What is the reason adult chickens kill babies?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Chicabee19, Sep 1, 2008.

  1. Chicabee19

    Chicabee19 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 8, 2008
    n/a
    My question evolved after reading lots of threads about taking newborn chicks away from where other chickens roam as soon as they hatch.

    Why do adult chickens kill babies? Aren't they 'companion' animals used to living in a large community? [​IMG]
     
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    It is quite common among animals for adults to kill young ones that are not their own. An argument can be made for the natural-selection value of this (it's not in an individual's best genetic interest to have the world filled with *other* peoples' offspring). An argument can be made for 'maybe they're just not bright enough to reflect on why they *shouldn't* kill 'em if they're not, like, hormonally bonded with 'em'. Personally, I would bet on "some of both explanations".

    Anyhow, point is, lots and lots and lots of other critters do it, not just chickens. Maternal instincts to defend offspring get at least as much of a workout versus members of the mother's own species as against predators.

    (e.t.a. - chickens' wild ancestors, jungle fowl, do NOT naturally live in anything like the population densities or degree of confinement that domestic chickens do, anyhow)


    Pat
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2008
  3. Chicabee19

    Chicabee19 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 8, 2008
    n/a
    The natural selection thing seems to make sense...

    Do other hens normally never bond with the mother and her eggs/chicks if they are set/hatched in the coop where they all live?

    Can you train a second hen to notice and accept the eggs while they are in the nest, and maybe have her in attendance when they hatch? Will they imprint on each other that way?
     
  4. deerman

    deerman Rest in Peace 1949-2012

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    Its all about the pecking order in the flock. The ones on the bottem sometime do get killed. If they have the room they can run and hide. The higher the mother hen is on the pecking order the safer her chicks. Unless they stray to far from mom.
     
  5. Marlinchaser

    Marlinchaser Chillin' With My Peeps

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    MERRY LAND
    The true answer is "BECAUSE THEY CAN", there is no chicken jail, have you met my kids? dont you think humans wouldnt do the same if it would just be chalked up to be human, its just something they do??????

    [​IMG] father to a teenager talking here.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2008
  6. Chicabee19

    Chicabee19 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 8, 2008
    n/a
    Oh, yeah... the pecking order thing brings this into focus ...

    In many species it's the ones on top who get the singular privilege of having babies.
     
  7. jessupfamily

    jessupfamily Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have found, with our own and others, that if the chickens are free-range (at least an acre) that there is not as much (if any) killing of the babies. And we have also found that the further you get from the "hatchery generation" of chickens and the more generations raised by the mamas, there is almost no killing of babies. In the third generation raised by mamas we saw no killing and the only deaths of babies was accidental. I think when we mess with the natural process in anything (animal, human, or plant) for generations, we will see more chaos.
     
  8. Chicabee19

    Chicabee19 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 8, 2008
    n/a
    We have found, with our own and others, that if the chickens are free-range (at least an acre) that there is not as much (if any) killing of the babies. And we have also found that the further you get from the "hatchery generation" of chickens and the more generations raised by the mamas, there is almost no killing of babies. In the third generation raised by mamas we saw no killing and the only deaths of babies was accidental. I think when we mess with the natural process in anything (animal, human, or plant) for generations, we will see more chaos.

    That's great to know! If I ever need to replace a hen, I do want to do it as naturally as possible.​
     
  9. CarriBrown

    CarriBrown Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    I've only had one hen try to kill a baby. It was a lone hatch and let's just say that Gwen is not the sharpest tool in the shed (just ask Seismic Wonder 2, who owned Gwen's equally stupid mother, Buffy). Noodle grew up to be a great roo to his own flock of women, so I don't think it was a "natural selection" type of deal. Gwen was also a first time mother, which I've heard can make a difference.
     
  10. ravenfeathers

    ravenfeathers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:this made me laugh. my answer to this question was "because chickens are basically psycho freaks". it doesn't make me like them any less (i'm getting quite a bit of guff at home for the amount of time i spend just sitting in the chicken coop), but i'm the sort of person who keeps bettas because they're just such bitter, angry hatefish, too. [​IMG]
     

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