How many chicks can a hen handle?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by CartierChicken, Jun 11, 2011.

  1. CartierChicken

    CartierChicken Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 11, 2011
    Stockholm, Sweden
    I brought home a hen and 21 chicks, almost 2 weeks ago. I don't know if any of the chicks are from the hen, an Isbar hen. I was told there were 25 hens the chicks could have come from. Anyways, this hen was particularly broody, and decided to hatch all 21. I don't even understand the logistics of that feat. She has been an amazing mother to them all. I can't believe she has not gone crazy by this point. They are 3 1/2 weeks old, and they still sleep under her, and some on top of her. I should add that, as of yesterday, there are only 19 left. One died from food stuck in its throat, and one just totally disappeared. I let her free range with them a few hours a day.

    I have read about hens turning on their chicks, due to stress. Is there anything I should look out for? She is happiest when she can free range. I can see her giving me the evil eye as I type, as she is held up in the run. I don't like her out with the chicks when I am not around.
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    My 5 or 6 broodies have "mothered" for around 4 or 5 weeks then stopped, gone back to roosting with the big girls, and chased at the chicks or pecked (usually nothing fierce at all) them to run them off. I had one broody kill her hatching chicks, but once they have all hatched and are up and around, I haven't had this happen nor read of it happening. After mama is through with mothering, my chicks have simply hung around together and gradually become part of the flock as they grew in size. I have a set about 4 weeks old and another 8 weeks. At this point they are all roosting on the adult roost though they mostly stay with their "siblings," especially the younger ones. I have two more young pullets who are the same size as the older hens now, and both are definitely part of the flock. I never had one with more than about 8 chicks, but I'd be surprised if the larger number would be disturbing to them. Just my experience, for what it's worth.
  3. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    When she's ready to wean them, she will begin chasing them away from her during the day but will initially still let them sleep with her. My girl fully weaned hers at 6 weeks. She had started back up to laying at 5 weeks.

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