How Do Hens Care For Chicks?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by MomsGoneMild, Dec 19, 2012.

  1. Where can I find info on how Hens naturally interact with their own chicks? I have never seen this behavior naturally, and I am trying to understand how to introduce new chicks to my hen, and it would help me to know what to look for to determine if this is working for her or them.

    Any ideas on where I can find info on this? I appreciate your help!

    Xoxo Annmarie
  2. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    Youtube videos are fun to look at in this topic :)

    The hens will keep them under them for warmth (especially for the first few days). They will call them to feed by clucking. They will (or should) defend them from other chickens. They will give them better immunity against diseases then brooder raised chicks.

    They'll teach them to roost. They'll teach them how to look for the best bugs free ranging..
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2012
  3. I will check out youtube. Thanks!

    What about pecking? Is some pecking expected?

    NYREDS Overrun With Chickens

    Jan 14, 2008
    If you are talking about trying to get a hen to care for newly hatched chicks she didn't hatch it probably won't work. Sometimes a hen that's broody can be tricked into adopting chicks but giving a random hen chicks that aren't hers & hoping she'll care for them will most likely lead to her ignoring them or more likely killing them.
  5. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    I have given hens over 150 chicks this year. Never had one who killed or didn't accept them, though it can happen.


    Given 20 chicks combined purchased from the feed store.

    Given all but one of these chicks (she hatched one, had three eggs - the others did not hatch so I gave her all the silkies I hatched a week before her own hatched).


    These two hatched one chick and were given 10 (combined).

    Given 5

    Given 3 chicks that were already 2 weeks old when none of her eggs hatched (she had a dozen eggs too).

    ETA: I do find it much easier to introduce chicks if they have hatched at least one. Silkies are easier to add chicks if they haven't hatched any themselves.

    My Orp was the most difficult to add to. She accepted them after 10 minutes and started clucking for them.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2012
  6. I appreciate the conversation. It is helpful. So for those who are successful introducing chicks to hens, how do you suggest I do it? I think i may be hovering too much for fear she may hurt them. Should i just hold my breath and trust her with them and walk away for some time, or am i right to hover just incase? Is there anything chicks instinctively do to encourage her to accept them?.

    The exact scenario is this. She is the only pullet of my first hatch. I cant keep roosters (or hens : ) for that matter), so i had to hatch her some friends so i could get rid of roosters before they crowed. I introduced her to the chicks, but she was not interested in them. She is young, not even laying yet, 5 mths, but i was hoping she would use them as companions, and they would naturally win her over eventually with their charm. ; ).

    Well, to my suprise, one of the roosters took to them very well. Lol. It was so adorable. I wish i could have kept him. He never laid a egg either and he seemed to instinctively know what to do with them. Too funny, but couldnt keep him.

    Ok, so then my flock was her, 5 mth old, with 10 chicks. She never mothered them in the least but she tolerated them around without showing much aggression. I got two pullets out of that batch. they are about 6 weeks old. They roost together. She wont let them roost with her. Ok no prob. They suck it up.

    Now, i have two silkie chicks in my brooder that are about 1 week old. I take care of them but i have been slowly introducing them to her and the other two for about an hour at a time in the afternoon. They "free range" all of 10 feet of grass and shrubs together. I am cautious with them because they are silkies and have that soft spot on the top of their head. She does occassionally take a peck at them if they show interest in her face, but for the most they all just act like the chicks arent there. Occassionally they will go make a light peck at their butts. Aywhooo, do you think it would be risky to leave her alone with these two chicks so they can work things out naturally, without me hovering. She does seem a smidge warmer to these chicks than she was to the first batch.

    I appreciate the feedback.

    Xoxo Annmarie
  7. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    I thought we were talking broodies here.. No?

    Most hens who are not broody will hurt chicks. Some do not. Most do.

    My roosters are all good with chicks. I would not keep one around who is not.
  8. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

    Jun 28, 2011
    Rep of Ireland
    It is possible to get a hen to adopt and raise chicks, but she needs to be broody and she should sit on eggs, even fake eggs, for around 2-3 weeks first. Earlier than that and they seem to know it's too soon. Sometimes when hens failed to hatch her eggs people have swapped her eggs for chicks (this works better if done at night when the hen is sleepy and won't remember in the morning) and the hens accepted the chicks and raised them. No problems.
    If your hen accepts the chicks around her it's great. I found adult chickens can be rather mean to chicks, but your hen sounds like a sweetheart. Continue leaving them with her under supervision and leave them for longer periods, until they are completely used to each other. I don't think she'll adopt them and start "mothering" them though. They will just become part of the flock.
  9. Well, I am sooo glad I asked here at BYC. I dont know what I would do without this forum and you all. I am going to be much more realistic, and simply keep allowing them supervised time to get familiar with each other and eventually be a part of the flock.

    At some point, these are going to have to roost together, because I am going to run out of room, and not to mention i cant keep nailing up poop boards in random spots of their choosing. Lol

    By the way ... We all got so busy solving my problem that we didnt even stop to oooh and aaaaw over those amazing pics of chicks and hens. Soooo beautiful! Thanks for sharing those. Very sweet.

    Xoxo Annmarie
  10. ThePaintedHen

    ThePaintedHen Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 18, 2012
    Berlin, Massachusetts

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