Older Hens Killing Chicks

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by superchemicalgirl, May 10, 2011.

  1. superchemicalgirl

    superchemicalgirl HEN PECKED

    Jan 10, 2010
    Vacationland, Maine
    Let me preface this by saying: please do not attack me. I have tried and I continue to try and do the right thing.

    My first broody hatched 3 eggs out in the coop in sub-zero temps this winter and took care of them quite well. They were separated from the rest in a cage for about 2 weeks, then they were free to roam the coop (and outside run when they dared).

    Then my banty went broody and hatched chicks about 3 weeks ago. She's been taking care of them with only about a week in caged confinement in the coop, the rest of the time they've been out in the run/coop with the rest of my girls and rooster. Until 2 days ago the chicks were small enough to go through the fence and she'd fly over and they'd spend most of the day ranging in my yard.

    Then about 10 days after the banty hatched I had a GLW and the bottom-of-the-pecking-order phoenix hatch 1 chick each. The GLW was my original winter broody, and did a great job. She spent the first 2 days in the nest box then came out to be with the rest of the chickens. Because my phoenix is small, timid and at the bottom of the pecking order, she got a protected cage in the coop for her chick. A few days later I came home to find the GLWs chick dead in the coop. I wasn't sure what happened (obviously, I wasn't home). This weekend I let the phoenix and her chick out of their cage (but I took them outside the run to roam the yard). She got into some fights with the banty mom that were slightly vicious and I separated them in the yard and had no further issues. Today I went to work and let the phoenix and her chick roam the chicken run (the chick can fit through the fence and the mom can fly over) only because it was rainy and windy... and I figured everyone would be ok. Not so much. Came home today to the phoenix's chick dead (and this time definitely bloody and pecked) in the run.

    So obviously I have a lot of questions and concerns.

    What was I (or the mom) doing right previously to avoid chick death?

    What can I do to further protect the chicks that hatch? Keeping them in a cage in the coop seems to not be right to me, the mom is always knocking the water and food over scratching around and the cage gets pretty small quickly with growing chicks who have ever increasing energy as they age.

    I had read that allowing moms to raise their chicks in the coop allowed for better integration and less fighting - but this is evidently not the case now that death has happened twice.

  2. emys

    emys Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 19, 2008
    The chick may have been on one side of the fence and the mother on the other? I know she can fly over, but I doubt very much that she could have thought of that at the time.

    Sorry your chick got killed. (Question is who did it? Would be nice to know.)
  3. superchemicalgirl

    superchemicalgirl HEN PECKED

    Jan 10, 2010
    Vacationland, Maine
    I thought of that, but the mom was in the run when I got home (as opposed to running around outside like a crazy hen). The chick was kindof sprawled half in the run and half under the fence/out of the run.

    No idea who is doing the killing... I know the first mom who lost her chick tried to steal this chick when I opened the cage to add food/water the day that GLW lost her chick. I doubt that's what happened today. I do know my speckled sussex always plays the intruder police whenever a new addition is added to the coop, but this chick was out over the weekend and I saw no one after it when it happened to wander through the fence into the run.

    The only other thought is I do add bowls of food outside the run so the small chicks have access and maybe the chick was between the girls and the food and they could reach through and get the chick instead (but not reach the food?) ...

    The banty's chicks are mostly too big to get through the fence (one can still barely squeeze through, probably not tomorrow) but banty is good at flying over the fence, maybe she killed the chick?

    I don't know, I could think of a million things that probably didn't happen.

    I always thought broody moms would do anything to protect their chicks. Guess I was wrong.

    Does anyone else let their broodies raise the chicks in with the rest of the population?
  4. Erica

    Erica Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 5, 2010
    I hope this isn't unduly negative but... What you were doing right earlier was being lucky. [​IMG]

    Sorry, it's just what chickens are like — sometimes they seem to accept other hens' babies near them; other times they don't. Occasionally they may seem fine for a while and then something snaps.

    On 100% free range it would be a different story as the territory wouldn't be so fiercely guarded. But of course free range is even worse for losing babies... As for chicks being able to escape through the mesh, unfortunately when they're in a panicked state they don't tend to take the obvious option.

    I'm very sorry about your bubs. It's distressing when chicks die and you're doing the right thing by asking about it.

    best wishes
  5. Wildflower_VA

    Wildflower_VA Chillin' With My Peeps

    Is it possible to run a piece of hardware cloth, with mesh too small for the chicks to go through, along the bottom of the fence just where you need to keep the babies away from the other hens? I'm not quite visualizing your set-up, but it seems you have to keep the babies in with the broody and away from the other chickens large enough to kill them. Not really caged, but an area where the babies can be with mom, but can't get through to the other chickens.

    I am taking all this in. My first batch of six Australorps will be about 14 weeks old when I get 10 to 12 day-old Welsummers from a breeder--not a hatchery--the first week of June. I have re-planned my coop(s) and run(s) many times, but then I read something like this and I know I need to go back to the drawing board. This year I am buying chicks, but plan to let nature take its course and let the broody hens do the job next spring. Thanks for sharing.

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