Hens Fighting Over Baby Chicks…

Free Ranging and Training Chickens...

“I have 3 hens in various stages of motherhood. 2 have chicks already and one is setting. I am having a hard time with the hens fighting over the chicks and in fact they have even killed one chick. The hen that is still setting is elevated off the floor, how do I keep the other hens from “kidnapping” the chicks as the mother sets on the rest of the eggs? Should they be separated?”

Thanks to our reader for this question.

In short the answer to your question is yes, they do need to be separated.

You are in a bit of a predicament when you have numerous mother hens. Each mama, along with her chicks, should be kept separate from the others.

The challenge lies in getting the hen into the new space without breaking up her brood and causing her to abandon the nest.

One alternative would be to wait until her chicks start to hatch and temporarily adopt them until all have hatched. In this way, mama doesn’t have to feel torn between protecting her active newborns and staying on the remaining eggs.

You’d need to wait until the chicks are fully separated from the shell and are completely dry. At this point you’d bring them into the house and place them in a box previously prepared for this purpose.

The box doesn’t need to be as elaborate as a traditional brooder box because the situation is very temporary, a few days at the most. The space needs to be dark and warm enough to help the chicks maintain the proper body temperature so you’ll need to place it near a heat source.

Line the box with newspaper, followed by a layer of shredded newspaper and finally a layer of old, clean rags.

Feed and water the chicks as you would following chick care guidelines. See the first two issues in April 2009 of this newsletter for specifics.

Once all the chicks have hatched, you can move mother hen and the chicks to their own space.

“Their own space” could mean a couple of different things; one option would be a large cardboard box covered with chicken wire. You’d need to provide water, feed and liter material. Mother hen will keep the chicks warm so a heat source is not necessary.

A second option would be to construct an old A-frame type house for the new family. Keep them closed up in the beginning and gradually allow them more freedom as the chicks grow.

Finally, sectioning off part of the hen house is an option as well but they’ll need to start off in a box or A-frame. Do not move the chicks and mother hen into the hen house until the chicks are at least 1 week old.

If you’d prefer to move the mother earlier in the process you have two options.

Move the hen when she starts to brood but before she has assembles her clutch. Be sure to provide a dark, dry nest for her. Obviously you’ll need to provide feed and water just for her in this new home.

The second way to move mama before her eggs hatch will depend on the nest you’ve constructed for her.

If it is portable, you could try to very carefully move her and her eggs once she is seriously setting. Again, her new home must have a dark, dry spot in which to put her nest. If her instincts are strong enough, she may stay on the nest and adapt to her new surroundings just fine. This would be my last recommendation though because it is likely that she may give up the nest.

As for your two hens fighting over the chicks, your only options are to remove all the chicks and raise them yourself in a brooder environment applicable to their age, to separate each hen and her chicks from the others or wait it out and hope for the best.

Good luck and I wish you all the best.

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