When can my broody hen be loose in the coop/run with her chicks?

Kaurana

In the Brooder
May 7, 2020
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Hi everyone, I am not sure which category this question technically falls under... chick care? chicken behavior?!?

Basically, I have a hen with her two chicks (1 week old now) - she is living inside the coop, in a separate pen (a crate attached to the nest box she was sitting at) with her chicks. She is clearly eager to take them exploring.... is it safe!? Will the others harass her or the chicks!? (I have 2 roosters and 18 other hens in that coop/run)

Will she bring them inside at night!? And will they then go to sleep in the nest box!?! (Obviously she cannot perch - hopefully she will not perch and abandon them!?! :confused:) Heeeellppp!!!

I know we normally wait for them to be fully feathered to be in a coop, but not when mom has them, right!? They have been sleeping there with her this whole time!

Any guidance appreciated!
Thanks,
Thais
 

igorsMistress

Frank and Abbys mom.
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Apr 9, 2013
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Hi there. The broody will protect her chicks. They are ready to start learning from her and she has a lot to teach them. She'll probably find a place on the floor at night until the chicks learn to roost, she'll teach them to forage and they'll be under her protection while the rest of your flock gets to know them.
 
May 25, 2020
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Hello, the mother hen is very protective and will make sure her babies stay safe and have a place to sleep. Though you might want a sleeping place on the ground if your nesting boxes are high up.😊
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,515
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Southeast Louisiana
With that many chickens you should have a walk-in coop. What does your pop door look like from inside and outside? How hard is it going to be for the chicks to get in and out? At one week they can already jump a lot better than you might think but I made steps out of pavers so mine could easily get in and out.

I let my broody hens handle raising their chicks with the flock from hatch, not a week later like you are. But some people on here do exactly what you have done. They isolate the hen and chicks for few days until the chicks get more mobile. You should be in good shape.

I've never had a broody hen that would not protect her chicks from the other hens. Usually she doesn't have to. Most of the time the other hens leave them alone. But if Mama thinks a hen is threatening her baby she promptly whips butt. Some people on here say they have had a broody that would not protect her chicks. With living animals anything is possible but I've never experienced that.

I've never had a mature rooster threaten chicks in any way. Occasionally (but not that often) I have had a rooster help Mama take care of the babies. I think that happens more when the hen to rooster ratio is pretty low. With yours you probably won't see that. But don't expect problems from your roosters if they are mature.

My nests are too high for the chicks to go back to them so Mama brings them back into the coop when it starts to get dark and finds a place on the floor to sleep. Usually that is a corner but not always. In your situation if you leave that crate in there she will probably return to that each night. If you take it out I'd expect her to take then to that general area to sleep. She should return inside the coop each night. The first night or two check to make sure she does and that both chicks follow her. That ties into how easy it is for them to get in and out.

I've had a broody hen take he chicks to the roost at two weeks. Those chicks could already fly that well. But two weeks is really unusual. Usually it's four weeks. If all the chicks can't make it up, I'd expect the hen to return to the ground for the night and try again the next night.

I don't know what your coop and run look like. I have so much room outside in electric netting that it's always green in the warm months. My broody hens take their chicks out each morning and keep them out all day, only returning to the coop at night. So have food and especially water where the chicks can get to them.

My experience has always been where they have a lot of room. If you have them shoehorned in as tightly as you can pack them my experience may not mean a lot.

Good luck!
 

Kaurana

In the Brooder
May 7, 2020
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45
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Hi everyone!! Thanks so much!

I am in Vermont, so my coop door is a good 18 inches from the ground with a ramp so I can better manage maintenance in the Winter. As long as they properly follow mom up the ramp, they should be ok, but they have to "follow the ramp", otherwise they will fall off from/at the other side of the plank... (it's only about 6" wide.) I guess I will see how they do tonight...

The nest boxes are at ground level, so I think (hope) she will just go back in there with them (where she has been for the past 4 weeks incubating/caring from them!) I have curtains and it is nice and peaceful in that area.

My coop is indeed walk in (9 by 6, I think), but we are at the limit of comfort there now (it is ranked for 22 chickens, but I would not add more than 20.) A new coop is already on the way! Yay!

So just another couple of points/questions that occurred to me this afternoon...
- do I place a bowl of chick crumbles in the area for them? (They have a very large run to scratch, but still..) Will all the other chickens prefer the high protein crumble rather than their layer pellets!? (I had crumbles in the crate, but I was planning to remove the crate since nest box is accessible to them)
- I am assuming it is dangerous to have a water basin in there now? Should I just keep shallow containers of water for everyone!?

