surrogate hen's health is failing

spiceholler

Chirping
Sep 12, 2021
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I've got a hen who had been broody for nearly three months so we got her some chicks. They love her and she loves them and is a great caregiver, so much so that she is not taking care of her own needs, and has gotten very weak.

My surrogate and her chicks currently reside in a nursury situation adjacent to the coop so the other hens can see them. They have plenty of room to run around and get exercise.

The chicks are nearly two months old, so it's likely we've held her in the throws of motherhood too long. I've been concerned about free ranging the chicks too soon and the surrogate still seems very interested in caring for the chicks.

The last few days, I've removed the surrogate from the nursury and placed her in the field. The chicks call for her, but she just stands there, very weak and almost unable to walk. I'm worried that if I put her with the other adults they will attack her.

I need to get her strong again so she can return to her gal pals. Any recommendations on supplements I can give her to boost her strength?
 
I've got a hen who had been broody for nearly three months so we got her some chicks. They love her and she loves them and is a great caregiver, so much so that she is not taking care of her own needs, and has gotten very weak.

My surrogate and her chicks currently reside in a nursury situation adjacent to the coop so the other hens can see them. They have plenty of room to run around and get exercise.

The chicks are nearly two months old, so it's likely we've held her in the throws of motherhood too long. I've been concerned about free ranging the chicks too soon and the surrogate still seems very interested in caring for the chicks.

The last few days, I've removed the surrogate from the nursury and placed her in the field. The chicks call for her, but she just stands there, very weak and almost unable to walk. I'm worried that if I put her with the other adults they will attack her.

I need to get her strong again so she can return to her gal pals. Any recommendations on supplements I can give her to boost her strength?
Chicks should be without her way before around 4-8 weeks usually. Don't put her back if she doesn't regain weight. Mine broodies get back on normal weight in few weeks after chicks hatch but mine didn't sit 3 months. I would suggest to get her higher protein diet and not too much free range time untill you see she acts normal again. Good luck
 
Latest update.

My surrogate hen's health is just not improving. I've tried giving her electrolytes, hand feeding her all sorts of tasty treats to get her back on track, but she's still not ready to move out of the nursury area. She has trouble walking and balancing...her feet stumble on each other and look very scaly possibly due to mites which I'm working on.

I've made a small crack in the nursury so the pullets can get in and out and get used to the other hens. They are the most interesting chicks I've ever had...they really care about their mom. They only eat out of hand when she says it's ok. And each other. Usually, it's "every hen for herself", but not these kids. Every so often, another hen breaks in and attacks the surrogate, and her chicks come to her rescue. It's crazy.

They are so emotionally connected to their mom that I'm having trouble separating them. I feel like the surrogate might not make it and I want to cut the cord so to speak so the chicks can start more aggressive integration with the flock.
 
For the mites I would do an ivermectin treatment and not spend the time on Vaseline or DE treatment that isn’t as effective. For the rest of her problems, this hen should be separated from her attackers and you should continue to give her high protein food and electrolytes.

Being broody for 3 months before you gave her chicks was a big tax on her health. If she doesn’t survive I hope you take this as a lesson for next time.

If you have another broody, do not let her set for more than a month without a result. I would also not keep her and the chicks separated from the flock. The broody hen will manage integration, by separating them you have delayed that by 2 months and by your account that has impacted her health as well.
 
When was the last time she was wormed? Have you given her any vitamin supplements besides electrolytes? What % protein is her feed? I personally would worm her, put her on 20%+ protein crumble like a chick starter wet to a mash (if she isn't already on it) and give her Poultry Cell in a separate waterer (rooster booster brand usually at most farm stores).
 
For the mites I would do an ivermectin treatment and not spend the time on Vaseline or DE treatment that isn’t as effective. For the rest of her problems, this hen should be separated from her attackers and you should continue to give her high protein food and electrolytes.

Being broody for 3 months before you gave her chicks was a big tax on her health. If she doesn’t survive I hope you take this as a lesson for next time.

If you have another broody, do not let her set for more than a month without a result. I would also not keep her and the chicks separated from the flock. The broody hen will manage integration, by separating them you have delayed that by 2 months and by your account that has impacted her health as well.
Yes, we obviously know this now, that's why we re-configured the coop with a separate brooding area (that can double as a nursury) to more quickly move the hens through any broody periods. (We've had the most success relieving broodiness by removing access to all nesting boxes.) We also now have access to fertilized eggs if it comes to that.

