Separating Momma Hen from her chicks

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by krista74, Nov 3, 2014.

  1. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Folks

    I had been considering removing my Momma Hen from her four chicks who are now 5 1/2 weeks old and reintegrating her with the main flock (3 hens and 1 rooster). The Momma Hen and the chicks have been living in a sectioned off corner of the main coop where the flock could still see them. However, I was advised against removing Momma Hen by the good folk here on these boards, on the basis that it would not be good for Momma Hen to be able to see her babies through the wire partition, but not be able to get to them, and she (and the chicks) might get distressed.

    I now feel my hand is being forced to do just that though. When I went out to the coop to feed, water and clean this morning, I found that Momma Hen was turning on her chicks. Any time they came near her (even before I dropped feed in for them) she would give them quite a vicious peck. At one point, she was chasing them down specifically to peck at them. I understand that this is normal behaviour, but am surprised it has happened so soon.

    I immediately removed Momma Hen from the pen and straight away the chicks quietened down and went about their chickie business. Momma Hen was taken outside to the main flock where she did not receive a very warm welcome. All of the birds were ok with her - particularly the rooster who was VERY PLEASED to see her (you can read between the lines there, lol) - except for one bird, who was pecking at her viciously, and chasing her up and down the run.

    I picked up Momma Hen and have now put an apron on her to give her some protection. She has places up high that she can escape to, and is presently sitting in a nest box - for which purpose I am not sure. She is a RIR so maybe she is considering laying again? Or maybe she is just looking for a safe place to hide. Either way, she is not pining for her chicks as I was worried she might. She does go and look in on them from time to time but is quiet and does not seem distressed.

    So....Have I done the right thing? I can pop her back in again at night if need be, but I'm not 100% sure she wants to be with them OR the flock, lol. Any thoughts or suggestions?

    Thanks,

    - Krista
     
  2. iwiw60

    iwiw60 Overrun With Chickens

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    That one hen that is pecking at her should calm down in a day or two, good idea though by putting on an apron on your broody hen.
     
  3. Summertime7921

    Summertime7921 Out Of The Brooder

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    I just always put mama hens and their chicks in with the flock together a couple days after hatch. That way they are integrated into the flock Bc the mom protects them so I don't have to.
    Yours are way older though so I'm not sure what would happen. You could try putting mom and chicks with the flock, and she might stand up for herself more, so as to protect her brood. Definitely keep watch if you try that though.
     
  4. Aphrael

    Aphrael Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sounds like she was good and ready to "wean" them. I think you've done exactly the right thing. The one hen picking on her is because she was separated from them for so long, and now they have to re-sort the pecking order. Things should calm down within a few days as @iwiw60 said above.
     
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  5. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    The hens are settling the pecking order thing. She will not protect the chicks if you put them with the flock now. She started pecking the chicks she is done taking care of them.
     
  6. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'd love to put the chicks out there with the flock too, but we have a cat and I am 100% sure she would kill them if they ever strayed from their Momma's side.

    Her chicks should be ok though - they are in a pen which adjoins a second pen which contains another broody hen with her four (10 day old chicks.) The set-up is such that all of the chicks can pop back and forth through the wire separator to visit with the Broody Hen (strangely she doesn't seem to mind them) and they can also socialise with the smaller chicks.

    My hope would be to let the second Broody raise her chicks until they are about 5 weeks old too, then let her re-join the main flock and I will keep a pen of mixed aged chicks, until such time that they are all fully feathered out and big enough to integrate with the flock. Being that there will be 8 of them all together and only 5 full grown hens in the flock, I'm hoping that outnumbering the existing flock will work in their favour!

    I had been getting the feeling that the Momma Hen was tiring of her chicks this past week, and actually posted a thread about it under the Raising Chicks Forum a couple of days ago. Her chicks seem to be very demanding (as all kids can be!) and were constantly peeping at her and jumping on top of her. She always looked like she was torn between loving them and wanting to get the heck out of there!

    I have just checked on her and she seems to be ok. She is still outside with the main flock (three hours later) and I have only seen her pop into the coop once. I suspect she may well just go up to roost with the other hens and the rooster tonight and not want to go back to her chicks. I'm sure they will be ok though - they have a warm nest to sleep in with lots of hay, and there are 4 of them in there to snuggle up with each other. We are in Spring here at the moment so it's not that cold at night anymore anyway, and they are about 80% feathered out.

    I checked on the chicks before too. They are MUCH quieter than usual, just meandering in between 'their' pen and the one with the Broody Momma and chicks next door. I think everything is ok.....

    - Krista
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2014
  7. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    All of my girls wear aprons as a standard now - except the Broody Hens, who don't need them whilst they are separated from the flock.

    I only have 5 hens all together (not counting chicks obviously) and one very 'active' 11 month old cockerel.

    He has systematically removed every feather off my girl's backs from treading. Not that he is rough with them - far from it. He's just mounting them A LOT.

    I find that the aprons at least give their delicate skin a little bit of protection from his claws when he holds on to them. The added bonus is it will give that girl in particular a bit of protection from her flock mates too.

    My intention would be to keep all of the chicks which turn out to be pullets. I *think* I may have 3 out of the 8 who are girls. If it doesn't work out that way, there are definite plans in place to acquire at least 4 more POL pullets to keep my cockerel occupied.

    - Krista
     
  8. Aphrael

    Aphrael Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Once he gets a little older he should settle down somewhat as well. I've found with mine that they seem to have testosterone poisoning until they hit around a year or a little older. After that they settle down quite a lot. (Those that don't get a one way ticket to freezer camp. [​IMG])
     
  9. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm glad to hear that. Those poor hens just can't get a break from him!

    Actually, today I ordered a special hen apron with shoulder protectors as well. One of my girls has not only a bare back, but terribly sore looking wings too. Hopefully that will help her to feel better. She is obviously his favourite girl!

    It's late in the evening here now, and I just went and checked the coop to make sure everyone went up to roost. I was worried that the Momma Hen wouldn't be allowed to roost, or that the call of her chicks would upset her.

    Looks like she is starting to settle in though. She is on the very top roost, next to the girl who has been relentlessly attacking her all day! I don't get it, lol. I wonder what will happen in the morning when the wake up and look at each other?!

    Her chicks have all put themselves to bed in their nest too. They are in a cuddle-puddle to keep warm.

    I am thinking everything looks like it will turn out ok.......

    - Krista
     
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    How are you going to integrate the chicks with the rest of the flock?
    Why not just let the broodies integrate their chicks into the flock while they are still under her protection?
     

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