How does hen care for newly hatched chicks?

carmen_growerMay 28, 2007

How does she keep the eggs warm that haven't yet hatched and still care for a hatched one? Ours are due to hatch today, but yesterday I saw a broken shell and a dead chick laying beside it. The hen is still sitting.

Is there anything we should be doing? This is a first for us and I don't even know if all the eggs are fertile. She was broody for so long and we got tired of constantly moving her off the nest. I finally moved her to a place by herself and put fresh eggs under her. That was 21 days ago.

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The same thing happened to me--first chick that hatched was alive then next I looked under the hen it was dead. I don't know what happened to that one but for the rest, the eggs would hatch and the chicks stayed under her and maybe peek out from under her wings. I thought the new ones would suffocate under her but they were warm and happy there. Once she stared getting up, just one more egg hatched and that chick I think broke through the shell because she accidentally kicked the egg. WE found it lying about 10 inches from the nest--gave it sugar water and it was fine. Good luck with the hatching!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2007 at 10:47AM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Well, I've got a few years of chickens behind me now, so I will venture an explanation. This is my take on the subject, not textbook information.

The hen sets until the first eggs hatch and since the chicks do not need food or water for a couple of days, she will continue to set for awhile longer. Unless the eggs are at various stages of development (i.e. the other hens have added eggs days later) the remaining viable eggs will be close to hatching. Chicks in the shell communicate with mom and with each other by peeping. So the hen has a pretty good idea of what's going on and she clucks to the eggs to encourage them.

When there are no eggs still peeping, mom considers the hatch complete and goes into caregiver role... takes the chicks for their first walk, shows them how to eat and drink etc. Occasionally there will be an egg that hatches after she leaves the nest, but after a certain point the mother hen has to put the needs of the hatched chicks ahead of the needs of a latecomer. If this happens and I find the late chick still alive, I take it into the house and put it under a lamp to dry off, give it a bit of sugar water and return it to mom using the "2 for 1" trick.

"2 for 1" is simple and has always worked for me. I chicknap one of the babies and it hollers to its momma to save it. Momma gets indignant, then upset, then furious. When she is all worked up and the chick is screaming, I return the chick to her... and also the newcomer. Momma is pacified by the return of her baby and never realizes she got extra as well. Isn't it handy that hens can't count?

As to why you had one dead chick, chances are pretty good that mom stepped on the egg, forcing the premature hatch and the chick was too injured or too weak to survive.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 11:44AM
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This is very helpful information and I really appreciate it. It gives me encouragement also! Today, I went out there and saw two fluffy little black chicks that scurried under Momma when they saw me. Also, I saw a broken egg with a chick inside moving around but not real near the momma. Two hours later, the little moving thing was still moving. It is only in the low 70's right now and I can't imagine it is warm enough.

Why isn't the Momma concerned about it? It must be pretty hardy if it is still trying to survive but I refuse to help out. We really didn't want more chickens, but this seemed the only way to break this hen of her broodiness. I have farm cats that are fine with the chickens but would sure look at these tiny chicks as a wonderful snack. So today, I have to figure out how to make the brooder secure. The other hens and one of the roosters are hanging around the brooder because I am sure they hear the peeping. (our chickens all free-range in the daytime.)

George, the rooster is crowing up a storm. Do you suppose he is a proud daddy telling every one he just gave birth????

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 12:25PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Sometimes other hens may become jealous of the babies and try to take over the nest, causing injury/death to the chicks. If your broody is a first-time mom, her inexperience may have led to her inuring the chick.

I'm a little concerned that you are apparently OK with just letting the chick that is hatching outside the nest die a slow death. If you are going to go to the trouble of allowing the hen to hatch chicks, you should at least provide safe quarters for them and be prepared to do the right thing by your new responsibilities--either take a moment and tuck that egg back under momma to give it a fighting chance or euthanize it if you think it won't make it. Exposure is a horrible way to die.

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 1:36PM
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The moving-hatching chick is OK now, I think. The mother moved it back under her and right now there are three little black/white chicks and one yellow one. Don't know if she is done yet, but the four babies are moving around actively for awhile and then tuck under her for a nap.

I don't want to move her to see if there are any more eggs under her. I need to put some bedding material in there and a chick waterer but don't want to bother her too much. I spent my day watching them ----- chickens are definitely my TV.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 4:26PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Good for you, Velvet. I agree with you 100%.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 6:48AM
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Hi my hen is sitting on two eggs at the moment due to hatch in a week. If the eggs do hatch is it okay to leave the mum and chicks with our other two hens?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 1:49PM
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