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Should a murderous mother get a second chance?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by splady, Aug 8, 2013.

  1. splady

    splady In the Brooder

    Aug 3, 2011
    Saturday was hatching day. I went out to check how my broody hen was doing, as I was sure I'd heard the sound of a chick out it's shell a couple of hours before. I couldn't resist temptation and lifted her slightly to try to see the chick. I noticed blood on the eggs and then the poor baby, not even dry, beside the nesting box with her brains pecked out. As this was her first ever chick, it's unlikely that this one was killed because of a defect.

    The rest of the eggs then went into an incubator and now I have seven healthy chicks. The mother, however, is still broody.

    I tried adding the chicks to a three week old clutch, but the mother rejected them. Do you think it's worth giving them another shot with their murderous mother? They're now five days old.

    They are happy enough in the dog crate with a brooder, but without a mother they'll not be able to free range around the garden for quite some time. Is a bad mother better than no mother at all?

  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Crowing

    Apr 8, 2013
    Never. It's a very, very strong trait, a massive twisted distortment of a powerful instinct. No mother at all is a better mother than a bad one, in my experience. Some chicks are smart enough to abandon bad mothers, no matter the chick's age. Some are smart enough to adopt themselves out to another hen.

    Bad mothers don't become good ones. I would cull her. If bred, she'll pass it on. I've had hens like her before. In nature, sick babies are not usually killed --- more often they're left behind to die. Killing the sick risks catching any transmittable disease they might have. Hens do not naturally kill sick hens in the wild, either. Attacking to drive them away is normal but outright killing, no.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2013
    1 person likes this.
  3. ChirpyChicks1

    ChirpyChicks1 Songster

    Jul 22, 2013
    I wouldn't give her another chance. I'd force her to stop sitting personally
  4. springchicken10

    springchicken10 In the Brooder

    Apr 28, 2013
    Hi Chooks, I may have the same bad mom problem. I had eleven eggs. One was very warm and a small part of the shell came off. There was black dense color under the membrane, certainly a live chick. Then the next day this egg was COMPLETELY gone, not even shells. There are other chickens in that coop so I don't know what happened or who did it. Now there's another clutch. Can I take thew chicks out immediately after they hatch? Do they need the hen at all? Thanks!
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    At 5 days, you're already past the window to add chicks, I'd think. I also would not risk it. I wouldn't let her brood again. Unfit or cannibalistic mothers of any species have a pretty short life on my little acre.
  6. locoguru

    locoguru Chirping

    Mar 28, 2013
    Aye, sounds like chicken soup to me.
  7. chickydee64

    chickydee64 Songster

    Jan 8, 2013
    If so many days had not passed, I would say give it a try while you were watching.
    I did have a first time mom kill the first chick.. she was frantic, but then settled down and did fine with the rest....................
    I have read the time period for them to accept the Mom is 4 days.............soooooooooooooo
    might be to risky. Sorry this happened to you but sounds like you did GOOD..................[​IMG]

  8. chooks4life

    chooks4life Crowing

    Apr 8, 2013
    Quote: Sounds to me like that damaged egg likely produced either an unready chick which would have died, or the mother tried to clean up the busted egg and killed it by accident. Even proven mothers might peck at a busted egg. Generally once the shell's integrity is compromised before the chick naturally starts hatching, even if the chick's mere hours away from pipping the shell, it will often die. Interestingly cage breeders of budgies patch the shell with great success. I need to look into how they do that, though, and it may not work the same for poultry.

    Non broody hens (particularly commercial layer breeds) are great culprits for consuming chicks as they hatch, especially if they've ever eaten eggs; some will peck at any egg with a compromised shell, hoping for yolk, and if a bleeding chick is the result they might eat that too. If one chicken runs around with something it thinks is a meal dangling from its beak, even if it's not edible other chooks might get excited enough to steal it and eat it regardless. Some chooks are not that smart compared to others.

    I wouldn't blame the mother in this case, but I'd watch her closely. If she ate the chick I'd consider it a possible warning sign but if she carried it away or a predator like a rat ate it, or another chook, then obviously she wasn't at fault. None of my mother hens have eaten chicks, even when the baby died for whatever reason; even those bad mothers that killed chicks did not eat the whole thing --- just the eyes and brains.

    Some mothers will eat the shells, yolks and whites from damaged eggs, others just carry the whole egg away from the nest. Less instinctive mothers will just continue sitting on busted eggs and this tends to kill the others through sealing the healthy eggs shut or bringing infection.

    As for whether or not chicks need the mothers, I reckon it's much better to naturally raise them. They will pick up immunities from her, as well as learn to socialize normally, and have reinforced instincts about what dangerous things look like. Also she'll teach them what to eat, help them eat things that are too big for them by breaking them up smaller, protect them so as older chicks they don't have a trial by fire when introduced to the rest of the flock, and the females among the chicks will be more likely to be better mothers than if separated and raised without a hen. Of course, the future roosters among the chicks will also benefit, and are more likely to grow up respectful of the females and tolerant of eachother. Any reduction of violence in the flock is a good thing. ;)

    When she picks up objects to feed to them, she will transmit saliva on them which will help their intestinal flora and fauna --- which is almost immeasurably beneficial. Even humans on probiotic supplements live shorter lives than others, with much more illness, when their intestinal microorganisms are depleted or damaged. Some antibiotics permanently eradicate vital micro-flora & fauna from our guts, and the same is true of animals. The more natural the rearing, the better. It's long been known that chicks raised with their mothers cope far better with cocci than artificially reared ones.
    Edit: I should specify: when the chicks eat objects with their mother's saliva on them, they are picking up her flora and fauna and this helps colonize their guts and enables them to keep disease under control and digest food efficiently.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2013
    1 person likes this.
  9. springchicken10

    springchicken10 In the Brooder

    Apr 28, 2013
    Thank you for that detailed reply. I guess I'll let the chicks hatch and start to get raised right where they are, a box that all the chickens have access to. And see how they do.
  10. chooks4life

    chooks4life Crowing

    Apr 8, 2013
    Quote: You're welcome and I hope at least something in it helps.

    One thing to consider though is that chicks need different fats and protein balances than adult birds so they should be having a different feed. But since commercial layers are prone to getting too fat or slowing egg production when not kept on a certain diet, the pellets manufactured for them are quite lean and they tend to crave additional protein and fats and will be quite keen on the chick's food.

    For all their sakes it may be a good idea to have a little cage the mother hen can feed her chicks separately in where the other birds can't raid all the food.

    If you have an undiscovered baby killer among your flock, but allow all birds access to them, you may find out the hard way, too.

    Whether you feed them crumble and pellets or, like me, feed them premixed grain with other sources of protein, chicks generally need slightly different feeds to adults, with more protein and fat, which the adults often like more than their own feed. Sorry if you already knew, trying to be helpful... Anyway, best wishes with your flock.

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