Hen killing chicks

jyonkers

Hatching
Sep 6, 2019
1
2
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I have a hen who just hatched 8 eggs...Most of them are black or gray. There were 2 chicks that were tanish/brown and after 1 day, she killed them! She seems to be doing her "motherly duties" for the remaining chicks but it was so strange for her to pick out 2 and brutally kill them....Why would she do this? Was there something wrong with them??
Lookiing for ideas! Thanks!
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,862
22,036
907
Southeast Louisiana
I don't know. How sure are you that she did the killing instead of a rat, weasel, another hen, or something else? One time I had a two week old chick kill a sibling and try to kill another before I intervened. At first I thought it was the broody but nope, it was the sibling.

I had a hen hatch eight chicks and killed two of them before she brought them off the nest. She killed one red and one black, the rest were also reds and blacks. She raised the others fine so color was not the issue. I was out of town when she hatched but the chicken sitter saw her so I know it was her. By the time I got home she was taking good care of the others.

This story is more involved. I put some eggs under a broody at the same time I put some in the incubator just to spread the chances of a hatch. The broody hatched two red chicks a couple of days before the incubator hatched. The incubator was on time but the broody was early, go figure. She brought those two red chicks off the nest before the incubator chicks were ready to give to her. I gave her the incubator chicks at night, the next morning she had accepted the red chicks but had run the black chicks off. I had to raise them myself. She didn't try to kill them, just ran them off. To add to the confusion she had raised a brood earlier that year which contained black and red chicks. I think this time she had imprinted on her red chicks and the black chicks were different.

I don't know why that hen would do that. In her mind there could have been something wrong with those chicks, whether there really was or not. There could have been another reason she selected those two. I don't know how safe the other chicks are with her either. She may be a dedicated mother, they may be in danger. There is a certain amount of unknown that comes with living animals. Chickens are not the only animals that the mother might kill her offspring for who knows what reason.
 

slordaz

hatchaholic
5 Years
Apr 15, 2015
3,456
6,394
602
Idaho
Welcome to BYC,
is she a first time mother?
It sometimes happens, or they accidentally squash them, but if she killed them on purpose I would think there was something wrong with the chicks we didn't see. , but then again I have a persistent broody that refuses to accept other eggs even same coloring or chicks. Chickens can be odd individually. I had one that was awesome and hatching chicks but didn't want to take care of them after either and she would attack them so she was broke of being broody even though she wanted to every time after that.

Would recommend watching them a bit closer and be prepared to put them in a brooder if it continues , also if it continues I would not let her brood again. giving her the benefit of the doubt once and keeping eye on is good but you don't want it to become a habit.
 

slordaz

hatchaholic
5 Years
Apr 15, 2015
3,456
6,394
602
Idaho
I had a hen that killed her chicks because they were disabled and couldn’t walk right. She might’ve knew they had a disease or problem and the best way to take care of her other chicks was to kill the problem ones. Keep an eye on the hen and remaining chicks
that hen may have been lower on the pecking order and not getting enough nutrition for her chicks to all have been born disabled, or mom could have injured them and caused splay leg which is totally treatable.
 

microchick

Driving my husband crazy 1 chicken at a time!
6 Years
Dec 31, 2014
10,204
46,507
1,177
NE Missouri
I have this happen on occasion with first time broodies. They don't for some reason recognize the chicks as being their babies once they hatch from the egg. The movement under them scares them and they will attack the chicks. I've also experienced the color variation thing. It's weird but just they way they work mentally.

I usually remember which hen is a psycho-broody and break them if they go broody again. It just isn't worth trying it and risking finding dead babies.

Frankly, IMHO, broodies are convenient, fun to watch and excellent mothers for the most part. But my Brinsea and chick brooder box with me at the controls are far more dependable.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,862
22,036
907
Southeast Louisiana
This story is more involved. I put some eggs under a broody at the same time I put some in the incubator just to spread the chances of a hatch. The broody hatched two red chicks a couple of days before the incubator hatched. The incubator was on time but the broody was early, go figure. She brought those two red chicks off the nest before the incubator chicks were ready to give to her. I gave her the incubator chicks at night, the next morning she had accepted the red chicks but had run the black chicks off. I had to raise them myself. She didn't try to kill them, just ran them off. To add to the confusion she had raised a brood earlier that year which contained black and red chicks. I think this time she had imprinted on her red chicks and the black chicks were different.

I'll point out that mine in this story was not a first time broody. Not only had she been broody before, she successfully hatched and raised chicks earlier in the same year, red and black.

I personally don't put much stock in those "first time broody" concerns. If a hen goes broody and I want her to hatch eggs, I give her eggs whether she has been broody before or not. They are just as successful as hens that have been broody before in my experience. If one does mess up she never gets a chance to hatch again.
 

MANNA-PRO

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