Why Can't Chicks Grow Up Naturally?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by justchiefy, Sep 20, 2011.

  1. justchiefy

    justchiefy New Egg

    Sep 20, 2011
    Hey Everybody,
    I don't have any chickens (Yet!). I'm still in the research phase. I have some questions about raising chicks...Why can't chicks be raised by the hen in the hen house otuside? All that I have seen involves heat lamps and brooding chambers, etc. Why can't chick survive in the 'barnyard' with the help of its mother? How else would hens raise chicks in the wild?
    Thanks for the help!
  2. Moonkit

    Moonkit Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 20, 2011
    Richardson, Texas
    Likely because, often , in a confined setting, the other hens will try to establish the pecking order on the chicks. If their mother is not dominant enough to protect them, this can be a lethal proposition for them. The other hens may also see the chicks as intruders, as if you had introduced a new hen suddenly.
  3. cassidy22

    cassidy22 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 20, 2011
    Front Range - Colorado
    I have three chicks that were raised by their mother. She ran off and hid under our shed and hatched her eggs. Since we saw her every day, I didn't notice she wasn't sleeping in the barn at night (she tended to hide in the rafters anyhow)

    All three chicks are doing great! We didn't see them until they followed their mama to the food trough one morning. I was so pleasantly surprised. They are now at leasy 6 months old, still all sleep together in the barn, hang out together, but mama kicked them out when they were about 3-4 weeks old and started making them fend for themselves. They learned to perch much sooner than broodered chicks, and are much better foragers than my hatchery chicks.

    That being said, this was one of the handful of birds that sleeps in my barn, and lays eggs wherever she chooses. Most of my egg layers lay in a coop built for that. If I chose to leave a broody hen on a nest in there, several things might happen a) when they did leave the nest to get food and water, another bird might come along and peck the eggs, break the eggs or otherwise do mean things b) IF she was successful and hatched them, they would be stuck in the nest, our nest boxes are high off the ground, and no little chick could get out. That means, mama would have to leave them behind to go and get food. They would have gotten killed by other hens.

    Have you ever put younger birds in with adult birds? The bigger birds always pick on new additions to the flock. We had some hens get into our brooding pen one day, and they pecked several of the baby chicks to death. This is why most people put chicks in the brooder, to protect them from the rest of the flock when mama can't protect them.

    We got lucky that Friend bird successfully hatched 3 chicks. She had a nest on the ground under our shed, and it's a miracle she wasn't eaten by a skunk or coyote. As soon as we saw her with them, we moved them all back into the barn, where she protected them. There were other hens around, but we provided food and water close to her, so that she wouldn't have to leave her babies unattended where someone else could hurt them. It was wonderful to watch, but I am not sure it will ever happen for us again.
  4. suzettex5

    suzettex5 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 26, 2009
    They can be! You MUST be ready to accept big losses as far as mortality of the chicks though. Chicks are seen as food by just about everything, including the other chickens in your flock.

    It can be hard for the mother hen to protect a large brood as well. You also have to make sure the chicks have a safe place to get water for drinking that they arent likely to drown in.

    I have decided to not use a brooder for awhile. I am letting any and all broody hens just do their thing and I am hoping for the best. I am not trying to breed anything special, nor am I trying to increase my flock, but if it happens, I am ok with it. I have a momma hen out there right now with her 1 chick (I only gave her 1 egg to set on since she is a first time mom) and her and baby are doing fine. None of the rest of the flock seem to care about the chick at all. She hatched her chick in a horse trough, and when it was 2 days old, I just moved her and the chick to a ground level nesting box. The next day she was out with her chick showing it where to eat and drink and all is well.

    Ive done this a few times with no loss of chicks, but I know Ive been lucky, and I dont expect to always be lucky. The nice thing about letting the hens do all the work is, I dont have to buy special feed or do anything extra. Wild chickens and unexpected chicks hatched at peoples homes dont always get chick starter and do just fine (mine have all done fine on whatever mom scratches up!).

    So, you CAN just let a hen handle her chicks- just be smart and safe about it. A few preventitive steps and common sense go a long way towards having happy healthy chickens!
  5. Keara

    Keara Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 24, 2009
    I let hens raise chicks all the time, and I have lots of healthy chickens. But you need to understand you will lose some of the chicks.

    And here are a few reasons why....

    some hens are bad setters, do not stay on the eegs long enough.

    some hens are bad mothers.

    if the space is too small the other chickens may try to kill the chicks.

    chicks can get stepped on, by you and your family, by the hen, by other chickens by your dog......

    chicks out with mom may eat something they shouldn't

    chicks in a small coop may be crowded out and not get access to the food.

    chicks may wander too far from mom and get lost.

    So all in all if you want to have the hen raise the chicks here is what you need to do

    have a really large run or let them free range durring the day.

    have multiple feeders and waterers

    hatch more chicks than you want... most will turn out to be roosters and a few will not make it to adulthood
  6. wyoDreamer

    wyoDreamer Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 10, 2010
    Not everyone has a broody hen to raise the chicks.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2011
  7. Dingo

    Dingo Chillin' With My Peeps

    not chickens, but I had a rouen hen who sucessfully set, hatched and raised 2 broods of ducklings. The only casualties were in the first brood of 21 eggs, she wasn't able to incubate all of them and only 4 hatched, and 2 were killed by my drake. 2nd brood of 9, all survived.
  8. warmfuzzies

    warmfuzzies Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 15, 2009
    Boondocks, Colorado
    My broodies did a wonderful job having their chicks in with the others. Free ranging helps since they are out in the open and no one is crowded. However, this only works when you have a broody... most people are ordering chicks from a hatchery or a feed store, so they have to be raised by an artificial mommy. And when you are raising them they can't go out with the flock nearly as soon because they don't have a mommy to protect them, and the flock is not used to them. So you have to wait until they are pretty big to introduce them so they don't get eaten or hurt.
  9. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    [​IMG] Hens can and do raise chicks successfully all of the time. Many people because of space, zoning and other costraints go with sexed chicks from a hatchery.
  10. heatherkh

    heatherkh Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 21, 2011
    Clackamas, Oregon
    What sourland and warmfuzzies said. My neighbor let's his broodies raise chicks within the larger flock all the time. Our broody just had her chicks a week ago and we are keeping the rest of the flock separate for now but plan a supervised introduction soon. At this point they can all see each other while the chicks get a few more days under their fuzzy belts.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2011

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