letting unfriendly broody mama raise chicks vs raising in a brooder

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by mamahen82, Apr 10, 2011.

  1. mamahen82

    mamahen82 In the Brooder

    Aug 29, 2010
    Hi - this is my first go at eggs and chicks - I currently have two broody hens setting about 8 eggs each and slightly more than a dozen eggs in a DIY incubator. All eggs were started in the incubator on 04/08 and I've been moving some out under the broodies after they settled into their new "broody coop". We keep our chickens primarily as pets and the eggs are a bonus.

    I had planned on hatching all eggs in the incubator and using a brooder for the chicks, because the two broody hens are not overly friendly (we got them as adult birds at the auction and I don't think they had been handled much). However despite their former skiddish ways, they both let me pet them now while they are setting without any pecking, only some feather ruffling. The gal who gave me the fertilized eggs recommended putting some under the broodies seeing as they will do a better job than the incubator, and then take the chicks at day-old.

    I appreciate your opinions as I'm trying to decide whether I should let the broody girls raise the chicks (in future years this is definitely the route I'll go as the mamas will hopefully be more friendly) or whether I should take the eggs at lockdown (or dayold? what do you think) and raise them in a brooder. It is VERY important these birds are friendly because my three young daughters and I just love our other tame birds (none of which are broody now of course). The eggs are a mix of standard cochins, bantam cochins, silkies and a couple of other barnyard mixes. I am worried that seeing as the mama hens are very skiddish of us that they also won't let us near the chicks, and we'll continue the cycle of scared chickens. Plus my girls are very excited about the chicks (and me too!) so we'll be sad if the mama's don't let us handle them.

    I've been writing about it over at my blog but appreciate your feedback both here and there. I'm so enjoying this whole adventure and appreciate this community.

  2. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    Neither of my broodies is very friendly, at all. The one that hatched chicks 12 weeks ago did show her chicks that "human" is where the treats come from. Those three chicks, all roos, follow me everywhere now. I can pick them up anytime I want. The current broody is even less friendly than her sister. She so far hasn't allowed me to handle the chicks, nearly two weeks old. That's okay, I know they'll make the human = food connection soon enough. In the meantime, she's raising them in the flock and keeping them safe. She's teaching them all about life in a chickens world, i.e., chicken smarts and that includes teaching them about predators. IMHO, letting the broody raise chicks is definitely the way to go.

    Remember, the way to a chickens heart is through their gizzard. Find some mini-mealworms or crickets to offer the chicks. Mama may even become friendlier when she sees all the delicious things you bring them.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2011
  3. elmo

    elmo Songster

    May 23, 2009
    I agree with the previous poster. It's far easier to let a broody raise chicks and I think healthier for the chicks, too.

    Our broodies started rejecting their chicks at around 5 weeks old, at which time I put the young ones in a separate grow out pen. If you do something like this, you could then start working with the chicks individually every day. As the previous poster correctly noted, treats are the key to taming. Mine absolutely go wild over sweet corn. What I do is split an ear of corn in half, then pull the kernels off one by one with my fingers and toss them to the girls.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2011
  4. Judy

    Judy Crowing Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Strongly agree with both gritsar and elmo.

    My current broody never was really a friendly chicken. She got used to me some when I let her sit on her eggs in the coop once, so had to check what she was sitting on a couple times a day. I realized she would only try to peck the hand reaching under her, so I would put my hand around her neck from behind and kind of slide it up over her face, kind of holding my hand like a cage, not really holding her, then reach under with the other hand. Did the same thing to hold the chicks when they first hatched. She growled some but I didn't get pecked. You just have to be better at "keep away" than they are!

  5. mommom4

    mommom4 In the Brooder

    Mar 22, 2011
    Our 6 eggs are hatching out one a day and altho' one sat on them for 21 days, 3 broodies are now sharing them. I'm a new egg at this too. The grandkids want to touch and hold but the first hatched out Sat. so they cannot be handled yet. They sure are cute silkies and the moms are letting us have peaks. I believe, with all I've read on this forum that having the mama raise them is best. They feed them and give them the warmth needed. I'm stuck now on whether to separate them at some point or can 3 broodie, caring moms keep things going well for all so they can continue living in the coop vs a separate pen. We have 4 adult hens and 1 rooster. So if you or anyone else has ideas to help, I'd love to hear about it.
  6. mamahen82

    mamahen82 In the Brooder

    Aug 29, 2010
    thanks everyone - you've convinced me to let the mamas raise the chicks. How many chicks can one mama handle? I'd like to add whatever chicks hopefully hatch in the incubator to the chicks that hatch under the broodies so I'm not keeping a brooder in the house and have integration issues later.

    I currently have two broodies that had nests on separate sides of the "broody coop" floor however the one has been schooching herself and her clutch ever closer to the other one...maybe this other coop is a little cold? Anyways I think I might just leave them together and see what happens...they both have about 8 eggs and if they get much closer will just be sitting together on one large clutch! Hopefully if we pet them lots while they are broody that will help with handling the chicks post-hatch.

    Thanks again for your help
  7. Eatin'Dirt

    Eatin'Dirt Songster

    Feb 15, 2009
    Las Vegas NV
    I agree let momma hen raise them. I have a broody hen & she wants nothing to do with people, but her chicks are sweet as pie! She has had 2 batches now & the chicks are very sweet from both. It is much easier & the chicks learn from their momma.

  8. mmaddie's mom

    mmaddie's mom Songster

    How many hatched babies can a broody mom handle? Depends on her size and experience. I've had an experienced Banty mom raise 13 well... she was very busy!

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