Placing hatchery chicks under Broody Hens?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Bigwig, Jun 25, 2016.

  1. Bigwig

    Bigwig Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 8, 2015
    So hears the deal: I have 2 broody hens. I sold my roosters last year so none of my eggs are fertilized. Would it be possible to place day old, hatchery chicks under my hens? Would the hens accept the chicks? Would the chicks accept the hens?[​IMG]
  2. nikki1

    nikki1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 16, 2011
    Eatonville, WA
    I'm FAR from being an expert, but here is my very limited experience: I put 3 fertile eggs under my broody, and only one hatched. We went to the feed store and bought a second chick. I didn't want to set up a heat lamp just until dark when I wanted to put the chick in the nest, so the family took turns snuggling her until mom and other baby were asleep. When we put her in the nest, she was so used to snuggling that she immediately snuggled in. Mom treated her like her own hatchling. Here's what I think worked in our favor:
    1. Our mama bird had been sitting on eggs and was ready for babies. Might want to stick some wooden eggs under your broody for a while.
    2. We got a chick that had just arrived at the feed store from the hatchery, so was only about 3 days old. This probably made it more willing to accept mothering.
    3. I really think that few hours of snuggling made the chick more ready for mothering.
    4. Make the introduction in the dead of night, to make it seem less artificial.

    Any experts want to chime in? I've only done this once, but I'm sure there are experienced people out there.

    I hope this works out for you! It was sure nice to raise chicks without a messy old brooder (and chicks in the bathtub, but that's another story...), and since our hen was an established member of the flock, the babies were immediately accepted, even by our bossiest hens!
    1 person likes this.
  3. gemma24

    gemma24 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 4, 2016
    we tried to slip under two chicks this spring but our broody didn't accept them and one ended up with a broken wing then a few days late both of them died, but I have herd about a lot of times it worked out. read the thread I started about slipping chicks has a lot of good tips! and ask the feed store when they get there chicks in so the chicks will be tiny day olds. what breeds are the hens?
    1 person likes this.
  4. Bigwig

    Bigwig Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 8, 2015
    The younger one (who is about 4 years old) is a Speckled Sussex and the older one (who is about 5 years old) is a RIR - Columbian Rock Cross.
  5. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    It really all depends on the hens, and how long they have been broody for. If they have only been broody for a week, they will likely attack the chicks. If they have been broody for at least two or three weeks, discovering chicks underneath them would be a natural thing. The brooding hormones are strong enough, by that time, that their maternal instincts should kick in. However, having two broodies with chicks at the same time can be dangerous. A hen will decide which chicks are 'hers' and will attack any of the other chicks that wander over to her. And not all broody hens are good mothers.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  6. song of joy

    song of joy Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    It depends on the hen, how long she's been broody, and the age of the chicks. Make sure the hen has been broody for at least 2 weeks, and slip the day-old hatchery chicks under her at night. If she's never had chicks before (that is, she's not a proven mother), it helps to slip only 1 or 2 chicks under her initially and see how she reacts. If all is quiet an hour later and you don't hear distress peeps from the chicks (due to her pecking them), it would probably be safe to add the remaining chicks.

    I've tried this twice with hens who had no experience with mothering chicks. The first was with a buff orpington, who was renamed "the homicidal hen" and invited to dinner. She killed 2 of the 5 chicks I put under her; I rescued the 3 remaining chicks and raised them myself. The second attempt was with a black australorp. She accepted the foster chicks just fine and was a great mother. The homicidal hen was extremely territorial and would try to peck me when I reached under her. She had the same reaction to the foster chicks. The black australorp would puff up but never tried to peck me when I reached under her. She accepted the foster chicks. So, differences in the temperament of the hen can make a big difference in the outcome.

    As noted above, you're asking for trouble to have two broody hens together. I'd put a barrier between them before trying to foster any chicks, or break one from being broody.
    1 person likes this.
  7. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I agree with the last few posters. It's usually an easy thing to do, but no one can guarantee the hen will be a good momma. Course, you can't guarantee she'd be a good momma to her own biological chicks, either.

    Place the chicks around the 21 day mark, give or take. Trying to place them when she's not been broody very long doesn't allow the hormones to complete their cycle. You can fudge a few days either way, but it should be at least 2 weeks.

    I've grafted them both at night and during the day. Doesn't seem to make much difference.

    The nice thing about doing it this way is you can get sexed pullets, instead of 50% cockerels with fertile eggs [​IMG]
    1 person likes this.

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