Mother hen bonded with chick

by Al
(Santa Clara California)

Question

Mother hen bonded with chick: We let a broody Plymouth Rock hen sit on one fertile egg over the December holidays, just to see if a baby would hatch. The chick hatched January 7.

Two months later and the chick is now about half as big as the adults, but Mama still has it under wing. They are inseparable.

I have tried to get Mama back into the free-ranging flock (8 other hens and a rooster) but she hangs out with the chick in her own part of the yard.

They seem to be forming a spin-off group, or maybe they just feel some pecking order issues. If we separate Mama and baby they call to each other to reconvene.

So I am not going to take the baby away from its mother until Mama decides. I am fascinated to see how far this relationship goes. Has anyone else seen this kind of intense maternal behavior at 2 months after hatching?

Oh, the baby is a cross between a Rhode Island Red male and a Plymouth Rock female and quite precocious. Not sure of the gender. The flock itself is a year old, bought from a hatchery, so none of the chickens had a mother hen as a role model.

Answer
This is very natural behavior, especially with just one precious chick. Sounds like she is guarding it with her life.

I believe that unless there is a big problem with this, it’s best to let nature take its course. When momma feels the chick is ready, she will probably want to show him off to the flock.

Adult chickens can be quite rough with little ones, even half sized ones. I would defer to her judgment in this and let it play out.

This chick is going to stand out, being the only one and may have to put up with some bullying to earn its place in the flock. The bigger and older it is at that time, the better it will go.

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Mother and Baby Update
by: Al

It breaks my heart to read about all the sick and suffering birds. I give thanks that mine are all healthy--so far.

Mother hen finally got tired of warming her chick by sleeping on top of it. :) Baby is now almost a grown chicken approaching 3 months of age. So yesterday Mama chose to not go back to the nursery pen, and to resume her nightly place up on the perch.

Of course, Baby follows Mama everywhere, and also flew up to the perch.

The other hens have been mean to Mama and Baby, at the bottom of the pecking order. But the rooster has intervened. Mama perches next to the rooster, and the baby perches next to mama.

The rooster uses his considerable mass to separate the other hens from mama/baby, at least at night. How gallant! Pax Rooster-cana!

Chicken sociology is quite fascinating, and we are constantly surprised by chicken behavior which may differ from what we have read.

We have noticed that our chickens DO NOT poop in their communal egg-laying box. Since chickens have a vent for both defecation and egg-laying, I suspect that when they are in laying mode, they suppress the urge to poop.

They do poop everywhere else, but NOT around the eggs! Who would think that chickens could be potty trained? Maybe it is because they totally free-range and do not feel confined. Chickens with choices!

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Mother Hen broody again

by: Al

Mother Hen broody again: It's only been five months since she hatched little Yellow foot, and the broody hen is broody again.

None of the other hens have any inclination to be mothers. They just lay their eggs daily and cannot wait to get back to scratching and running around the yard.

But Mama would rather sit in the box, with or without eggs. Yellow foot, her baby, is almost full-sized now. But the two of them have never separated until this brooding started up again.

And if I bring Mama out for some food and water, sure enough Yellow foot finds her right away and goes for a walk with her. It seems that they have bonded for life!

So, we have city chickens that are potty-trained (no poop in the laying box) and with individual familial bonds. I would never have expected.

My guess is that free-range chickens have less stress and are more likely to exhibit evolved social behavior. They rarely even peck each other. But I'm sure they know the pecking order.

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