Just want to make sure I understand your advice.
1. separate the chicks from their surrogate.
2. keep the surrogate separate from the flock and continue with the electrolytes. We'll pick up some chick food and put her on that.

Can you help me figure out where to get the Invermectin? I can only find horse ones?

Thanks so much for your advice.
 
Yes, we obviously know this now, that's why we re-configured the coop with a separate brooding area (that can double as a nursury) to more quickly move the hens through any broody periods. (We've had the most success relieving broodiness by removing access to all nesting boxes.) We also now have access to fertilized eggs if it comes to that.

Just want to make sure I understand your advice.
1. separate the chicks from their surrogate.
2. keep the surrogate separate from the flock and continue with the electrolytes. We'll pick up some chick food and put her on that.

Can you help me figure out where to get the Invermectin? I can only find horse ones?

Thanks so much for your advice.
I’m trying to say that in the future a broody and her chicks should not be separated from the flock. No nursery is needed and in this case it has delayed integration and is contributing to the aggression issue.

The ivermectin I use is the Pour On Cattle Dewormer. For a full size hen I use 3 drops on the back of her neck, then repeat the dose after 2 weeks. Be sure not to eat her eggs until a week or more after treatment.
 
I’m trying to say that in the future a broody and her chicks should not be separated from the flock. No nursery is needed and in this case it has delayed integration and is contributing to the aggression issue.

The ivermectin I use is the Pour On Cattle Dewormer. For a full size hen I use 3 drops on the back of her neck, then repeat the dose after 2 weeks. Be sure not to eat her eggs until a week or more after treatment.
it was a tough choice we know, but we did not feel safe integrating a weak hen who could not protect her chicks. they are now big enough to defend themselves, and yes, our hen's health has declined as a result. after the chicks were 1.5 months old, we tried letting them and "mom" free range, but found her severely beaten up by her flock members so we've been proceeding with caution.

to be clear, the nursury area is technically separate, but actually integrated into the coop in full view of the flock. their sleeping quarters are part of the main coop, separated by a chicken wire partition. for the past two weeks, the chicks have been able to enter and leave the separate fenced area freely.

today we permanently separated the chicks from their surrogate. I noticed a little more motility in the hen, but she is still panting and having trouble walking. she responds well to hand feeding, but this is not sustainable nor natural.

day one, surrogate sleeps in isolation, chicks sleep in nursury box
day two, pop chicks onto the roost in the main coop. surrogate continues healing in nursury.

I will pick up some dewormer today and start treatment asap.
 
so our surrogate hen had a good week a few weeks ago, layed 3 eggs, was walking well, running even, then a few days later she seems to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed and she has had trouble lifting up her neck. Ugh. Her appetite is good, but her mobility is bad. She was doing so good. It just looks like her days are numbered. It's a hard choice, even harder that her surrogates have such a strong bond with her and sit by her side almost protecting her. I know she is in pain, as she grunts when I pick her up.

I'm torn. On the one hand I don't want this hen to suffer any longer. On the other, I'm worried about the little ones and their loss. I don't want to worry as I know that is not part of what I signed up for. Death is a part of this endeavor, I suppose I'm having more trouble accepting it.
 
For the mites I would do an ivermectin treatment and not spend the time on Vaseline or DE treatment that isn’t as effective. For the rest of her problems, this hen should be separated from her attackers and you should continue to give her high protein food and electrolytes.

Being broody for 3 months before you gave her chicks was a big tax on her health. If she doesn’t survive I hope you take this as a lesson for next time.

If you have another broody, do not let her set for more than a month without a result. I would also not keep her and the chicks separated from the flock. The broody hen will manage integration, by separating them you have delayed that by 2 months and by your account that has impacted her health as well.
ok. so I want to be clear on your instructions as we have another broody and have chicks arriving soon.

our plan is to first move her into "the dog house" cozy with straw at dusk then after an hour or so, slip the new chicks under her. this technique worked very well for the other broody.

then, in the morning, let them have some time together in a protected area near the other hen's coop.

should we wait 1-2 days (or another duration) before integrating, OR integrate right away, thereby making the new chicks and surrogate free range from the get go?

appreciate your guidance!
 

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