Question about hatching chicks in the coop with adults

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by FarmerWife, Dec 28, 2011.

  1. FarmerWife

    FarmerWife Songster

    Oct 27, 2010
    Good Morning,
    I have a question about hatching chicks. We have had our 15 chickens for nearly 2 years, I'm not terribly experienced, so I don't know how long they will continue to lay eggs, I only have two roosters, had to re home the other three because they were too aggressive with the ducks, and nearly killed them. Is it safe for me to allow one or two of the chickens to hatch their eggs, and allow the chicks to remain in the coop with them all? Would it be better to pen the mama and her chicks while they grow a little? I am hoping some of you veteran chicken experts can help me, I don't want them to hatch, and be killed. Any advice you can give me will be appreciated, I plan to do this once the weather warms up, so if I need to make preparations, you can let me know. Thanks in advance, have a wonderful day.

    Blessings to you all,
    Dianna in NM

  2. ninabeast

    ninabeast Songster

    Apr 10, 2011
    Upstate New York
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging 9 Years

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    You are dealing with living animals so there are risks with whatever you do. Each chicken has its own personality and each flock has its own dynamics. We all keep them under different conditions. There is seldom one right answer that covers everybody. You will find that we do this a whole lot of different ways.

    Chickens have been hatching eggs and raising chicks with the flock for thousands of years and they are not extinct yet. Yes, there are risks with this and occasionally bad things happen, but bad things can happen if you separate them too. With chickens, there is no guarantee that one will go broody anyway. If you want chicks, you may need to get an incubator. That's just another example of how they are all different.

    If you decide to allow a hen to hatch in the coop with the flock, you need to make sure she is broody before you give her eggs. My test is that they have to spend two consecutive nights on the nest instead of roosting in their regular place. If they don't do this, they are just pretending and teasing.

    Collect all the eggs you want her to hatch, mark them (I use a Sharpie), and give them all to her at the same time. Then check under her daily to remove any new eggs that might show up. Different reasons for this. If you remove them daily, they are still good to eat. If they don't all start at the same time, you get a staggered hatch. The hen will take the first chicks off the nest and abandon unhatched eggs. If the number of eggs builds up so great she cannot cover them all, some will cool off and die.

    If you decide to separate her, you need to make a predator proof enclosure (might be in the coop) that contains a nest and room for feed, water, and for her to poop without messing up her nest. It seems to help if the nest is kind of dark, or at least not bright inside. Move her at night with as little commotion and light as possible. Give her a few fake eggs or possibly sacrificial eggs to see if she has accepted the new nest before you risk the good eggs. Keep her locked in this enclosure in solitary confinement until the eggs hatch. Do not give her a chance to go back to her old nest. Some people are successful in opening the area up after a few days and the hen sticks with the new nest, but this does not always work.

    When the chicks hatch, I let the hen decide when she wants to take them from the nest. Many people just leave them alone at this time, but I collect them and put them in an enclosure for a couple of days, just until the chicks learn to eat and drink. Then I open the door and let them mingle with the other chickens. Yes, bad things can happen, but usually Mama will vigorously protect her chicks if she needs to. I've never had a rooster bother chicks. A good rooster will protect all members of his flock and may even help Mama take care of the little ones, but not all roosters are good. Sometimes a hen will try to hurt the chicks, but usually Mama has such a bad attitude that they quickly learn not ot do that. One important thing. If you do lock Mama up, make sure the chicks cannot get through the fencing and mix with the rest of the flock where Mama cannot protect them.

    If you let Mama raise them with the flock, Mama takes care of integration. When she weans them, they will still be at the bottom of the pecking order and will have to work that part out for themselves as they mature, but basic integration is taken care of. if you raise them in isolation, you need to take care of integration.

    I think space is the big thing to consider in which way you go. If Mama has room to work, she will usually do a pretty good job. If your space is tight, it makes it harder for her. The other thing is your experiences. If you have had problems in the past, either because of the personality of a chicken or something with your set-up, you should let your experiences guide you.

    I wish you luck in getting a broody this spring so you have to decide which way to go.
  4. Judy

    Judy Crowing Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Excellent answer from Ridgerunner as usual.

    I've had broodies hatch about 6 batches of chicks, either in the coop, or in a room in the coop, with mama and chicks mixing in with the flock around day 2 or 3, when they were trying to get out of their pen. I won't raise them separately if I can avoid it, because then they will most likely need a separate grow out area from around 6 weeks (when mama is through with them) to near full size, around 4 months. Chicks raised with the flock are unlikely to have problems with the flock even after mama abandons them.

  5. FarmerWife

    FarmerWife Songster

    Oct 27, 2010
    [​IMG] Thank you all so much !! This information is great, and helped me so much. I love this site, hope it stays here always. Well, if all goes well, when it gets warm enough to allow for chicks, I'm going to give it a go. I only wish there were a way to tell what the eggs were going to be, lol ! I am wanting more hens than roosters. I thought about bringing in some hen chicks from a hatchery, but it's costly, and I figured it would be safer if they were from our own chickens. Anyway, thank you agai for this info, I have printed it up, so when the time comes, I can use it if I need it.

    Blessings to you all,
    Dianna in NM

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