said "no" to those. I figured it was because she thought the other chick belonged to her to start with, so I just let her keep it.

    The other day I had an OEGB hatch out a few babies. Some were chipmunked, two were blue. I discovered that my little mutt barred hen had also hatched out a chick, a little black one. Because I had to separate the OEGB and her babies from the rest of the flock, and I worried that the one black chick wouldn't make it loose in the yard, I decided to put the black chick in with the game hen. She wasn't going to have any of that! She started pecking it right away, so I had to take it out and gave it back to it's mama. (It's doing okay so far...)

    Today, I went back into the OEGB pen, and my other hen had just one chick running around in there with her, so I took it away and gave it to the first hen with the babies. This one was also chipmunked. The mama didn't even blink and it's in there like it's always belonged. I have three more OEGB eggs hatching now and expect them to be the same color, so I'll probably stick them in with her as well.

    It was an unplanned experiment, but apparently hens imprint on the color of their chicks. I was always under the impression that hens respond only to the peeping of their chicks, but now I think that peeping has nothing to do with it. I know chickens can recognize who belongs in their flock and who doesn't, so I guess this would make sense.
     

  2. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    Interesting. [​IMG]
     
  3. Gallo del Cielo

    Gallo del Cielo La Gallina Resort & Spa

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    Very interesting. One thing to watch out for is the reverse, will the newly adopted chick stay with the new mom?
     
  4. mmaddie's mom

    mmaddie's mom Songster

    This is interesting! I am, all the time, messing with who has what chicks and also bringing in "adopted " chicks... most times it works but once in a while it doesn't... I'd say 95% of the time it works... I will now pay attention to the colors... hmmmm. [​IMG]
     
  5. Blisschick

    Blisschick not rusty

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    Shepherd, Texas
    Sort of an update here:

    I had to empty the other eggs out of the OEGB pen because there were too many remaining eggs for the other broody hen to sit on, and after I fixed things up for her, she refused to finish sitting on the eggs. I had to stick about 18 at various stages of development into the incubator, and some started hatching the next day, so I decided to let the mama that has the babies now have them. All but one have come out with various shades of the chipmunk markings (some are fawn/khaki and sport), so I've taken to sticking them under her at night so she can't really see their color. She has only tried to reject the one I tried to give her during the day, and that's only because it wasn't exactly fuffy! [​IMG] I fluffed the little thing up and tried again, and the second time she took it.
     

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