momma hen behavior/chicks - need advice!!


11 Years
Jun 27, 2008
I have 4 hens and a 3"x5" coop and a large run. My friendliest hen became broody last month and a neighbor gave me fertilized eggs to let her hatch - she did and we now have 7 two-week old cuties following the momma around. At night they've been sleeping in a latchable dog carrier within the main coop and during the day they free range and/or spend time in a non-secure tractor-type pen.

Momma hen has been willingly sleeping with her babies in a modified "nesting box" (a latch-able hard plastic dog carrier) to keep her and the babies protected from the aunties (3 other hens). This morning Elpheba/mamma layed her first post-broodiness egg and this evening she set herself up on the roost in the coop instead of heading into the crate/nesting box. The chicks saw her up there and eventually all flew up to her and nestled under her tummy, chest and wings. As soon as the head pecking-order sister came in and saw them there - she started viciously pecking the chicks (some of whom ran willy nilly out into the darkness and then peeped pitifully and were too scared to allow me to scoop them. Elpheba (momma hen) cowered on one end of the roost while Alenkushka (head hen) pushed her around and pecked at her head as she cowered!! Finally I rounded up all the chicks, pulled momma hen off the roost and stuffed them into the crate and latched it - so they'll be stuck in there but at least safe from attack. Tomorrow though, I need to find an alternate secure spot for the babies (with or without their momma - I guess if its without their mamma, it should be inside the house to keep warm enough). Since the momma layed an egg this morning and declined to sleep in the box with her chicks this eve - should I assume that her motherly instincts are waning? The chicks seem to need her very much though - unless I bring them inside to regulate their temps better. And what about the head chicken pecking at the momma hen? That never happened before. The mamma seems to me to be 2nd-from-the-top in the pecking order and she dominates the two barred rock hens that are also their coop-mates. I was taken aback by the voilence/viciousness of the pecks towards the chicks - like they could easily been mortally wounded by them. My long range plan was to keep two hens from this group of 7 chicks - and re-home the rest. I can't figure out who is a pullet or roo yet though. What should I do???? (sorry about the spelling!)

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