Why do the other hens attack the chicks?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by NHchicks, May 18, 2010.

  1. NHchicks

    NHchicks Songster

    May 13, 2010
    My RIR hatched 8 adorable chicks. But I have to be very careful to keep them separated from the other 3 hens and rooster, because the other day one of the hens grabbed one of the chicks and flung it. It probably would have killed the chick if my husband hadn't intervened. (The husband who doesn't want anything to do with the chickens - ha ha)

    It seems like nature would end up with zero chickens if every hen's instinct was to kill chicks that weren't hers. What's up with that?
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging 9 Years

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    It is their instinct to kill young chicks or weak chickens. It's natures way to keep the flock strong. What is also instinctive is for the mother hen to protect her chicks. Usually a mother hen is so protective of her chicks and has such a bad attitude toward the other chickens that they quickly learn to leave the chicks alone. Sounds like your problem is not the instincts of the hen that attacked the chick but in the weak instinct of the mother hen. If the mother hen's instincts are too weak to take care of her chicks, Mother Nature does not want her chicks to live and spread those instincts through the rest of the flock.

    Anyway, that is my opinion.
  3. NHchicks

    NHchicks Songster

    May 13, 2010
    In defense of mother hen, she was sitting on the other 7 chicks and I think she figured she'd sacrifice the one chick to protect the rest. If she got up, the other 7 would be left defenseless. I've seen her get her feathers ruffled and even attack one of the other hens who got too close, but I guess 8 babies would be enough to give anyone a nervous breakdown.

    Still surprises me that instinct would drive hens to destroy their own population. Of course, then again... [​IMG]
  4. Oldenburg Mom

    Oldenburg Mom In the Brooder

    Quote:I guess her new name COULD be Octomom. [​IMG]
    Last edited: May 19, 2010
    1 person likes this.
  5. Chickenaddict

    Chickenaddict Songster

    May 19, 2008
    East Bethel MN
    I have never had that problem when letting the hens raise chicks with the flock. My roosters protect the babies as much as the mama hen does. NOw if I have 2 hens raising chicks with the flock one needs to be seperated or they go after each others chicks.
  6. elmo

    elmo Songster

    May 23, 2009
    I have three hens now each raising chicks (separately). It's interesting to notice the differences in temperaments. Our tamest hen is very laid back with us and only puffs up and does her tough gal display if she gets near one of the other hens (behind a fence).

    The smallest hen is the most pugnacious. She fluffs up and shrieks a bit towards me when I work around her and her chicks, but she'll fly in attack at anything looking strange to her...like the jar I use to refill the feeder in her pen. Or the saucer under the waterer when I lift it up. Odd stuff.

    The third hen I thought was pretty laid back until we had some friends over to see the chicks. She went into full battle mode, shrieking and puffing out, herding her chicks into a tight circle. She didn't calm down until everyone left the back yard.

    I think the hen that attacked the chick was, as others have suggested, simply being protective of her own chicks.

    Now that I'm watching our hens raise chicks, I have a lot of respect for their mothering abilities. Three weeks sitting on eggs with hardly a break even to grab a mouthful of feed, a quick drink and a fast poo. Then when the chicks hatch, they spend the whole day looking for food which they then feed to their chicks. When we offer mealworms, a favorite treat of our hens in their pre-motherhood days, I have yet to see one of the hens eat them herself. She always gives the worm to her chicks. We weighed our hens, and each lost about 20 percent of their body weight while incubating, so I know they must be hungry, yet their instinct to feed their chicks is stronger.
  7. NHchicks

    NHchicks Songster

    May 13, 2010
    elmo, I agree. If all mothers were as faithful as mother hens, we would probably have world peace by now. [​IMG] I love watching my hen take care of her brood. They climb all over her, and she is patient. They should show mother hen movies in parenting classes.

    I do wish I had the kind of flock where I could let my hen with her chicks roam with the other 3 hens & rooster and not have to worry about chicks being killed. Oh well. I'll just watch them like a hawk till they're old enough to run away when they have to.

    Thanks for all the stories!
  8. newchickaround

    newchickaround Hatching

    Oct 12, 2014
    I have four chickens, no rooster, one chicken was broody and sitting on unfertilised eggs so I replaced them with four fertilised eggs, (well for one reason or another, only one ended up hatching ¨Faustina¨means lucky..Faustina is now 1 week today and since mother hen has been taking her out for walks the other 3 chickens are attacking her, so badly that she now has an open sore on her back that Im treating with betadine. I have now built another pen and have seperated the other 3 from mother hen and Faustina but would like to know why they are attacking her and for how long they will attack. Any advice. tw, they are only seperated duringthe day, at night they all sleep together and as Faustina is under mother hen there is no problem

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