Saturday, 20 June 2015

"Weaning" The Chicks

Thursday night I took the mother hen out from the chicks that we hatched back at the beginning of May. 
I'm never quite sure when to take the hen away from the chicks, last year I just left the hen in with them but this year there's been lots of fighting and bickering. These chicks are six weeks old and the hen had started to lay again, a sure sign she's not interested. To prove the point when I took her out and put her back with the other laying hens she made no fuss at all. 
The chicks seem relieved and are enjoying a quieter few days where they're not being bullied or pecked. They all look really healthy and are growing well, but much much slower than a commercial breed that would be killed at 8 weeks old (check out Sunnybrook farms post here and see the picture of one of his commercial breed chicks at 8 weeks, even though they've been brought up outside).

When does everyone else remove the hen that hatched the chicks or do you leave the older bird in with them?

14 comments:

  1. Are these for the table Kev and what breed are they, I have only hatched in the incubator so cant comment on when its time for mum to move on.
    The ducks reach optimum weight at 9-10 weeks after that they just laying down fat and we will get nothing in return for feeding them our first lot of hatchings are now table ready. :-)

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    1. These are my mixed mongrel breed of chicken. so males will be for pot and females kept for laying. Not the fastest growing chickens though.

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  2. I never remove hens from chicks or vice versa. I simply open the door to the run they've been segregated in and let them gradually acclimatise into the flock. As the chicks gain in confidence Mum usually leaves them to their own devices more and more. They tend to go back in their run to feed and sleep for a week or so but then they merge completely and the night they sleep I the main henhouse I close up their old run.

    I don't know if it's different with meat birds, but if it were me I think I would still do the same.

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    1. I think these will form their own flock as my others are getting older and some need to be replaced. The hen had lost interest in these so I saw no benefit in keeping them with her and now she's laying well again so is being productive. The chicks seem much happier now as well.

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  3. If mum hen and her chicks are in the same run we usually take her out of the run when things get cramped. We tend to not allow hens and chicks free run of the place during spring and summer because of the crows and magpies predating the chicks. It is very disheartening to see a magpie swoop down and lift a chick away.

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    1. Things were getting a little cramped but so many magpies about I don;t want them in an open pen just get so it's better if they stay put and the mother moves on.

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  4. We keep the mother and chicks in a nursery coop with run for a few weeks then open the doors so they can mix with the flock during the day but sleep in their own coop . at some point mum decides at bedtime to go in the big main house and leave the chicks alone for the night. This works well mostly but we did have one mum that attacked the chicks at a week or so old and they had to be separated , obviously not cut out for motherhood .

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    1. That's kind of how I did it last year but this year the mother hen just isn;t that interested. she didn't even make any fuss when I took her away from her chicks.

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  5. When the hen starts laying and starts eating the food rather than sharing, it is time. We are getting more chicks next weekend as our hen that had been hatching eggs died a few months ago from old age.

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    1. That sounds like a better point to look out for. I have no where to brood chicks yet so just use hens at the moment although they can be a little unreliable at times. Maybe I should get some skilies again.

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  6. When mum starts laying again is a good time to split them up if you don't want to integrate the chicks into the main flock straightaway

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    1. I also didn't want any accidents with the eggs and the chicks learning to eat them.

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  7. I have usually found the hen gets fed up about 10 weeks after the chicks hatch and yes, starts eating the food rather than calling the chicks. I have never removed her - I leave her to remove herself

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    1. These are in a covered coop due to predators so there's no where for her to take herself off to but I know what you mean. Like I've said above, they all seem much happier now and there was no pining from either side they were quite happy to be free from each other I think!

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