If you’ve ever raised baby chicks before, you know how difficult it is to keep them safe.
Not only are they sensitive to temperature, but their bodies are fragile, and it doesn’t take much to injure them.
Older chickens have been known to bully chicks badly and even kill them. Certain chickens with better temperaments may ignore the chicks or take on a protective role. But, most often, your older birds will display aggression toward the babies.
By no means should you give up on raising baby chicks if you already have older birds.
There are plenty of ways to prevent your babies from being injured or killed, and you don’t need to get rid of your other birdies.
Read on to learn how to keep new chicks safe from bullies and even what breed of chicken is more docile and less likely to be aggressive.
Why Chickens Kill Chicks
To understand the best preventative measures, you must understand the problem.
Why would a chicken bully an animal that is so much smaller and weaker than they are?
There are several possible answers to this question:
- Establishing dominance
- Confusion and stress
- Competing for resources
It’s common for our chickens to want to establish dominance over their counterparts.
Roosters especially aren’t conducive to the protection of animals that are smaller than them.
They are territorial and often quite aggressive.
Another reason chickens sometimes hurt baby chicks is their confusion.
It isn’t uncommon for a mother hen to accidentally kill her babies.
As we are all painfully aware, chicks are not the most formidable little animals.
A hen may sit too heavily on her babies, or she may even attack them on purpose.
The likelihood of your chickens behaving this way increases the more stressed and overcrowded they are.
Let’s always ensure our birds have enough space and food to go around.
Another common reason bigger chickens beat up on younger ones is competition for access to food or water.
Horrifying as it is, it’s true some desperate chickens will actually kill and then eat a dead chick.
You don’t want to ever lose a single chick this way.
Keep a regular feeding schedule and frequently check on your baby birds.
Chickens may even kill each other if food isn’t available; read more about how to avoid chicken killing in our article.
Protecting Your Chicks
Some of these problems are very avoidable, especially if you’re for animal equality.
A big part of the protection of animals and the fight for animal equality in the poultry industry has to do with improving quality of life and reducing stress for our feathered friends.
Birds aren’t only there for food production.
If your birds are overcrowded in their backyard chicken coop, give them extra room.
Ensure they have access to pasture or consider letting them free-range.
These changes will also help with the production of eggs.
As a humane chicken owner, you already know a cramped environment will not produce a healthy and happy flock of birds.
Another quick fix is buying extra feeders and waterers for your coop.
This way, you won’t have an adult chicken beating up a baby chick because they both wanted some water.
These are simple solutions.
But they aren’t guaranteed to solve the problem.
Remember, sometimes, an adult chicken will be aggressive toward their young simply because they do not want the new birds in their territory.
These solutions also don’t solve the confusion new mothers sometimes experience when their chicks hatch.
The best solution for keeping your baby chicks safe while they grow is to keep them separated from the adults until they are big enough to defend themselves against bullying roosters and hens.
If you buy your babies from a hatchery, don’t let any other chickens in with them.
This makes it easier for you to keep them warm and well-fed anyway.
So, it’s a great solution all around.
Is It Safe to Leave Chicks with Their Mother?
When you’re hatching birds in your backyard chicken coop, it’s often difficult to get them away from their mother.
It isn’t the best idea to move your vulnerable, day-old chicks.
But you likely won’t need to move them anyway, at least for a few days.
While hens are sometimes aggressive toward their young, these animals more often have strong protective instincts.
You only need to separate a mother and her babies for the protection of the animals on your farm.
If the hen is doing no harm to her batch of chicks, there is no reason for you to separate her from them.
It is important, though, for you to be watchful.
Accidents are often just as dangerous as purposeful attacks.
It’s also important you keep plenty of chick feed available and keep more than one waterer in the coop.
Keep an eye out for signs your mother hen considers her young to be unwanted chicks.
If she shows signs of aggression, you will have to move her away from the babies.
What If You Have Only a Single Chick?
Never keep a bird in isolation.
This isn’t good for an adult chicken, and it certainly isn’t good for a baby.
The solution if you only have one baby chick is simple:
Buy some more.
You don’t need to keep twenty birds. But keep a handful.
If you’re more interested in chickens as pets and don’t care about egg production, there are plenty of birdies out there who are lazy layers.
You might even consider keeping baby ducks as company for your chicks.
Backyard poultry is an adventure, and hatching duck eggs is a new road to travel.
But if you’re more interested in raising ducks than raising multiple chickens, go for it!
Whatever you do, don’t leave one little bird all alone.
Are Certain Chicken Breeds Nicer to Chicks?
If you’ve been raising chickens for a long time, you know not all chickens behave aggressively, even with new additions.
There are plenty of gentle chicken breeds, and your chicken coop might be full of them.
The safest option is always to err on the side of caution, though.
Even friendly animals will sometimes become aggressive when new birds encroach on what they perceive as their territory.
When buying poultry, we know some breeds of chicken are recognized as having better egg production and being gentler and less temperamental than others.
Some notoriously docile birds in the poultry industry who are also excellent layers are:
- Buff Orpingtons
- Rhode Island Reds
All these animals are gentle and friendly but capable of holding their own if necessary.
Silkies are known to be the best mothers of the three listed here.
They are not aggressive personalities, but they are perfectly capable of standing up for themselves and their young.
Silkies take part in the protection of animals that are bigger than themselves, such as dogs and other breeds of chicken.
So, if you decided to hatch some duck eggs, these birdies would also make excellent protectors for those babies.
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