Hen killing new chicks of different breed

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by urs317, Feb 9, 2015.

  1. urs317

    urs317 New Egg

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    Hi, I have a Rhode Island Red who has just started hatching eggs, only two were hers, the rest were Australorp. Three have hatched and she killed the two Australorp babies today but the little red one is still alive. Just wanted to know if she would have done this because she knew they weren't from her eggs? She has had a small private coop the whole time so no interference from the rest of the flock once she started sitting.
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Greetings and [​IMG]

    Firstly, are you completely sure she killed them? Different genetics are more susceptible to different things including disease and sensitivity to nutritional deficiency, and if the hens laying the fertile eggs these chicks hatched from were not moved onto a very nutritious feed, but were kept on layer feed, the chicks will be short in some nutrients, and that causes a failure rate. (Mortality rate).

    For example insufficiency of some of the B vitamin group in particular causes various defects and deaths, from early embryonic death right up to deaths post-hatching, with one typical example being chicks that hatch normally and otherwise look and act normal but which have swellings of fluid under their skin around the back of the head (odema) and die within 24 hours, usually. Some genetics are more susceptible to that than others.

    Some hens accidentally kill chicks too in a variety of ways, could just be coincidence that the Aus. Orps are the dead ones.

    Otherwise it's entirely possible that she killed them because they look different. But probably not because she knew they weren't hers, I'd bet, because while I am pretty darn sure some hens and roosters can ID their own offspring, the majority definitely cannot. Going by color alone is faulty. I've seen white hens reject white babies in favor of black ones, and black hens reject black babies in favor of white ones, and solid-colored hens of all colors reject blotched, spotted, or striped babies even when they were their own. So generally if a hen does that there's no excuses to be made for the bigot, lol. She's just prejudiced and it's costing lives, so in my flock that's her ticket called. Dinner!

    Best wishes.
     
  3. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    She may have bonded to the red one if it hatched first or spent more time where she could see it and is therefore rejecting the black ones for that reason, but she's clearly a liability and if she were mine I wouldn't risk more chicks on her. But good luck with her. Not easy to manage the mess once a hen proves she's an unreliable mother, if you didn't have an alternative/plan B set up in advance.
     
  4. Fairyprncss5678

    Fairyprncss5678 Out Of The Brooder

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    I had a duck that I caught killing chicks. It. Was. Horrible. Only thing you can do is keep them separate. Hope you don't have to deal with any more of this. [​IMG]
     
  5. urs317

    urs317 New Egg

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    Hi, thanks for replying to all of you. The mother was pecking at the head of one this morning and it was bleeding. I found the other one later today with the same injuries. I have never had a hen do this before. Will check again in the morning to see if the red chick is still alive. If not, this girl won't be allowed to sit again! But she does lay nice eggs [​IMG]
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I’ve had that happen twice. The first time I have no idea what happened. I was out of town when the hen hatched two full days early. I’d have been back if she had hatched on time. That hen killed three of her eight chicks right after they hatched, but raised the other five fine. The ones killed were mixed colors, as were the ones left, but there was something about them she did not like. The person feeding and watering them saw it happening but didn’t know how to handle it. It was the broody and not a different hen in the flock.

    Another time I hatched some chicks in the incubator a couple of days later than the hen hatched a couple of chicks herself. They were supposed to hatch at the same time but again the broody was earlier than she should have been. When I tried to give the incubator chicks to the hen, she ran the black chicks off (injuring one by pecking the head) but accepted and raised the red ones. The ones she hatched herself early and bonded to were red. I’m sure color played a part that time. This was not the broody hen’s first time either. She had earlier raised a brood of mixed-color chicks she hatched herself.

    This kind of stuff happens, though not very often. You are dealing with living animals so the reasons are not going to be consistent. I do not buy into the idea that always there was something wrong with the chicks. If you raise them yourself they can do fine.

    I would not allow that hen to hatch any more eggs. I don’t know how much of that behavior is genetic but I also would not hatch any of her eggs, just in case.

    I wish you luck with that red chick.
     
  7. urs317

    urs317 New Egg

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    Mama Red is now very happily teaching little Red to scratch! She didn't hatch the remaining eggs so I removed them. I won't be letting her sit on eggs again though.
     
  8. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    X2.

    It beggars belief to accept the idea that we've bred so many natural behaviors and traits out of them without breeding unnatural ones into them as well. People still tend to follow the idea that there is always something inherently wrong with the victim, but in my experience there is more often something wrong with the bully!

    Definitely cut that hen out of the genepool IMO even if you want to keep her for eggs. Who needs that kind of unpredictable, 'will she/won't she' risk to chicks' lives. In my eyes a rooster or hen that kills babies negates its own value as a breeder (for all but the most rare of genetic lines... If the breed was dying out I guess one might make exceptions for even severely malignant individuals).

    Best wishes. Good luck with them.
     
  9. urs317

    urs317 New Egg

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    I agree. I had a silkie rooster who killed chicks, he was removed straight away. Another roo I have is the best dad, very protective of the mums and chicks and a true gentleman. He's a keeper. I only have 2 RIR hens which are sisters, so I won't risk keeping the other one either.
     
  10. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Good on you. (I wouldn't judge you if you kept her for eggs though I admit I'd be slightly disappointed to hear you intended to breed her traits on, lol).

    The more people making sure they propagate good lines, not bad ones, the better for future generations of both humans and animals. Sometimes people take a soft stance feeling sorry for the animals, but forgetting to feel sorry for the future victims of those animals.

    Best wishes.
     

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