will a mama hen take care of another's chicks?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by notducky, Oct 16, 2014.

  1. notducky

    notducky Out Of The Brooder

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    If she were to hatch her own and then I added a few chicks from the hatchery to her brood would she take care of all of them?
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Some will, some won't, depends on the hen and the chicks, how you introduce them, etc.

    Just as many breeds/family lines of hens have lost maternal instincts, and many breeds/family lines of roosters have lost paternal instincts, likewise chicks have lost filial instincts. When an instinct is not required for a long time, it fades out of a species in many cases. Not in all cases, but family instinct is one of those that does fade out.

    You can't get a chick from a long line of many generations of artificially bred, incubated and reared chickens and just assume it knows what to do with a mother hen. Some chicks no longer have the instinct and they will ignore the hen, and worst case scenario, die or be killed. They act quite different to chicks with filial instincts, having an independent mindset that only works under controlled circumstances, not under more natural and variable ones such as seen with a mother hen that free ranges.

    Some hens will tolerate that non-needy/non-responsive mentality, some won't, they're all individuals just like we are.

    For best success, all chicks need to be within a week of the same age group, you need to introduce them at night without letting the hen previously hear or see them, and keep a close eye on them for signs of rejection. If she does reject them she can kill them all in a matter of moments, so if you see them huddling away from her, or refusing to come out from under her for food when she calls them, beware that she may be giving them, or just some of them, good reason to fear her.

    A hen who harms chicks should never be trusted with more, she will always be a liability; it's not normal for hens to kill their own babies, since a chick that's sick or hurt will rapidly die anyway if the problem is not survivable, and all she then has to do is walk away or remove the corpse; the idea that flocks naturally kill their weak or sick as a rule is incorrect. It applies to some species and not all, and under domestic conditions in chickens it's an acquired behavior or instinct to help them manage being over-confined and overpopulated under artificial conditions.

    Some hens will reject all different babies, irrespective of what the hen looks like; for some reason I've had white hens reject white chicks, preferring black ones, and black hens reject black chicks, preferring white ones, and all colors of hens reject striped or spotted chicks, preferring solid-color ones. So if she hatches all one color of chick and you get the opposite color, or patterned ones, from a hatchery, bear in mind she may not put up with suddenly having obviously different chicks.

    Also, once she's finished hatching them and is off the nest, after that stage most hens will not take younger chicks than what they've got. But if you get chicks too much older, they can out-compete the younger ones. Too big an age difference is a problem. It's also worth having a backup plan, because most hens don't just take new babies.

    Best wishes.
     
  3. notducky

    notducky Out Of The Brooder

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    What off I were to slip some extra eggs under her, if she hatched them all would she take care of them all?
     
  4. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    There are no guarantees. Until a hen has proven she will mother well, you don't know what is going to happen, and all you can do is give her a shot and watch closely.

    Best wishes.
     

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