Upper limit of hen raising babies?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by PostCarbonPioneer, May 9, 2011.

  1. PostCarbonPioneer

    PostCarbonPioneer Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 5, 2011
    Hi all.

    I've got a hen who has just hatched out 4 eggs, and another big batch that just hatched out the incubator. The hen won that race. What I'm wondering is how many chicks I can put under the hen as an adoptive mother. It would be great if I could get all of them under her and not have to use the heat lamp. Apparently hen-raised chicks are so much tougher in constitution than brooder raised.

    The hen is a Barred Rock, full size. I've searched the forum, but haven't found any posts that address this issue.

    So, how many do you think? I'm willing to push the limit. They would be ground level after about a week, able to get outside and run around. I'd keep them inside for the first 5-7 days, just to acclimatize and such.

    PSP
     
  2. riftnreef

    riftnreef Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've had a Serma raise over a dozen chicks, but that was with some help from the other hens...that being said, a nice size BR could handle a dozen chicks, at least long enough for them to feather up and fend for themselves. You would be amazed how many hiding spots a momma hen has...under her wings alone can fit two or three chicks each...lol

    Now, that all being said, I wouldn't push it past 8-10 just for the chicks' sake. As they run out of room, they will likely start fighting each other, and there is a good chance of a smaller bird or three being pushed from the nest all together. HTH
     
  3. PostCarbonPioneer

    PostCarbonPioneer Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 5, 2011
    I've found a post here that said 18? Wow, would that be possible?
     
  4. riftnreef

    riftnreef Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've heard tales of even more than that...but again, what is possible, and what is optimal are two very different things...[​IMG]

    keep it around or under dozen to be safe.
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I had a Black Australorp raise 15 last summer. She could actually cover all of them for about a week and a half, but after that some had to spend time out from under her at night. I think they kind of push their way back under her when they get cold, but you would see some sleeping up on her at night. She did have a place to take them that was out of the wind. Drafts are not good. So for me in the summer with nights getting no lower than the mid-60's 15 was no problem. I would have tried 18, but the hatch was not as good as I had hoped.
     
  6. PostCarbonPioneer

    PostCarbonPioneer Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 5, 2011
    Thank you all for your replies. I have two hens that have come out of setting, and 26 chicks in all. That would make 13 each. From the replies here, I think I can do that. A baker's dozen !

    Thanx again !
     
  7. PostCarbonPioneer

    PostCarbonPioneer Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 5, 2011
    OK, I thought I would follow-up in case someone searched this question and wanted to know an experience.

    As my original post mentioned, I *had* 2 chickens, but one abandoned her nest early on and so I was left with a single hen. She hatched out 8 babies: 4 boys, 4 girls. The incubator was going along 1 week later than her.

    All these eggs were sex-linked, so I knew which were girls. I want only girls.

    Mother Biddy, a Barred Plymouth Rock, was outside in a confined small coop with her 8 chicks.

    I kept the 22 incubator chicks in the house for about 3 days. Then I took the 4 boys away from Biddy one at a time, substituting two girls for every boy, and waiting a bit between each substitution to observe. This brought her total up to 12. She seemed fine. The chicks took right to her. She totally covered them, even though I call her Biddy because she's kind of a mean hen--she pecks a lot when you try to get eggs from her, but I suppose that means she's a protective mother.

    So then I had 14 motherless chicks. I let them all go into her coop and watched. They all went to her, and she opened her wings and took them all in ! So she had 24 chicks.

    I watched her very carefully for that first day, and she never seemed mean or anything. She took them all right outside and they all followed, and she taught them scratching and all chicken things. When they got cold, she stopped and they all dove under her feathers, or they'd go back to the coop. I had them at a ground level coop, and a run that was very secure from predators all round and on top too.

    It was very funny to watch the huge family. The chicks would kind of flow after her in a stream, there were so many.

    At about 1.5 weeks, I put a heat lamp in the coop because she just wasn't big enough to keep them all warm. I noticed that about half would go sleep under the light, but it seemed there was constant movement--sometimes they would go back to touch base or something.

    At about 2.5 weeks I noticed that Biddy was sometimes by herself while the kids frolicked elsewhere. The design of my pen is that the chicks could go out through the fence but bigger chickens can't. So the babies would leave Biddy behind sometimes while they went out among the grass.

    At three weeks, one night I couldn't find her anywhere. I looked in the main coop with all the other adults, and there she was. I think at that point she had had it. I would too if I had to take care of 24 kids.

    By then the chicks were fine on their own. All slept under the light and they got along fine. Just today they are 3 months old and I've moved them into the main coop. They have their own separated spot in there for awhile while the rest of the flock gets used to them, and their own run outside. They figured out themselves how to roost up in the rafters.

    Since then I had another Barred Rock go broody and hatch out a batch of 10 Americaunas. She stayed with them for about 6 weeks faithfully, although for the last 2 weeks she wanted to roost away from them at night. I always found her and put her back with the chicks, and she mostly stayed with them all day. The last five days she was laying eggs again, and I decided that meant she was ready to return to the main coop. She didn't abandon them at all. I took her back to the coop one evening, petting her and telling her what a very very good mother she had been.

    PCP
     

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