Why would a mama hen attack her chicks?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by RUHAMA, Sep 10, 2008.

  1. RUHAMA

    RUHAMA Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 29, 2007
    GA
    Why would a mama hen turn on her own chicks? I have a hen that hatched out some chicks. As they hatched, she turned them out of her nest. Fortunately, another hen adopted those chicks and raised them. Now, another hen (Olivia - silkie easter-egger mix) hatched some chicks. I couldn' t figure out why the chick wondered (maybe mom on nest too long), but one went near another nesting hen(Opal - silkie salmon favorelle mix) and was killed by her. I was so upset at the find. Next morning, another chick was very injured (back all pecked up) by same hen. I separated the hatching hen and chicks from the setting hen. I put neosporin with pain relief on injured chicks back and gave it back to it's mom. It was a silkie so had black skin and flesh that did not invite pecking. I kept it well oiled down. I found it dead this afternoon. I figured that it did not have the mobility and got trampled. (What a hard way to learn). Also, did drink well, but am not sure it ate well... Anyway, this evening, I heard a chick crying out and found Olivia pecking and attacking her chicks (hard). I took her out and put her in the hen house. I now have 3 newly orphaned, but alive chicks. I know how to raise chicks, so they will be OK. Why do the hens keep doing that? Am I doing something that encourages or contibutes to this at all? Since Opal has killed a chick and injured another (was she defending her eggs?), will she turn on her eggs as they hatch? Lots of questions....
     
  2. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    May 7, 2007
    Forks, Virginia
    Most hens will not accept other chicks and will peck and kill them. That is why broodies and their chicks need to be separated from the general flock and/or from other brooding hens.

    Some hens are not good mothers and will peck and kill their own chicks.

    There are other things we have to take into consideration as well. Hens know when something is wrong with their chicks. It is not something we can detect. She will put them out of the nest or kill them as they hatch. This is built in by mother nature to protect the flock. Weakness could cause the flock to suffer so they cull their own in order to keep the flock strong.

    Chickens don't have the mothering instincts we humans do. Yes, some hens do brood and are good mothers. At the same time there are other hens who are not good mothers. The chicken world is a cold cruel place. You can't raise chickens and anthropomorph human instincts, emotions and nuturing skills into their personalities and instinctual drive pre-programed by mother nature. They don't function the way we do. Most issues are black and white, life and death, cut and dried.

    Sorry you lost the chicks but you have gained a wealth of info into chicken behaviors and the responsibilities of the husbandry in raising them.
     
  3. RUHAMA

    RUHAMA Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 29, 2007
    GA
    Thanks. I shall put up plastic fencing between the mother hens and their babies. This will make cubicles within the nursey. Then watch the new mother hens carefully. Maybe I shall bring in the babies I find outside the nest rather than give them back to their mother. i now have 3 babies that I am raising (unplanned) and with time could blend any foundlings in with them. I shall label Olivia as a keeper because I am fond of her, but not let her nest on eggs anymore. She is being worked back in to the pecking order out in the tractor as I write. I will hope Opal was just defending her nest, but watch her carefully ih her own space especially as her eggs hatch. Too bad that I can't have a community nursery anymore. Thanks again.
     

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