My hen has chicks and is laying!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by abbeycreamcat, Nov 4, 2012.

  1. abbeycreamcat

    abbeycreamcat Out Of The Brooder

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    I have a dilemma and am after some advice please. I have a little Polish x hen with 2 little Silky x chickens who are 4 weeks old today, but she has been laying each day for the last week and is no longer showing any mothering skills except that she still lets them burrow under her at night.
    I have to say that she was not my choice of mothers, she went broody and insisted on cohabitating a nest with one of my lovely old barnevelder girls who was sitting on 10 eggs a friend gave me. Unfortunately a couple of days before they hatched, a vistor's dog got in to my hen house and killed my beautiful barnevelder while the little polish x was out of the nest stretching her legs (lucky for her!). There were a few eggs left intact after the carnage, which the little polish x continued to cover. She hatched out 3 with these 2 surviving.
    I currently have them in the hen house in a 3ft long x 2ft wide wire dog crate with the bottom 4 inches or so covered with clear plastic (so the chicks couldn't get through the wire) and would love to let them out to pick on the grass and scratch, but my chickens are completely free range and I am sure she would just abandon them and leave them to fend for themselves as she spends a lot of time during the day sitting on top of the waterer looking for a way out.
    If I let her out I could bring the chickens out for a short time in a slightly smaller wire crate where they could scratch and peck in the sunshine, but would they still need a heat lamp at night, or do I just keep her cooped up with them until they are fully feathered?
    It is spring here in Tasmania (Aus) and the days are quite warm and pleasant, but the nights are still quite chilly at 6-9 degrees C (about 42-48 degrees F)
     
  2. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    Are there any other chickens besides the momma hen?

    If so, you can block off an area for the babies that is protected from the adults so they get used to each other.

    If not, they would be fine going outside. As for a heat source, are they fully feathered? If so, they don't need the heat.
     
  3. abbeycreamcat

    abbeycreamcat Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi Happy chooks, thanks for your reply.
    I have about 20 other chickens, the 'big' ones sleep in one coop and the bantams in the other, the crate the chicks are in is in the bantam coop - the coop is actually a 10m x 10m shed with a wire front which used to be part of my kennels when I was breeding Dobermanns. The chicks are not fully feathered yet which is why I am concerned, I have never had a hen start laying while raising chicks - my big old ladies are wonderful mothers and often have their chicks stay around until they are almost adult. This suits me well because I never have to worry about introducing the new chickens to the flock, their mums do it for me [​IMG] As I said above, I wouldn't have chosen a Polish x as a mother as I am told the purebreds don't even go broody, so I didn't expect great mothering instincts from her.
    I let mum out yesterday afternoon and she very happily left them, but hovered around outside the bantam coop area. She is from the other coop (I had her before I set up the second coop) and the bantams were all picking on her so I put her back in with the chicks for the night.

    I guess really my question is whether the chicks still need additional heat at night. Someone suggested on another thread that I bring them inside until they are fully feathered (I copied and pasted this post to the new members forum and have mentioned a bit more on there as I wasn't sure if this was the right forum to post my question and was a bit anxious for an answer [​IMG] https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/721069/hi-from-tasmania-australia ) and with this reply I'm figuring the answer is 'yes', so I will set my puppy rearing heat lamp up and after dark tonight I will take mum back to her coop [​IMG]
     
  4. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    Is the hen still letting them sleep with her? If so, no heat lamp needed. If not, you may want to supplement with heat because there are only 2 of them, so they can't snuggle up for warmth. Just until they are fully feathered though.


    BTW - I see you're in Tasmania. I have family in Dunalley. Hope to visit sometime, but the exchange rate stinks right now. We visited when my family lived in NSW, but haven't been to Tasmania yet.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2012
  5. abbeycreamcat

    abbeycreamcat Out Of The Brooder

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    Geeveston Tasmania
    Yes she still lets them get under her at night, but during the day she spends all her time trying to get out of the crate, so I am feeling like I should let her out. Maybe just leave her until they are feathered then? The only benefit I can see is the nighttime warmth, she certainly isn't going to protect them when it's time for them to join the flock, and I was thinking that then they would also spend their time trying to escape once I let her out?
    One other option I am wondering about, I have a first time broody silky who keeps pottering outside the crate, she clucks and scratches like their mother should be doing. Do you think there is any possibility that she would take over their care if I took their mum out and put her in (at night) instead?
     
  6. abbeycreamcat

    abbeycreamcat Out Of The Brooder

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    Geeveston Tasmania
    Sorry, so engrossed in my chicken problem I didn't respond to your geographic comments lol. Tassie is a great place to visit, it has so much diversity in such a small space, much better tourist destination than NSW [​IMG]
    I am in the Huon Valley in Geeveston which is also in the south of the state, but close to 2 hours away from Dunalley.
     
  7. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    I'd leave her with them until they are feathered out. Chances are very, very slim that the other hen would adopt them. No heat needed while they are under a momma hen.

    We were actually planning a trip there for this year, but with the exchange rate being so horrid, we didn't feel like we should do it. Hopefully sometime in the near future.
     
  8. abbeycreamcat

    abbeycreamcat Out Of The Brooder

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    Ok, thanks for the advice, it sounds like it might be best if I just leave them as they are for a bit longer and 'mum' can just suck it up and stay there for now. It makes me a bit sad that they can't be 'real' chickens, out with their mum happily scratching about in the dirt and exploring during the day, but I suppose their are millions of chickens who live their entire lives in that predicament. Apart from the guilt trip it gives me it would certainly make life easier if I just ignore her escape efforts and sad demeanor lol.
    I love the current exchange rate, it is great for me when I am buying my games and ebay stuff from US sites [​IMG]
     
  9. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    Yeah, it does work out better for you.

    You are lucky there to not have many predators. Tons of predators around my neck of the woods. I have to be very careful free ranging.
     
  10. abbeycreamcat

    abbeycreamcat Out Of The Brooder

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    It's funny how you just take things for granted, we ARE lucky in the predator department. I only keep my babies locked up until they are old enough to not be inviting for the cats and big enough to not get left behind and lost down the paddock in the long grass. I don't even lock my chickens in at night.
    In 23 years here I have had my flock decimated once by a spotted quoll (about 10 years ago - I locked the few survivors in at night for a while after that!), and I have seen a hawk flying around maybe 3 or 4 times in all those years. My own cats, dogs and horses have caused more deaths than the local wildlife [​IMG]
     

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