General help needed

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General help needed

Postby Jenourno » Tue Nov 20, 2018 7:52 pm

I've kind of fallen into chicken tending in the last few months, Googling my way through most things. I have Sussex hens, a couple of Shavers, Plymouth Rocks, and Leghorns. Recently. one of my Sussex hens became broody so I took advantage of it and bought her some fertilized eggs. She has been a complete nightmare during this time but hatched one baby a couple of days ago. I gave her other eggs to a couple more Sussex hens who became broody as well so I could focus on her and her baby. I don't think they will hatch anyway.

But, I don't know how to care for them. She and her baby are in a rabbit hutch in my garage, and I have no idea if she is caring for it properly or if I am lol. If I so much as put my gumboot near her she lunges out to attack me. She nailed the dog too. (None of my Sussex hens live up to their supposed nature of being sweet. They're all fairly savage!) But she is the worst. I'm also struggling to give the baby any starter food without her eating it - which apparently is not ideal for layers. I've been leaving out muesli, rolled oats, boiled eggs, water, and starter mash. I also want to be able to handle the baby so it gets used to me. Can I take the baby off the hen? Do I leave her to it? Can I put them outside in the hutch or is it better inside out of the weather?

To sum it up: I'm a chicken novice and need some help haha.
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Re: General help needed

Postby sewren » Wed Nov 21, 2018 11:02 am

Hi Jenourno - congratulations on your chick, and it doesn't sound like you're doing too badly for a newbie chick-mum!

Unfortunately even the sweetest of hens can turn savage when they have babies to protect - they're just following their instincts to try and do the best for their babies, so while it makes life harder for us, hopefully it means she'll successfully raise the little one! That's not to say all chooks are like that - we have some lovely hens who are very accommodating as mothers (actually one of my best is our light sussex, who is currently raising ducklings and doing a great job!) but the only way to know is to try them out and see how they are. I tend not to let the vicious ones sit again, just for the sake of my poor hands!

A rabbit hutch is a great place for the hen and her chick - it helps protect her from any would-be predators and even possible aggression from your other chickens. it is probably fine in the garage as long as they have some light, but would likewise be ok outside, as long as they have a dry space. The chick should be plenty warm enough under mum at this time of year.

With the food, I'm afraid the mum will eat the chick starter - she probably won't lay any eggs for a few weeks anyway, but just be aware of the withholding period for the feed and you can discard any eggs that she does lay within that time. If you watch closely, you might notice that she will pick up bits of the food then drop them down in front of the chick, which is her way of teaching it that this is safe to eat. Boiled egg is another good option for them both, and obviously they need water available at all times (although be careful when the chick is very little to not have too deep a container, which they can fall in and get chilled quickly).

If you want the chick to be friendly, you can take it from mum and raise it yourself, but you do need some equipment to do this - a lamp that will provide heat for the chick 24/7 (or you can get what I think they call and 'electric hen' which isn't lit. It can be quite hard to get the temperature just right, so it isn't too hot and the chick overheats, or isn't too cold that it gets chilled. Personally I prefer to let a chicken raise our chicks, but you're right it will unlikely be as friendly if you hand rear it and plenty of people do that. Your choice!

If you put the other eggs under the first chook at the same time as the one she hatched, then it is unlikely that they will hatch now (and PLEASE be careful handling them - they can get rotten after 21 days under a chook and be prone to exploding. Don't ask me how I know!) How long have the other ones been sitting? Another option, if they have been sitting for a couple of weeks, is to source some day-old chicks (have a search on trade me, or facebook if you are on there). Some hens will accept day old chicks. What we do is put them under her in the evening after dark, then she has the whole night to chat to them and think that they are hatching from the eggs she is sitting on, then hopefully she'll get up in the morning assuming they are her own chicks. We've never had a problem doing this, but I've heard not all hens can be so easily convinced. But that's another option to think about if the others have already been sitting for a while, rather than starting them with fresh eggs, which might result in them sitting for longer than is good for them.

Good luck with your wee chick, and let us know if you have any more questions - that's what we're here for! :)

PS Maybe invest in some good quality gloves to wear when dealing with the chick - it might save your hands from the savage mum!!
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Re: General help needed

Postby Jenourno » Wed Nov 21, 2018 1:07 pm

sewren wrote:Hi Jenourno - congratulations on your chick, and it doesn't sound like you're doing too badly for a newbie chick-mum!

Unfortunately even the sweetest of hens can turn savage when they have babies to protect - they're just following their instincts to try and do the best for their babies, so while it makes life harder for us, hopefully it means she'll successfully raise the little one! That's not to say all chooks are like that - we have some lovely hens who are very accommodating as mothers (actually one of my best is our light sussex, who is currently raising ducklings and doing a great job!) but the only way to know is to try them out and see how they are. I tend not to let the vicious ones sit again, just for the sake of my poor hands!

A rabbit hutch is a great place for the hen and her chick - it helps protect her from any would-be predators and even possible aggression from your other chickens. it is probably fine in the garage as long as they have some light, but would likewise be ok outside, as long as they have a dry space. The chick should be plenty warm enough under mum at this time of year.

