mama didn't take all babies from the nest

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by sands1980, Aug 20, 2014.

  1. sands1980

    sands1980 New Egg

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    I've had multiple hens hatch chicks without any strange situations. But now I'm a little baffled!

    I had an orpington go broody like normal but 2 weeks into her cycle my white rock also went broody and took over the orpingtons nest. The orpington just took on the nest right next to her original and for a few days they alternated. Two days ago 2 of the eggs hatched and yesterday 2 more. This morning I removed all remaining eggs and within a few hours mama rock was out in the yard with the original 2 that hatched. When I checked the nest boxes, the orpington is in the empty nest with the newest babies . It wouldn't bother me except babies are in a corner and the orpington is not allowing them to get close to her and now her eggs are unattended? ??
    Is this normal? Should I rescue the babies?
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Yes, take the babies away. Before she kills them, or something else does. If they're avoiding her, she's given them very good reason to do so. Most babies don't have the sense to avoid a hen who is killing them, it takes a lot to impress upon them that their mother is rejecting them.

    If I were you, I'd reintroduce them at night to the Rock and watch carefully early in the morning to see if she will accept them. If not, raise them yourself, or whatever you want to do. I would keep them outside their earshot during the day, and whenever handling them, hold them securely in my hand (both hands if necessary) so they snuggle and do not cry. Cupping a hand over their heads and backs tends to provoke the snuggling reflex in them.

    When the chooks hear them crying, they are identifying them by voice and if you want to try to introduce them to a potential foster mother it's important she does not first identify them as 'not my chicks'. There will already be some confusion due to the mixed mothering/brooding, it's not recommendable, it usually results in trouble. Not many hens can co-brood or co-mother.

    At night, soon after dusk so they have the most bonding time possible before the hen can see them, I would introduce them to the Rock, holding them securely so not only can she not see the chicks being put under her, but she also can't hear them calling. Most chicks will have the instinct to stay quiet for a while, then assimilate with the current clutch by gradually introducing themselves to the mother by building a bond via vocalizations before attempting visual bonding. Normal mother-chick voice bonding begins to occur as they are pipping the shells, so there's a good chance the Rock is partially bonded to them already, if she was present as they pipped.

    The orp is showing you she lacks sufficient maternal instinct. Breaking her off the brood is about all you can do. Not only will she harm chicks but she will brood empty nests --- that's about as 'dud' a mother as a hen can get, it's one step below a hen who's never brooded because a hen who has never brooded may still reveal complete but delayed maternal instinct. I've had old hens suddenly reveal a maternal side they never showed before, like pros despite lack of experience. But bad mothers are something else. I would not waste chicks' lives on her deficient maternal instincts. It's unfortunate but all she will likely be is an occasional egg-layer who possibly presents a threat to chicks and takes up your time in repeatedly breaking her off the brood.

    As a side note, I think you may have removed the extra eggs too soon. 21 days is not a golden rule --- they can hatch days earlier or later than that. I leave the extra eggs until the hen leaves the nest, sometimes even leaving them longer than that, and many still hatch.

    They may have had their 21 days' worth of incubation staggered over a longer period because they were left cold overnight or during the day a few times; hens with incomplete maternal instinct are good at creating this situation, and co-brooding is too. A hen without the sense to tuck eggs securely under her is generally one way you get this issue.

    When let to chill the eggs don't die, they simply cease growth temporarily and go into a kind of metabolic stasis until sufficient heat returns for them to resume development. Contrary to what so many people are taught, stone cold eggs are not automatically dead eggs.

    This interrupted brooding pattern can persist right up until they're pipping without killing them. Both chicks and eggs can become stone cold and still survive. I've had a few clutches left cold overnight through winter for the duration of their brooding which still hatched; bad mothering was responsible, they had clutches hidden in the forest and came back to roost in the main cages every night so I thought they were merely free ranging during the day. Some of those eggs were quite a few weeks old and still hatched. It's not ideal, and it does make skinnier chicks when they do hatch because it was a bit of a marathon for them, but it's survivable.

    Hope this helps. Wish I'd seen your post sooner, you've probably missed your first opportunity to foster them out under the Rock. Best wishes. Hope it works out for the chicks.
     
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  3. sands1980

    sands1980 New Egg

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    Chooks for Life,
    Thank you so much for your response.
    Sadly when I was able to return to the nest, the orpington had pecked one baby to death. I was able to rescue the other and return it to mama Rock. She accepted it right away and I moved the new family to our chicken nursery.
    The orpington immediately moved back to the eggs she had left.

    Thank you also for the advise. I was not aware the eggs could be that tuff! I've just always abided by the 21 day rule (24 at max) but this info is very good to know as this is my first experience with a less than stellar orpington. It's generally the others I have to move to special locations to brood. Except my brahma.
    Thank you thank you
     
  4. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Sorry to hear it, thought it might happen but hoped not. But it's good to hear the Rock accepted the survivor.

    I would not keep that Orp, personally. She's a chick killer. There is no reason to believe she won't do the same to her own chicks, or continually present a threat to all other chicks you have. That chick hatched near her, she would have partially bonded to its voice --- yet she killed it.

    It's normal for a hen to not like chicks which aren't hers, but killing them is something I consider a cullable offense. It's going to an extreme. I won't tolerate aggression of any extreme in my flock, as it's highly heritable and should be considered a contagious and heritable social disease in my opinion.

    Culling can just mean rehoming rather than killing... But I kill them because they're too much trouble and not worth it. Who wants a hen who goes broody but kills the results of brooding? No use as either a layer or a mother, too much work to keep breaking that dud off the brood --- she's best off making a meal, since there's a good chance she will breed that mentality on, if you let her breed. My two cent's worth anyway, but whatever your choices, best wishes with it.

    A breed review is never reliable, there are all sorts within every breed, but you can't tell which ones will be exemplary or aberrant until you find out the hard way. I watch all my first-time wannabe-mothers like a hawk. If a chick ever fears its mother, or avoids her front half like the plague, that's generally the first and often only warning sign before infanticide occurs.

    It is amazing how tough eggs are, for sure. I've thrown partially developed or off eggs before, when I had no hen to brood them and nobody wants to eat an egg with some blood and veins in it --- and some of them can survive being thrown a long distance, bouncing off tree trunks and rocks, bouncing up to a dozen times on the ground, all without breaking... They're not the delicate little things we've all been told. Many viable eggs are thrown every year all over the world because most people think a cold egg is a dead egg.

    Best wishes.
     
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  5. AmericanMom

    AmericanMom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    wow, thanks chooks that is some very detailed great advice! I love reading through threads even when they do not particularly pertain to my situation at the moment, I have little doubt it will sometime in the future.
    its folks like you that make this site so invaluable to so many
     
  6. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    You're welcome, hope it is useful to someone in future.

    There is such a spectrum of variables out there that it can't possibly apply to all, which is good to remember whenever you find someone with what seems to be good advice... It may be correct for them, and some others, but each flock and situation is unique in some ways.

    We all need a spectrum of information for sure. Sometimes people withhold their experiences thinking it is too oddball or unusual to be worth sharing but I definitely encourage everyone to share, you never know what experiences may be lifesavers for someone's animals.

    Best wishes.
     

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