Hen killing her chicks?

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by TheMrs, Sep 9, 2012.

  1. TheMrs

    TheMrs Well-Known Member

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    We had a RIR hen sitting on seven eggs. Last week we found two fully-formed chicks partially hatched, but dead (looked to be smashed) in the nesting box with her. We removed the dead chicks and momma hen continued to sit until she successfully hatched out two beautiful chicks. We moved momma and babies to a chicken tractor so they'd be safe from predators. Everything was going great until this morning when DH went to check on them he found one of the chicks dead in the chicken tractor. It was perfectly healthy the day before but looked to be somewhat smashed when we found her. The other chick appeared fine. Then, this evening I was in the house and heard some very distressed peeping. I went outside to find the last chick lying on the ground hurt. I checked her wings and legs and everything seemed unbroken, but when I would set the chick on her feet she would flop around all over the place. She was obviously hurt and ended up dying in my hands a short time later.

    I'm assuming now that the momma killed them for some reason, but I can't figure out why. I never witnessed her acting mean to them. She was keeping them warm under her wings, eating with them, doing everything that a good momma hen is supposed to do.

    Has anyone ever had a hen kill her chicks for no obvious reason?

    Also, we have another RIR sitting on some eggs. They're due to hatch on the 18th. I'm a little nervous now about leaving those chicks (Lord willing we'll get some!) with the momma. If you were in our place would you go ahead and leave the new chicks with the hen or would you remove them to a broody pen once they're hatched?

    Thanks for any advice you could share!
     
  2. kudzuvine

    kudzuvine My son and Drake

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    never had that happen - only a hen that after a week just walked off and left them. This otherRIR may be a fine mother. I'd just keep an eye on them and definetly remember which one was the bad mom....Janet
     

  3. 7thswan

    7thswan Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I had a hen that killed every chick that was from the silkie rooster that is in with the group, the Main rooster is a Buff Orb. The eggs were from diffrent hens.
     
  4. Rocktown Gal

    Rocktown Gal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Never had that happen. My RIR are good moms.
     
  5. pancho

    pancho Well-Known Member

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    It isn't unusual for a large hen to mash some babies, especially if this is her first time hatching. Some are just better than others and some learn with experience.
    I have some hens so large that they break other eggs just trying to lay an egg. No way could they hatch babies.
     
  6. delphinium

    delphinium Well-Known Member

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    My silver silkies will kill any chick they hatch out that is not the proper color. I do not let them hatch eggs anymore.
     
  7. LFRJ

    LFRJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    deleted - double post.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2012
  8. LFRJ

    LFRJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have had a hen kill a chick. This hen was on the cull list. I scooped out all the eggs from beneath her to get her off the nest so she would rejoin the general population. Instead, she then kicked the muscovy duck who was sharing the shed with her, and stole all the duck eggs. Meany!

    This didn't impress me, but a wasp nest was forming at the top of the shed and I'm allergic! So mindful of the wasps, I pulled a day-old chick from another hen and did the ole switcheroo with as many duck eggs as I could swiftly pull from under her in exchange for the chick - thinking this might help break her broody. It's worked so many times before.

    Nothing doing! When I checked on her a bit later, she had killed the chick, split open its scull and was eating it's brains! I was pretty PO'd, I can tell you, but afraid of getting stung, so I just left her. If she wanted to sit 36 days and hatch a duck - fine!

    She did just that. She raised that single duck too, but it was a brief stay of execution. She went to freezer camp shortly after. I have too many good hens to put up with the willfulness of a psycho. All this to say, it does happen. Most hens are happy moms, some better than others, some get better at it ..... and some are just not right!
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2012
  9. Buckhuntr

    Buckhuntr Well-Known Member

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    Our Silkie hens are great incubators, but after the first began suffocating her hatchlings, we started taking them to the brooder as soon as they hatch, including the guinea keets that the Silkies hatch for us.
    Guinea mamas are too incompetent mothers to even successfully hatch their own eggs, much less raise them.
     
  10. ai731

    ai731 Jan

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    Our Chantecleres sit and hatch great, but always smothered the baby chicks once they were hatched - almost as if they didn't know what to do with live chicks, so they just kept sitting on them. So we quit trying to get them hatch out their own eggs. Now I've got two banties to do the sitting / hatching.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012
  11. pancho

    pancho Well-Known Member

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    How does a hen smother or suffocate a baby chick?
     
  12. Buckhuntr

    Buckhuntr Well-Known Member

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    Our hen sat on the new chicks. I went out one morning 3 or 4 days after hatch, and one chick's head was stuck to the hen's vent area by poo, and hen was walking around with dead chick dangling. Freaked out DW. After that, we took the remaining chicks. This was the third dead chick from that hatch.
     
  13. pancho

    pancho Well-Known Member

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    All hens set on their chicks. That is how they keep them warm. The chicks can get out from under and back under the hen when they want to.
     
  14. mary,tx

    mary,tx Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It is very easy for a hen to squash the chicks as they are hatching if she fidgets with her feet during that delicate stage. I would guess that is what happened with the almost hatched eggs.

    Some hens, and some breeds of hens, though are just better mothers than others. I had several hens before that would hatch and successfully mother anything.

    Then the last couple of hens I had, different breed, that hatched chicks were lousy mothers, and would actually intentionally kill any chick that was the "wrong color," whatever that color was to the hen.

    If it was me, and I wanted those chicks, I would watch the hen VERY closely, and swoop up those chicks at the first sign that she was not going to do a great job with them.
     
  15. Buckhuntr

    Buckhuntr Well-Known Member

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    Let me clarify. I know hens set on the chick to keep them warm, and normally the chicks can wriggle out if needed. But this hen had kicked aside all the shavings, and was plopping down on a hard surface which. Considering that the chicks had every appearance the night before of being in perfect health, were dead the next morning with no apparent wounds or injuries, and one was glued to the hen's butt, I inferred that the chick was suffocated by mama.