Hens sharing chicks

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Shalucie, Jun 1, 2017.

  1. Shalucie

    Shalucie New Egg

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    Jun 1, 2017
    Hello! We have four bantam hens (white Silkie, black Cochin, and two Rhode Island Reds). They've always gotten along well with absolutely no fighting. We have a small A-frame coop and run for them, but they generally free-range around our suburban yard when we're home from work.
    A couple of months ago we lost our rooster and two other hens to a fox. As our hens were constantly trying to go broody, we bought some hatching eggs from Boggy Bottom Bantams and decided to let the hens try to replenish the flock with them. By the time the eggs arrived, all four hens were broody. One had a nest to herself, and the other three were piled on top of each other in a corner of the coop sharing a nest. We went ahead and divided the eggs between the two nests; trying to wrestle some of the hens off the nest seemed like too much trouble.
    They hatched four chicks between the four of them, and until yesterday were sharing the chicks quite happily. It was rather sweet to watch. Now the other three hens have formed a sudden aversion to the second RIR hen. I can't see any weakness or physical change in her, but they're all attacking her and driving her away from food, water, and the babies.
    Any ideas about what might have caused the change, or possible solutions?
     
  2. chickens really

    chickens really Chicken Obsessed

    Yeah....Momma Hens protect their Chicks...Set up more food and water stations...Only allow one to remain broody at a time..Break the rest...
     
  3. chickens really

    chickens really Chicken Obsessed

    Separate the one hen with the Chicks...The other hens will snap out of it...
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    How old are the chicks? That might have something to do with it. She may be trying to wean them and the others aren't ready for that to happen. I've had broody hens wean their chick as young as three weeks. Some approach 3 months before they wean them.

    There is some risk involved with having multiple broody hens. Some people let multiple broody hens hatch together and raise the chicks together with never a problem. They love watching all those broody hens interact with the chicks. But sometimes you get a broody that doesn't want to share. The hens can fight over the eggs or chicks. It's possible that is something that is happening here. I just don't know what is happening.

    So what can you do? I don't know how much room you have or what your facilities look like so I can't get really specific. But you do have options. If that second RIR is still broody and wanting to take care of the chicks (doesn't sound like it) you can break her from being broody. Sound like you may need a broody buster anyway with them all going broody like that, you may be having to deal with a lot of broody hens in the future. The most effective way I've found is to lock the broody hen in a wire bottomed cage that is raised off the ground so cooler air can get under her. Three days in that with food and water is usually enough to break a broody.

    If you wish you can beak one or two of the other broody hens and leave the chicks with one or two. Or you can just let it play out however it will. There are no absolute rules for this. I personally only want one broody hen at a time but others regularly have multiple broodies, either sharing the same chicks or each with their own, same age of different age. You can never know for sure how living animals will behave. They are all unique.
     
  5. chickens really

    chickens really Chicken Obsessed

    I believe if not confused the RIR is the only one not Broody at this point?...
     
  6. Shalucie

    Shalucie New Egg

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    Jun 1, 2017
    Sorry if I wasn't clear. All four hens were broody, and all four left the nests at the same time when the chicks hatched. All four are mothering the chicks and interacting with them. They stay in a huddle with the chicks when they're out in their run, pile on top of each other in a nest with the chicks at night, and move in close formation when loose in the yard.
    The chicks are a little over a week old now. I do have an old rabbit hutch I could use temporarily for a hen or two if needed, but I'd feel guilty leaving one there for more than a week, as it's cramped quarters. I guess I'll just wait and see if it gets so bad I need to remove the second RIR hen for her own safety.
    I was curious if the behavior was normal; we expected they might fight over the chicks when they first hatched, but they'd been sharing so well for the whole first week, and it seemed odd to single out one hen rather than bickering as a group.
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    If I had a complex social group as described, then I would simplify the area where the birds are kept to reduce frequency of group splitting. Make so feed, water and cover sources are dispersed but still clumped. This particularly important with feed so no hen is denied access.
     

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