Mama hen pecking chicks - time to start laying again?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Three Silkies, Oct 8, 2013.

  1. Three Silkies

    Three Silkies Chillin' With My Peeps

    I have one silkie hen with 6 baby chicks (hers) that she hatched 6 weeks ago. They had a giant coop but lately I've had to move them all to a temporary, tiny hutch (because of a rabid mite infestation in the old coop) where they stay all day while I'm at work. I have ordered them a massive chicken pent house to live in, but until it arrives (hopefully this week), they are all pent up together. My hen hasn't laid since the chicks hatched. Lately, when I let them out for a couple of hours free range when I get home from work, mama hen has been charging the chicks and pecking them. Tonight, instead of all cosying upstairs together, some chicks have been going downstairs and crying. I've read that mama hens peck their chicks to make them grow up & be independent so she can start laying again. Do you think this is what's happening or do you think she's just had enough of them (all 6 of them are still trying to sleep under her and they are much too big now)? Or maybe she has just had enough of putting up with them in such close quarters everyday? Also, I'm worried that after such a long time of not laying she might be impacted? Can anyone help with some advice?
     
  2. Three Silkies

    Three Silkies Chillin' With My Peeps

  3. Three Silkies

    Three Silkies Chillin' With My Peeps

    And this pic is mama hen and her baby chicks free ranging in the garden and being ridiculously cute! :) [​IMG]
     
  4. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    It's an instinctive behavior when she no longer wants to "mother" them, so yes, she is trying to get them to "leave home." She should start laying a week or two after she has forgotten about the chicks. Hopefully she is in a transitional stage now. in the process of "kicking them out of the house."

    Being pent up in close quarters is well known to encourage more violent forms of pecking and even cannibalism, so the cramped quarters combined with the "stop mothering" behavior is not a good combination. I see you began treating the area some 3 weeks ago. That should be plenty of time to have killed at least most of the mites and even their hatching eggs. Hopefully a small amount of the maldison dust in their dust bath will help.
     
  5. Three Silkies

    Three Silkies Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thank you so much for your great advice. I did try to treat the area three weeks ago, but had all sorts of issues (it was filled with mice and traps and poison aren't catching them AND I couldn't spray the old coop without being inside it - meaning I would breathe in all the spray), so I decided to just demolish the old coop and build this new one (when it arrives) in a different part of the garden and will paint it with the Malawash BEFORE I construct it. Hopefully mama hen can tolerate the cramped living quarters for a few more days until it arrives. I would let them free range while I'm at work, but the neighbour's cat is always in my garden so I'm trying to keep them safe. But thank you. I'm so glad their large house is on its way having read your post! Thanks again.
     
  6. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    I would think that smaller coop would be large enough for now, while the chicks are growing, at least til that lovely new setup arrives.

    Just in case you haven't run across this, Silkies seem to be particularly prone to lice/mites, as is any broody hen. They come from wild birds, so there is really no avoiding them entirely. It's a matter of control. Dust baths with wood ashes, as you know, do help, as does sand. A lot of people recommend DE, but I actually don't agree, as it is such a respiratory irritant, both for you and the chickens. My approach is to lightly sprinkle some carbaryl dust around the coop and in the nests a few times a year. Our soil is quite sandy here and mine have plenty of dry soil for dust baths available. I've never had a chicken or coop infested with them.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2013
  7. Three Silkies

    Three Silkies Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thank you! That is very helpful. I will try that too. Should I put it on the (soil) floor in the run part which is where they will probably dust bathe, or is there a risk of them eating it when they're scratching around for worms?
     
  8. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Hard to say. I have no idea what the risk of toxicity would be. I don't put it where they dust bathe, simply because they make multiple dust bathing spots in their large yard (around 25 meters X 25 meters.) But it does make sense to me for it to be where they dust bathe.
     
  9. Three Silkies

    Three Silkies Chillin' With My Peeps

    Wow! What a huge yard. They must love that! I just looked up Carbaryl dust and found a news article saying it was banned here (Australia) in 2007 as it was found to have an unacceptable level of carcinogens for humans. You are probably already aware of this and use it safely but I just thought I'd tell you in case you didn't know as you have been so helpful to me. :)
     
  10. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh, the large yard is great. I only have 11, and it stays so green in there we have to mow it . Of course it's not predator proof -- but in 2 or 3 years we have not had anything bigger than mice and small snakes enter. It"s just a 6' (2m) fence with some anti-digging measures at the bottom, and the fence was purposefully installed a bit loose so if an animal tries to climb, it falls backward, to a degree.

    Yes, carbaryl is not a wonderful chemical; but then, are any of them? I'm not sure yours (malathion here) is legal here any more. I know it used to be used to spray for mosquitoes and that has stopped -- and I happen to be allergic to it. I don't think anyone "likes" chemicals any more -- it's a matter of balance, and judicious use, in my mind. I understand there is a newer product, spinosad, that is effective and pretty well notoxic. I know some on here have used it on chickens to kill lice/mites with good results. It is another garden insecticide.
     

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