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Swapping broody hens eggs for chicks - help!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Spinksy, Apr 30, 2017.

  1. Spinksy

    Spinksy In the Brooder

    Jul 21, 2016
    We've just bought some chicks to add to our flock. One of our hens is broody and has been sitting on (unfertilized) eggs for a couple of weeks. We've just removed the eggs and placed two of the new chicks under her hoping she'd take to them. Everything went fine, she fluffed herself up, adjusted her position (as though around the chicks) but then a few mins later the chicks are out from underneath her and she's ignoring them. They playfully pecked at her and she pecked right back! We've separated them now, just to be on the safe side. Is this normal behavior? Should we try again, give them more time to get used to each other or try to break the hens broody behavior?

  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Some hens will take chicks some won't. I have successfully stuff chicks under a broody and they stayed put, but I also had the hen hatch a few chicks of her own. Hens bond through the egg as the chicks peep during the last day and the hen answered them, so they are already familiar with each other.

    Others get away with stuffing them under at night, but that makes me uncomfortable as I'm often not there to supervise in the morning.

    Some chicks have no idea what a hen is and some hens haven't a clue about chicks. The longer you wait the less likely it will work as the chicks get older. Chicks should be as young as possible and definitely only a few days old at most.

    It all depends on how comfortable you are with the situation, and whether the hen is the type to raise anything. I always say, when in doubt brood them yourself.
  3. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Free Ranging Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    The few times I've done it, I've grafted them to the hen at night. I'll admit, I didn't worry about it enough to be there at daylight to make sure it all went well. I have never had a problem with it. I do agree that the younger the chick the better.
  4. chuckachucka

    chuckachucka Songster

    Mar 22, 2016
    Birmingham, England, UK.
    I have just successfully grafted two chicks to a broody and I think the process wasn't the usual but it worked so here is what happened:
    I tried what is recommended to put the chicks under her at night and take away the placeholder plastic eggs she had been sitting on for two weeks. Then I left her there and returned at daybreak. At this point I was so worried that I couldn't help lifting her up a bit to see if the chicks were alright and they moved enough for the hen to spot them. They were three days old at this point. Well, the hen saw them and started a low warning growl and then pecked at them quite aggressively and I panicked. I took them away and was distraught that it didn't work.however, someone suggested to me to keep trying and this is what I did.
    When the hen got up later in the morning as usual to relieve herself, I shut the door to the nest box where she had been sitting. Then I left her and the chicks together in the small run outside the coop. At first the hen paced outside the door, but then she tried to sit on the ground, and weirdly she kept moving closer to the chicks as they chirped and complained about the cold. However after moving next to them she continued to peck them. She even grabbed one by the beak and flung it away a few times as it tried to snuggle near her.
    I watched in terror while this happened, intervening to move the chicks away a couple of times when I got scared for them. But she kept moving close to them again. Eventually, with my encouragement, she let them hide under her chest. I left her there for a while and the next time the chicks emerged she did not peck them. Within a couple of hours she had accepted them, showing them the food etc. By the end of the day they had taken to her too.
    So I just want you to know that there is hope!

    It was a very stressful and risky process but I think if a hen really wants to be a mother then leaving chicks under her for a while at night and then, if she still isn't sure, making her see there is no chance of returning to the nest where she left her 'eggs' can work. Good luck with your chicks.
  5. Spinksy

    Spinksy In the Brooder

    Jul 21, 2016
    Thanks so much for the input. I'm worried that the chicks might be too old to graft now. Plus the broody hens behavior has changed, she was leaving the nesting box and last night slept in a roost. Going to see if we can break the broodiness instead. We lost 5 chicks in transit and don't want to risk losing any more. I never thought owning chickens would come with as much drama as a soap opera! [​IMG]
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Chances are that means she's already 'broken'.
    Took one look at those 'kids' and thought fahgetaboutit!! haha!

    It can be a dramatic PITA.
    1 person likes this.
  7. Spinksy

    Spinksy In the Brooder

    Jul 21, 2016

  8. Spinksy

    Spinksy In the Brooder

    Jul 21, 2016
    She's out and about now, causing a ruckus like nothing ever happened [​IMG] Never a dull moment with my girls! Love them [​IMG]

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