Question about keeping newly hatched chicks with flock.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Smittenroade, Mar 31, 2011.

  1. Smittenroade

    Smittenroade Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Can you keep chicks that hatched from their mother with the rest of the flock? I have a hen sitting right now on eight eggs. When they hatch will they be set into the pecking order or what? It is currently a flock of 3 hens and a rooster. Will the mother protect them from the other hens and rooster? Or wha? [​IMG]
     
  2. calicokat

    calicokat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 2, 2009
    azalia, indiana
    It's best to seperate them from the flock with momma bird if you can. The rest of the flock will try to hurt them.

    We've used large pet taxis to start with and then graduate them up to a large dog kennel/cage. At about 2 or 3 weeks, if the weather is nice, we start taking the crate or cage outside for field trips to the outside world. Once they are about 4 weeks old, we move the kennel/cage into the coop. That way they are still safe with momma, but can begin to see the big gals, and the big gals can get to know them too. Their outside field trips are more like free ranging afternoons by now with mom close by.

    Of course, that's presuming that you have a good momma who is keeping an eye on them and protecting them from the rest of the flock. Our one mom stayed with the babies for about 8 weeks before she gave them the "come to Jesus" talk and sent them off on their own. The other mom kept her brood around for 3 months or more - they were like a little mini flock.
     
  3. Smittenroade

    Smittenroade Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you! Answered my question perfectly. Much appreciated. [​IMG]
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Hens have been raising chicks with the flock for thousands of years, even before they were domesticated. Some people, for good reasons, separate the broody and her chicks from the flock. There are risks and advantages both ways. I think how much room Mama has to work with is an important issue, but there are other things involved. They are living animals with their own personality. No one can tell you how your chickens will react to the situation. We can give you our experiences both ways and maybe help you, but it is ultimately your decision.

    I personally prefer Mama to take care of their integration issues. To me that is worth all the other risk, but then I have a lot of space to work with. The chicks still have to work out their own pecking order issues, but they have to do that anyway and that does not come into play until long after Mama has weaned them.

    Some flocks have chickens in them that will seek out and destroy young chicks. It is almost always a hen but it is possible a rooster will do this. A good broody will defend her chicks and teach the aggressive chicken some facts of life, whether it is a hen or rooster. Most broodies have such a bad attitude that the other chickens soon learn to give them a wide berth, but not all broodies are good defenders. I don't think anyone can truly predict how yours will be. If they have enough room, most broodies will keep their chicks away from the flock most of the time to cut down on these chances for conflict.

    Most flocks do not have chickens in them that will seek out and destroy young chicks. This does not mean the chicks are perfectly safe, but it does make Mama's life easier. You still have the pecking order issues. These young chicks are at the bottom of the pecking order. That is just the way it is. As long as they stay away from the other chickens, that is not a big deal. But a chicken higher in the pecking order has to defend her position or lose it. Chicken etiquette requires that a chicken lower in the pecking order does not invade the personal space of another chicken higher in the pecking order without putting itself at risk. If the higher ranking chicken feels insulted that this lower ranking chicken would invade its personal space (They do not always react this way, just when they feel they need to enforce discipline) the higher ranking chicken pecks the lower ranking chicken, the lower ranking chicken immediately realizes it breached etiqutte, and runs away in shame. The incident is over with and life is again peaceful in the flock.

    Where all this relates to the chicks is that the chicks are definitely lower in the pecking order. I have seen a two week old chick leave Mama's protection and go stand by a grown chicken at the feeder and eat. Sometimes the older chicken will ignore the young intruder, but sometimes it pecks the chick to remind it that it has broken the proper chicken etiquette by daring to eat with its betters. The chick runs and flaps back to Mama as fast as it can go. The Mama hen ignores this. This is a different situation than a hen seeking out to destroy a chick. I guess it takes a flock to teach a chick proper etiquette. Where the danger comes in in all this is that the discipline peck is a hard peck delivered by a much bigger hen to a small chick. It is not intended to injure the chick and usually it does not, but it can injure or kill the chick. Another risk is that the chick is trapped against a fence or in a corner and cannot get away. The older hen is really insulted by this young intruder not leaving her personal space and really goes after the chick. Again, having enough room is important.

    Many people think roosters are a big danger to chicks. Not mine. I have never seen a rooster discipline a chick for invading its personal space. I have had the situation where a Mama hen went out of a gate and turned back along the fence before all the chicks follower her out. The result was the Mama was on one side of the fence and several of her chicks were on the other side. None of them had any concept of go to the gate. I had one broody that did this several times that I saw her and she only had 4 chicks. Dumb, dumb, dumb broody! Anyway, when this happened, the rooster would go to the chicks that were separated and lay down, watching them. He was there to protect the chicks until Mama could work it out. I swear the third or fourth time I saw this, he just went over, laid down, and sort of sighed "Not again!". A lot of roosters would not do this, but some will. They all are different. And none of the other hens came over to attack the defenseless chicks when this happened.

    Other people can truthfully tell you stories of how other hens or maybe a rooster have killed chicks with a broody. I cannot predict what will happen in your case.

    The way I do it is, after the Mama hen brings her babies off the nest, I put them in isolation for a couple of days so Mama can teach the young ones how to eat and drink. I find the young chicks learn this best if they are not competing with the older hens. But after a couple of days, I let them loose with the flock.

    I wish you good luck however you decide to do it.
     
