Help! Hen pecking new chicks

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11 years 7 months ago #33318 by pipjhall
I have had four chicks hatch under my hen, two on Saturday night, and two on Wednesday. They are a few days apart because we had one setting under her then added another a few days later when another brooding hen got unreliable and we thought it best to give all eggs to the hen that was sitting tight. That might have been a mistake!!
I noticed today that when the two youngest try and eat the mother pecks at their heads and seems to chase them away. They are now 48 hours old, and it's really the first day they've done much venturing out from the nest box and into the pen. She doesn't do this pecking to the chicks that are 5 days old. She hasn't drawn blood and she seems happy for them to cuddle up under her when she's on the nest. I've just seen her do this pecking when they are eating. Is this ok or should I separate them?

I've been told conflicting things: one friend said my hen is favouring the older/stronger chicks and keeping the young ones away from food as she perceives them as weak and that she will hurt them or they'll starve. Another person told me that it's normal for a hen to lightly peck newborns as it teaches them to behave. like a little spanking. Which is true??
I don't really want to be hand rearing chicks but I'll be heartbroken if I find one pecked to death.

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11 years 7 months ago #442705 by Simkin
Replied by Simkin on topic Help! Hen pecking new chicks
I don't think either of the two things you've been told applies.

Does your hen happen to be an Araucana or Araucana cross? I've never had success with Araucanas and adopting chicks. They just know what hatched under them and what didn't.

Also many hens reject chicks if they are of a different colour than what they already have (those bird brains aren't quite as small as some people think :D )

Most hens adopt chicks that are younger than their own and only the very best broodies adopt chicks older than their own. So in your situation it should be fine.

I'd watch them very closely. If the mother has noticed that the new chicks didn't hatch under her she'll eventually kill them. However, the fact that she hasn't killed them yet is encouraging.

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11 years 7 months ago #442719 by pipjhall
Hi, Simkin. Mum is some kind of bantam shaver - parentage unknown. I borrowed her from my Dad for hatching our eggs because she's been a good mum in the past and in his opinion banties make the best mums.

These were not introduced as chicks. She hatched all these eggs herself, just a few days apart.

So far I haven't removed the chicks from her. I've just been watching closely to see if the pecking gets violent. I noticed this morning when I freshened up their food that she let the younger babies eat today but I did see her give a peck to one of them when it was just wandering. When she pecks them they scurry back under her legs and she seems happy with that so I wonder if the person who told me it is a training peck was right?

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11 years 7 months ago #442723 by igor
Replied by igor on topic Help! Hen pecking new chicks
Most of our clutches of chickens that hatch include a variety of colours as we have an assortment of roosters. I'm guessing even if the eggs did all come from the same hen they could potentially have different fathers. We have no evidence of mother hens favouring a particular colour chicken. We have one purebred Blue Araucana hen and an old purebred Blue Araucana rooster so the Araucana is present in about a third of our flock to a greater or lesser extent judging by the look of the hens and the colour of the eggs we get. The Blue hen hatched out a clutch once not long after we got her. She was very aggressive to anyone who went near her when she was sitting. We found elbow length leather welding gloves to be quite useful when handling her.

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11 years 7 months ago #442725 by Simkin
Replied by Simkin on topic Help! Hen pecking new chicks
What you observed sounds quite encouraging. I agree that bantams and bantam crosses make the best broodies but some aren't up to scratch. If she has successfully raised chicks in the past there is a good chance that the wee family will be all right.

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11 years 7 months ago #442739 by Andrea1

Simkin;442390 wrote:

Does your hen happen to be an Araucana or Araucana cross? I've never had success with Araucanas and adopting chicks. They just know what hatched under them and what didn't.

Also many hens reject chicks if they are of a different colour than what they already have (those bird brains aren't quite as small as some people think :D )

My two best ever broody hens have been a purebred Lavender Araucana and an Araucana/NHB Cross. One hen had 12 of her own and we found another hen a couple of days later who only hatched 3 and then ran off and left them. We scooped them up and, not wanting to hand rear 3 chicks, we put them under the NHB/Araucana X hen with her chicks. She pecked our hands to bits, but accepted the chicks as her own. The Araucana hen hatched only 5 chicks, and over the course of a week, we found hens wander out of the shelter belt with 1 and 2 chicks each, so we took them and gave them to the Araucana hen. She just sat there and took them all, 6 or 7 in total. Knowing that they are a spastic and flighty breed in general, it was a surprise, but we didn't have room for hens with just one or two chicks.

We had one hen a few weeks ago hatch 11 yellow chicks and 1 black one. She had killed the black one by the next morning. Then again, there's another hen who hatched 5 yellow and 7 black, and she's just fine with them all.

Much as I moan about all the chicks that hatch, after more than 25 years of rearing chooks, I never get tired of the chicks.

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