Will a broody hen take older chicks (two weeks old)?

Jewelwing

Songster
6 Years
Jul 15, 2013
416
66
166
East Central Illinois
When I got my chicks two weeks ago, they were one day old. I had a Speckled Sussex hen who'd been broody for just over a week, and an Australorp who'd been broody for a few days.

That night, I snuck all eight 1-day-old chicks under the hen who'd been broody the longest. I got up before dawn to see her reaction to her new chicks, and it's a good thing I did because she tried to kill them. She pecked the first one that crawled out from under her, and tossed it around a little before I realized what was going on and pulled the broody off the nest. I gathered up the chicks and put them back in the brooder.

I waited a night, and then tried putting three chicks under the other hen, who'd been broody for about 5 days by then. At dawn when she noticed them, she started pecking them too, so I took them away again.

Now it's two weeks later, so the first hen has been broody for three weeks, and the other one for about 2-1/2 weeks. Also, I now have another hen, a Faverolle, who's been broody for 3 or 4 days. I only have seven hens, so now I'm hardly getting any eggs!

So what I'm wondering is if I should try putting the chicks, now two weeks old, under the Sussex or the Australorp again, now that they've been broody for about as long as it would take to hatch eggs? Should I try just a few so I don't risk the ones my daughter has become attached to? If she accepts them, would she accept more the next night?

Or should I just give up and raise them myself & deal with the hassles of integrating them into the flock later?

Here's a couple pictures of them now:




 

Brookliner

Songster
7 Years
Mar 18, 2012
527
82
171
Southern New Hampshire
IMO 3 days old is about as old as you can successfully put chicks under a broody. The reason for this is that chicks imprint on the hen in that period of ttime. If they are too old they will not imprint and will not listen to the hen. The hen will then not bond with the chicks. Also a first time broody might not be hormonaly ready for chicks if she hasn't been broody for a while. You will be better off raising them yourself. Good luck.

:cd
 

Jewelwing

Songster
6 Years
Jul 15, 2013
416
66
166
East Central Illinois
Sounds like I shouldn't even bother trying.

For the record, the Speckled Sussex isn't a first time broody. She'll be two years old this summer, and this is her fourth time being broody. I don't have a rooster, though, so she's never had chicks.

Do you guys think it will hurt to try them under her? I guess I'm thinking that all I lose is a little sleep, but if by some miracle it does work, it would be better for the chicks in the long run.

I've heard of some hens adopting older chicks, and even kittens. But maybe if she rejected them when she'd only been broody for a week, she's not one of those "I'll raise anything" moms.
 

Jewelwing

Songster
6 Years
Jul 15, 2013
416
66
166
East Central Illinois
The end of this story is that all three broody hens ended up co-mothering all the chicks! It turned out that the key was to introduce them during the day when food was there rather than to sneak them under a broody in the middle of the night. Here's how it happened:

When the chicks were three weeks old, I separated off a section of the coop for them to stay in because I didn't have a brooder box big enough for them anymore. I enclosed their area with chicken hardware cloth and hung towels over it so the big hens wouldn't be too bothered by them. I figured I would remove the towels later so everyone could see each other and get used to each other.

The three broody hens would get very agitated when they could hear the chicks peeping in distress as they tried to settle down for the night. One morning when the chicks were almost 4 weeks old, I had taken their little red food trough out of their area and set it in the big part of the coop to fill it up. One of the broodies hopped off her nest and started pecking at the food and making "come here and eat, chicks!" noises. Two of the chicks hopped over the 12" board separating their area (I'd left it open while I was filling the food) and started eating, because they were hungry for breakfast. The broody was very happy that her calls had been heeded, and soon all eight chicks were eating with her.

After that, she was showing them all around, and then she napped with them, so I let her stay with them in their little area. By the next day, a second broody wanted to show them food and hang out with them. The third broody (the faverolle) still wanted to kill them on sight, though, so I had to be careful. The rest of the flock was too busy free ranging, so they totally ignored the chicks.

Since the one nasty broody was the only danger to the chicks anymore, I ended up putting her inside the little area I'd made in the coop and letting the chicks out to be with their two adoptive mamas. After two days of that, the two mamas were out free ranging with the chicks and the one broody was complaining loudly in the pen in the coop, so I let her out to see what she'd do. She made a bee-line for the two mamas and the flock of 5 week old chicks. She chastised them and made a couple half-hearted pecks at the chicks, and then settled in to showing them food to eat instead.

After that, all three hens mothered the chicks!

At about ten weeks old, the first two broodies left the chicks and became full flock members again, pecking the chicks away from food and roost spots. So in the end, it was the faverolle who stuck with the chicks the longest, and she still tolerates them completely even though she's back to laying again and foraging without them. But she never pecks them away from food and she still cuddles with them at night. The chicks are almost 16 weeks old.

I guess every situation's different - I never would have expected the broody hens to adopt chicks so old!

Here is the faverolle cuddling with "her" 12 week old chicks:




The other hens on the other side of the coop:



 

Blooie

Team Spina Bifida
6 Years
Feb 25, 2014
17,197
32,566
827
Northwestern Wyoming
My Coop
My Coop
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Oh! I so love it when I'm wrong in situations like this ! It's just wonderful that it worked out so well for you, the moms, and the chicks! Yippeee!
 

Yayah

Songster
Feb 17, 2012
121
11
126
Northwest Pennsylvania
Great thread and story! I just learned this today as well. Had a broody Ausrtalorp on some Seramas which were just far too fragile for her heavy-footed mothering. I took them away and decided to try giving her two about 3-wk old chicks. I locked them together for about 24 hours in a dog crate and then let them go and was quite shocked that the chicks stuck by her. I figured she'd be chasing them around but they're totally accepting of this "mother" idea. Really amazing to see. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I might as well give it a shot. She did peck each of them for just a moment when I put them together, but it was only a tense 30 seconds or so and then supervision. Cute family! She's now mom to a Polish and a Turken. Anything is possible I guess!
400
 

Maikan

Chirping
Jun 28, 2015
144
28
68
Ireland
Great to see that they adopted the chicks and that the Faverolle is still with them. I've 3 black copper Marans that I hatched and reared inside in my brooder finally they just got to big and I put them out in a stable with 2 bantam Pullets and 3 Faverolle Pullets. One of the Faverolles the Youngest has adopted them and acts like there mum.

There pretty independent but she broods them still at nite and makes sure they get good food , Its funny they taught her to eat the cabbage and Meal worms but she taught them to find the treats in the rabbit mix as there are 2 rabbits that share that stable. If that young hen calls the 3 Marans all come running to her. the Marans are 9 weeks old and a good size compare to her. Its cute to see and I'm glad that she adopted them, she sure protects them from the other birds come feed time.
 

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