With the food, I'm afraid the mum will eat the chick starter - she probably won't lay any eggs for a few weeks anyway, but just be aware of the withholding period for the feed and you can discard any eggs that she does lay within that time. If you watch closely, you might notice that she will pick up bits of the food then drop them down in front of the chick, which is her way of teaching it that this is safe to eat. Boiled egg is another good option for them both, and obviously they need water available at all times (although be careful when the chick is very little to not have too deep a container, which they can fall in and get chilled quickly).

If you want the chick to be friendly, you can take it from mum and raise it yourself, but you do need some equipment to do this - a lamp that will provide heat for the chick 24/7 (or you can get what I think they call and 'electric hen' which isn't lit. It can be quite hard to get the temperature just right, so it isn't too hot and the chick overheats, or isn't too cold that it gets chilled. Personally I prefer to let a chicken raise our chicks, but you're right it will unlikely be as friendly if you hand rear it and plenty of people do that. Your choice!

If you put the other eggs under the first chook at the same time as the one she hatched, then it is unlikely that they will hatch now (and PLEASE be careful handling them - they can get rotten after 21 days under a chook and be prone to exploding. Don't ask me how I know!) How long have the other ones been sitting? Another option, if they have been sitting for a couple of weeks, is to source some day-old chicks (have a search on trade me, or facebook if you are on there). Some hens will accept day old chicks. What we do is put them under her in the evening after dark, then she has the whole night to chat to them and think that they are hatching from the eggs she is sitting on, then hopefully she'll get up in the morning assuming they are her own chicks. We've never had a problem doing this, but I've heard not all hens can be so easily convinced. But that's another option to think about if the others have already been sitting for a while, rather than starting them with fresh eggs, which might result in them sitting for longer than is good for them.

Good luck with your wee chick, and let us know if you have any more questions - that's what we're here for! :)

PS Maybe invest in some good quality gloves to wear when dealing with the chick - it might save your hands from the savage mum!!


Hey there!
Thanks for your detailed response - I appreciate it! And, nice to know I am kind of on the right tracks in regards to care. The weather has been terrible down here (kind of expect that, Invercargill :roll: ) so I didn't want to risk it dying in the first few days. I think it is supposed to clear up so would it be safe to put them down with the others so they can all see each other, but not be able to access each other? I was actually going to throw all the eggs away because they were overdue for hatching but this wee one arrived fortunately before I got around to doing it! But, I think the others are no longer viable so I might (delicately) remove them!

My aim is for the baby to be friendly enough for me to be able to touch it without being pecked at, I don't think that's a lot to ask haha - but I don't have the time to dedicate to keeping its environment the same way a hen would so I might have to leave it with its mama!

How much should the baby be eating each day? I wore very thick rubber gloves and put my hand in the hutch with some food so it was just under the mum. I'm hoping she will give it access! Also, is it correct that you can tell the gender after six weeks?
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Re: General help needed

Postby nhb » Wed Nov 21, 2018 4:16 pm

The gender of some breeds is auto sexing meaning you can pick it on day one. Some you can pick after a week. And some breeds it can be around twelve weeks, but for all you need to know what signs you are looking for. I agree with what sewren advised. I think you said your hen is confined in a rabbit hutch, generally a chick can live up to a few days, as they are born with a small yolk sack, that helps to get them going. If you are worried about the chick you can take it away from the mother for a few minutes put it in a little box, like a shoe box.put some chick starter in it and observe the chick then put it back with the hen. You can repeat in a couple of hours once you are satisfied it is eating you shouldn't have a problem then just let them run their natural coarse. If the mother isn't doing her job you would know by now because the cold would have killed your chick.
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Re: General help needed

Postby sewren » Fri Nov 23, 2018 10:57 am

Jenourno wrote:The weather has been terrible down here (kind of expect that, Invercargill :roll: ) so I didn't want to risk it dying in the first few days. I think it is supposed to clear up so would it be safe to put them down with the others so they can all see each other, but not be able to access each other?


Oh yes - sounds like it has been awful weather down there so that garage is probably best while it's a very little chick!! When it clears up I would proably try and put the rabbit hutch inside your main chook pen if there is space for it there, or maybe just the other side of the fence. You're right, it's good for them to be able to see each other but not touch, to help with integrating them back together when the time comes.
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Re: General help needed

Postby Jenourno » Sun Nov 25, 2018 9:44 am

Thanks for all your advice! I am going to move them into the main coop today :) I'm not sure if this picture will work - but does anyone have ideas of the breed?
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Re: General help needed

Postby nhb » Sun Nov 25, 2018 3:04 pm

Were the fertilized eggs you brought not supposed to be a certain breed.
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Re: General help needed

Postby Jenourno » Sun Nov 25, 2018 7:42 pm

nhb wrote:Were the fertilized eggs you brought not supposed to be a certain breed.

The people I bought them from have several breeds - including some they show - so they weren't sure which hen they were from. They are friends of ours and don't normally sell them. So kind of a guessing game now!
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