Yay! Pips and peeps! Q: How long should we keep hen and chicks caged?


12 Years
Apr 25, 2007
Southern Maine
Well this is VEEEEERRRRY exciting for the whole family!! DD (Horsefeathers here) didn't want to go to school today but I promised if they start hatching I will come get her. Even DH wants to be called at work!

Our Australorp, Olympia, has been sitting on eggs we ordered from OkieHen and Shortcake (Delawares and Welsummers). So far we have only removed one of the Delawares that wasn't developing and had bacteria spots. The remaining 8 eggs are ALL moving, peeping, and pipping this morning! I imagine I won't get ANYTHING done today

Here's the question
Right now, mom and eggs are in a medium-size dog crate within the 6x8 foot indoor henhouse (we have 6 hens). Within the dog crate is a nest box, and a little bit of room for feeder/waterer. But it's a pretty small area. (I also zip-tied small-gauge wire around the bottom so the chicks couldn't get out through the large openings.)
How long do we keep mom and babies confined in this little space????? I would certainly much rather she be able to get out and walk around. There is a ramp to get down to the run area. If we let them out would the chicks be able to negotiate the ramp? Then there is a covered run, that we have been leaving open to a fenced larger yard for summer. Can we just let momma take them wherever she pleases, but leave the cage set up as a sort of sanctuary for them? I suspect the other hens will go in there to explore, is that OK?

I've read on the forum that folks have kept mom and chicks seperated for 7 weeks!!! That seems far too long in the tiny area they're in.

Any thoughts? We're first-timers at this (as is our hen) so we would appreciate your advice.

Stacey & Olivia
I keep my broodies & their chicks in a seperate shelter- basicaly 2 pieces of reclaimed metal roofing bent into an A-frame, and welded wire on the 2 sides, with a flap of a door. It only cost me about $20 to make. I started letting them free range at about 3 weeks- when they started perching. The mom takes them out every day, forrages, and goes back in at dusk. There is an occasional spat when any of the other hens get too close to the babies. Mom even attacked my bernese Mtn dog for standing too close when I was taking pictures of the chicks!

If you decide to move them- be SURE their new home is predator-proof. The babies are easy pickins! With mine- they tend to stay in the woods out of sight from hawks. Also- if you let them out in the run- be sure to provide some kind of shade and access to water. Congrats!
Oh- forgot to add-

When mom decides she's had enough of them, they will be in their own coop with other pullets until fully grown. My chickens are not friendly to small newcomers in the house. Hopefully by winter they'll be ready....
Hi again- Just wanted to report back in case anyone else is researching this.

After about 4 days, mom started acting restless in the cage. We'd even been letting her and the chicks out into the henhouse (with pophole closed shutting the other hens out) a couple of times a day... but she seemed restless.

So on maybe day 6 or so, we opened the door of her cage and the pophole. We watched VERY CAREFULLY to see what the other hens would do. She brought the chicks outside and puffed up like a turkey at the other hens if they came near. Pretty soon they were all mingling well, no issues at all. (Well, momma will peck the other hens hard if they come near when she's giving food to the chicks, but the other hens don't bother the chicks in the least little bit.)

It took a few days for the chicks to learn how to get back up the ramp into the coop (we would have to help them) but they've all learned now and are quite intrepid.

We removed the cage from the henhouse and now momma just sleeps in the nest box on the floor with the chicks. We made a cage out of wire fencing that we put around the chick's food & water so the hens can't get it. See this thread for pics: https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=207079

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