Anything else I have to think about!?
Thanks!
Thais
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,515
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Southeast Louisiana
As long as they properly follow mom up the ramp, they should be ok, but they have to "follow the ramp", otherwise they will fall off from/at the other side of the plank... (it's only about 6" wide.) I guess I will see how they do tonight...

I assume you have a ramp inside and outside. Just be there and see what happens, see if you need to help or not. If they don't get it right tonight they should in a couple of days.

- do I place a bowl of chick crumbles in the area for them? Will all the other chickens prefer the high protein crumble rather than their layer pellets!? (I had crumbles in the crate, but I was planning to remove the crate since nest box is accessible to them)

To me it is not a problem at all if she wants to sleep on the floor instead of in a nest. I just don't see a benefit or harm one way or the other.

What typically happens with mine when I set food out for the chicks in a different place than normal, the adults think it is some kind of special treat even if it is the exact same feed they have been eating. They are pigs. So yes, you'll need to keep filling it.

I don't feed Layer pellets when I have baby chicks in with the flock. The chicks will eat it and the extra calcium in Layer is not good for them. It doesn't do any good to put it up high, Mama will scoop it out for them. And within two weeks the chicks fly up there to eat it. I feed everybody what I want the chicks to eat and offer oyster shells on the side for the hens that need the extra calcium for their egg shells.

- I am assuming it is dangerous to have a water basin in there now? Should I just keep shallow containers of water for everyone!?

I don't know what your water basin looks like. When I have baby chicks in there I fill the water bowls with rocks so the chicks can walk on water. The will walk on the rocks to get a drink and not drown. They will poop in there so you need to change the water out daily.
 

Kimmyk80

Songster
Jul 16, 2019
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I also leave my broodies and chicks with my flock from hatch. Trust me, if anybody gets too close to their babies, they’ll let them have it!
 

mailmamm

Songster
11 Years
Apr 29, 2009
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Rainier WA
Great thread topic! I have had the same questions. My broody is doing amazingly well with her two littles. They aren't a week old yet so I was planning next week to start letting them out. Have to secure the area better to prevent them from getting under the hen house. Also need to watch out for my cats that like to sleep on top of the run roof.
 

Kaurana

In the Brooder
May 7, 2020
34
45
33
Thanks everyone!
Well, I have to say she is a very good protector indeed! All worked out in the end, but it was a bit of an adventure... It was amazing to see my super sweet girl in action - wow!!!

My coop has indeed an area underneath (well, I was not as smart as mailmamm here!) and... of course that's where they set up for the night.... so I had to take them out of there because I did not trust that a predator would not get them...

My poor ("mostly innocent") dog was walking nearby and "got it" from momma-hen when I reached out for the chick!!! (I tried to get momma, but could not, so I figured the chick would make momma come out... it did indeed!! Yikes!!) Lots of exasperated yells from everyone (chicks, momma, myself and dog!!) later and I managed to put the chick I had in my hand in the coop, got momma in the coop too, but the second chick was then still under it looking for momma... It could hear her calling above and actually, finally, it made it up the ramp!!!

The good news is that they immediately went to the nest box where they are nice and cozy!

(Someone in the thread asked why I cared if they were in the nest box or anywhere else in the coop: my coop is pretty full, so the floor gets dirty quickly from the perches above. I am happy they can be at the box where it's cleaner and nobody will poop over them!! Yikes!)

So, at this point I would say that in the future I would be VERY comfortable with momma taking care of the babies even from hatch, EXCEPT for the fact that they may have trouble going back into the coop if you have a raised one with ramp and you better have a plan B to get them in... (unlike me!!)

My coop has a ramp only on the outside (the whole coop sits about 18".) I am hoping that after they come out tomorrow, everyone may learn how to go back in... I don't really have a way to block under the coop at this point... but I will at least put the dog away tomorrow before intervening...!!

Hopefully a last question: when do they normally become independent from momma??
 

Kaurana

In the Brooder
May 7, 2020
34
45
33
Oh, and I have a nice big run (something like 40' by 30') with natural shrubs and lots for them to explore!! (But it is not predator proof...!) It was so nice to see them exploring today!! We've raised chicks before, but how nice to experience the joy of watching them interact with momma....

Except when actually inside the coop, they have plenty of room! The coop itself is "cozily tight"; but not overcrowded. Just the right amount of "nearby body heat" so they can be comfortable in the winter without supplemental heat! (It's a good quality, solid one!)
 

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