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  5. Smiles-N-Sunshine

    Smiles-N-Sunshine Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I let the mamas handle it, as well. They're much better than me at reading chicken body language and taking appropriate action. I suggest keeping the broody palace open and available for several days after "first contact", so mama can take them to safety if need be.

    Bryan
     
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  6. Smittenroade

    Smittenroade Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Priceless information, thank you very much! I think I will feel it out at first, and if I need to seperate them I will. [​IMG]
     
  7. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I guess I'm just lazy [​IMG] I don't want to do any more work for them than I have to. If a hen is willing to brood, chances are excellent she'll defend those babies. The older hens might peck at the babies in a "get out of my way" way, but momma will intervene if the big girls start to be too hard on the babies. Plus, this way you don't have to worry about integrating the half-grown chicks back into the flock. They'll just grow up lower in the pecking order, after momma "weans" them, and gradually find their place. Way less trauma, far as I'm concerned. Plus, I don't have to feed/water/clean a seperate bunch of birds. Lazy!
     
  8. DillardHome

    DillardHome Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I agree with the above replies in regards to letting the Mama & babies being amongst the flock. I personally have had positive experiences with this.

    One time a baby chick came and took some food from our head roo, and he just looked at her in surprise and then he went along his merry way. I have never had a problem. Granted I've seen some of my hens attempt to peck a chick but Mama is not one to stand by she is a small bantam with a big attitude - fiesty, fiesty, fiesty [​IMG].

    Mine all free range during the day so there is plenty of room to keep the peace. I am actually about the introduce a broody with her three chicks tomorrow, the babies just hatched Tuesday but as RIDGERUNNER said I like to give them a couple days to learn some basic skills from Mama first with no distractions. I did wait a couple extra days because the weather has been rainy, windy & cool I just figure the flock will be in a better mood with nicer weather this weekend.

    To each their own, not all chickens are the same. Just try and see what works. [​IMG]
     
  9. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    IMO, Ridgerunner nailed it. I'm finding that are very large dog crate within the coop works well for housing mama hen and her chicks. I can lock it to give mama peace, free from flock hassles just before and immediately after hatch. Gives the broody a few days to get comfortable in her new role as Mama too. My broodies have so far made it very clear to me when they are ready to bring the chicks out to meet the flock. After they do and I'm there to see everything goes well, I leave the crate door open so the chicks have a place to escape to if things get too rough for them.

    The only problems I've run into - First, don't trust meaties around chicks. They're too food oriented and too large. The other problem I ran into was with one of my silkie hens picking on the chicks. Didn't take long for the chicks to get larger than the silkie though and now she sings a different tune. [​IMG]

    Both of my roosters have been fine with the chicks, especially the rooster in charge of the coop the chicks live in. He's their babysitter and is very gentle with them.
     
  10. bakerjw

    bakerjw Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I had my first broody last year and that was my first experience with chick integration. She decided to start sitting on eggs in one of the egg boxes in the coop that I was using at the time. It was probably too small for 8 hens but they managed and she tolerated everything like a little trooper. she wasn't ever aggressive with us other than pucking incessantly whenever we were in the coop checking on her or the eggs. Overall they were a well managed flock with virtually no infighting or pecking.

    Finally the magic day came that I went out to check and see how her and the eggs were doing and I heard peeping sounds underneath of her. A couple of chicks had hatched and more were on the way so I whisked her and the eggs/peeps off to a brooder/nesting box in the garage. Seven of the 11 eggs hatched and the chicks did fine with their momma hen. After a week or so I was running out of brooder space so I had to see if I could get them all back together.

    With the help of my son we decided to see if Broody #1 would be protective of her chicks with her old flock. We put her back in the run and the other girls came running to see what was happening (i.e. did the house roosters have food?) Broody #1 went on a kick butt and take names assault through the run. I surmise that her chicks were missing and she was aggressive to the other hens with a perception that may have taken them. As soon as we brought the chicks up and put them out she came running to them and became a protective mother hen. I didn't get video of it but it was certainly one of the most adorable sights I've ever seen. For a while when any of the other hens would get near she'd chase them with no uncertainty of what was going to happen if they harmed her chicks.

    After 3 weeks she lost interest in the chicks and I put them in a caged pen inside of the coop along with some other chicks that I had hatch out on me. I felt that it would be good to ensure that they weren't total strangers to the girls since they would eventually be integrated with their flock. That integration is a different story completely. The girls did not like those chicks at all but we eventually worked through that issue.

    Sooooo... in my opinion it is good to keep a broody hen in contact with her flock. She knows them and they know her. I plan on building a broody cage or 2 to go into my coops to make this easier in the future. That way I can ensure that a broody has water and food readily available and is still visible to the rest of the flock. I also plan on keeping the hen and chicks penned up for at least a week after hatching. When I start integrating I will put the hen out in the run first to let her establish herself although this may not always work with low order hens. I also keep a circle of chicken wire around to use as a corral to keep warring factions separated and this can be used to do a gentle integration if needed. Then I will bring out the chicks to be with momma and let them get the lowdown on how to stay with momma. I've seen my gentle chickens get quite violent with other chickens for reasons that only a chicken would understand so I don't quite trust their motives.

    I also keep crackers hidden from the girls but readily available in case they are needed as a distraction. My girls will drop anything that they are doing for a cracker.

    I wouldn't try an integration like this if a rooster is involved.
     

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