How do I get a broody hen to accept chicks that are not hers?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by i-love-my-honey, Sep 8, 2014.

  1. i-love-my-honey

    i-love-my-honey Chillin' With My Peeps

    179
    14
    121
    Aug 9, 2010
    I have a broody Silkie that I would like to mother some chicks. She has been broody for about a month and was sitting on some eggs, one of which was hatching, when one of my other girls ate the baby. Needless to say, we got rid of Ms. Aggressive and now I am looking for some chicks to get the Silkie to raise. My question is about how to introduce the chicks to the hen and how old the chicks need to be (Can I go up to a week in age?)

    Next question is if I can mix the age of the chicks. Can I get her mothering a few chicks this week and then add a couple more in two more weeks? How many chicks can I put under a Silkie?
     
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    31,451
    3,543
    538
    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Conventional wisdom of broody hens says to get chicks as young as possible, day old or so, and place under the broody at night. You can try older chicks, but the older they are, the less likely they are to bond to the momma, regardless of if she accepts them.

    I would not try to add chicks later. A hen learns who her clutch is, and outsider chicks are not kindly regarded. Some hens attack, some would not attack but will not mother them, leaving the chicks unprotected and defenseless.
     
  3. Cowgirl71

    Cowgirl71 Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,176
    58
    221
    Feb 5, 2010
    Missouri Ozarks
    What I've read says that you want the chicks to be as young as possible. Not only does the hen need to bond to the chicks, but the chicks need to bond with the hen. They say ASAP after hatching, but I've had success with 2-3 day olds I ordered from a hatchery. I would try to get chicks as young as possible, preferably not more than 3 days old.

    The two times I've done it - both with success - I put the morning's shipment of chicks in a brooder with food and sugar water to help them recover from their trip. Then that night I slipped them under the hen in the nest after dark and took away her eggs. That way they have all night to cheep and cluck back and forth and bond together, plus the chicks learn how warm and cozy it is under her, all while being under the protection of darkness. I made sure to be there at first light in the morning, ready to intervene if I had to, but didn't need to either time! So I gave them a few minutes of daylight together, and then moved them into the waiting brooder right away before a mouser cat or another hen injured or killed one of the chicks.

    I wouldn't mix ages, that usually doesn't work well with chickens. I doubt the hen would take more chicks later. By slipping chicks under her at night and taking her eggs, you're trying to fool her into thinking her eggs hatched. After a couple weeks with chicks she will no longer be broody and will likely see the newcomers as a threat and/or competition to her own chicks.

    Are the chicks going to be bantams or standards? If standards, I'd try 6. If bantams, I'd try 8.

    Best of luck to you! Let me know how it turns out! :)
     
  4. i-love-my-honey

    i-love-my-honey Chillin' With My Peeps

    179
    14
    121
    Aug 9, 2010
    Thank you for the advice. I had just assumed a chick would bond to whatever sat on it! :0)
     
  5. i-love-my-honey

    i-love-my-honey Chillin' With My Peeps

    179
    14
    121
    Aug 9, 2010
    Yes, the Brahma was from a hatchery. I have learned SO much since then. I never thought about buying from a local person - did not know where to start. Now that I have a couple of broken hearts with my girls I know to be more careful!

    The chicks I am looking at are a mix of both. I am trying to find people with hatch dates similar so I can mix and match.

    One more question. Chickens in the wild would, of course, have a range of hatch dates since they would take up to a week to lay a batch. If I slipped a chick under the hen, would she still sit on eggs?
     
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    31,451
    3,543
    538
    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    You've got a basic misconception here. Yes, a hen takes a week or more to lay a clutch of eggs, but they don't start developing until she goes broody and starts setting on them. A clutch normally hatches over a period of less than 48 hours. Once the first chicks hatch, momma hangs out on the nest another day or so, to let everyone hatch who is going to, then she's off the nest and teaching the babies about eating and drinking, etc. So, getting a live chick is a trigger for a broody not to set on her eggs anymore.
     
    2 people like this.
  7. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

    17,230
    5,714
    501
    Mar 9, 2014
    Oregon
    My Coop
    It isn't an issue of the chick bonding to the hen - it is a matter of the hen bonding, or not, to the chick. A hen knows "her" chicks and any other chick is an intruder and will be treated as such.
     
  8. i-love-my-honey

    i-love-my-honey Chillin' With My Peeps

    179
    14
    121
    Aug 9, 2010
    OK. That makes sense. Thank you for your help!
     
  9. i-love-my-honey

    i-love-my-honey Chillin' With My Peeps

    179
    14
    121
    Aug 9, 2010
    So if a chick is, say a week old, she would know it is not hers, even if she had only been sitting on eggs?
     
  10. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive True BYC Addict

    30,483
    4,840
    541
    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    I had a broody last year who only hatched one egg. The next day I bought some 2-3 days old chicks from the feed store, and brought them home. Over a half hour, I placed each one of six under her, and I stayed with them for awhile to watch how she treated them. They did fine, and she raised them with her little chick. Every case will be different. I would not add older chicks that a few days old, and there is never a guarantee that the broody will accept them. You always have to be prepared to raise them in a brooder if she rejects them.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by