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#89530 - 05/31/10 09:35 PM Mother Hen Pecking Chicks
Linda J. Offline
New Egg

Registered: 05/31/10
Posts: 2
Loc: Oregon
My Wyandotte hen hatched some Delaware chicks and seems to be a good mother except that she is pecking at the chicks. Usually she pecks their heads but sometimes at their faces or backs. They are 7 days old, and today two of the five chicks had blood around the upper part of their beaks. Is there any other reason for blood in that area?

I am not with them constantly, so maybe she is just pecking when I'm looking because she wants them to hide from me.

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#89542 - 06/01/10 11:51 AM Re: Mother Hen Pecking Chicks [Re: Linda J.]
CJR Offline
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8442
Loc: Montana
Not a good thing. When blood appears, sometimes it is an invitation to damage further or kill. Even the other chicks will start work on the beaks. Hope it has stopped and was just a "new mother" short-term thing! Some hens react to color of their chicks and savage the ones of "another color."

I hope all is well, but I would be prepared to raise the chicks safely myself rather than let them be damaged or worse. They need mothering to be healthy growing chicks. Good luck! CJR

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#89830 - 06/16/10 05:27 PM Re: Mother Hen Pecking Chicks [Re: CJR]
Linda J. Offline
New Egg

Registered: 05/31/10
Posts: 2
Loc: Oregon
Thanks for answering my question. Thankfully, the blood didn't lead to fatal picking at the chicks. All five chicks are healthy and growing well. I think the pecking is to get them to go under her, possibly for protection from me.

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#89877 - 06/19/10 02:59 AM Re: Mother Hen Pecking Chicks [Re: Linda J.]
Richard in MA Offline
Flock Leader

Registered: 01/23/07
Posts: 332
Loc: Massachusetts
I would still watch them closely to be sure it does not start again. Some hens simply do not make good mothers. This spring I had two broody hens adopt some chicks I hatched in an incubator, and they work together very well. Everything was fine until I tried adding chicks of a different color. They started picking and picking, eventually throwing the chicks in the air. Once I removed the differently colored chicks, they were fine.

I also had a buff Cochin hen that was setting, and she ignored every chick that hatched. If I did not pull them to raise myself, they would just wander off. Perhaps next time she will do better, perhaps not. Hens do not peck at their chicks to get them to do anything. Communication is vocal and visual, and they know what to do. Like CJR says, be prepared to intervene at any time.

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#89880 - 06/19/10 06:52 AM Re: Mother Hen Pecking Chicks [Re: Linda J.]
Wieslaw Offline
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Classroom Professor

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 3391
Loc: Denmark
Quote:
I think the pecking is to get them to go under her.

Your observation is correct but only if the pecking is executed with the beak widely open. At the same time, the hen is making a special "snarling" sound. It is an invitation to hide under her. I have seen it hundreds of times; there's nothing to worry about. It happens nearly exclusively when the chicks are very young (like the first few days). After that the snarling is enough.

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#89911 - 06/20/10 07:08 AM Re: Mother Hen Pecking Chicks [Re: Wieslaw]
Richard in MA Offline
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Registered: 01/23/07
Posts: 332
Loc: Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: Wieslaw
Quote:
I think the pecking is to get them to go under her.
I have seen it hundreds of times; there's nothing to worry about.


Anytime there is blood on the chicks there is reason for concern. An attentive hen does not cause her chicks to bleed from normal care, so that is why you want to keep an eye on them.

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#89918 - 06/20/10 12:06 PM Re: Mother Hen Pecking Chicks [Re: Richard in MA]
Wieslaw Offline
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Classroom Professor

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 3391
Loc: Denmark
Richard in MA, I know and I don't argue with that. I made a very distinct reservation that my response is to the part I copied and conditional. Pecking with open beak doesn't make blood splashing, believe me.

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#89923 - 06/20/10 02:20 PM Re: Mother Hen Pecking Chicks [Re: Wieslaw]
Richard in MA Offline
Flock Leader

Registered: 01/23/07
Posts: 332
Loc: Massachusetts
That is exactly my point, Wieslaw. Each of you are talking about two different things. The type of pecking you mention (which is not actually pecking at all) is not what she is seeing. Her observation of the hen pecking at the chicks resulting in bleeding is not a normal behavor of a hen. Any pecking that results in bleeding is cause for concern and warrants monitoring, even if it seems to have stopped.

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#89925 - 06/20/10 02:51 PM Re: Mother Hen Pecking Chicks [Re: Richard in MA]
Wieslaw Offline
Moderator
Classroom Professor

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 3391
Loc: Denmark
Richard in MA, try to read the ending of her second post again. (By the way, what shall I call it then?)

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#89945 - 06/21/10 03:58 PM Re: Mother Hen Pecking Chicks [Re: Wieslaw]
Richard in MA Offline
Flock Leader

Registered: 01/23/07
Posts: 332
Loc: Massachusetts
Wieslaw, you seem to think I am taking issue with you when I am not. The behavior you are describing is not what Linda was seeing. Linda saw her hen pecking her chicks, and the chicks were bleeding. I suggested to her to keep an eye on them to be sure it does not turn into a problem. I realize she said that the chicks were fine, but she still mentioned that she thought the hen was pecking the chicks to keep them protected. I stated that hens do not peck their chicks to the point of bleeding under normal conditions.

Your comment about the "herding" type behavior the mother hen does is not at all what she was seeing, so I did not want to give her a false sense of security. Guiding the chicks with an open mouth and vocalizations is very different than pecking the chicks to the point of causing bleeding. I still suggest keeping an eye on the hen and chicks and be ready to intervene if necessary. The fact that the chicks were made to bleed once warrants that in my opinion.

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