Raising chickens is exciting but even more rewarding when you get to watch your hens raise baby chicks from hatching to young adulthood.
It is a truly amazing thing to behold, but many new chicken owners may be wondering if it is safe to let different hens raise chicks in the same coop.
Can you put two hens with chicks together? Yes, but it may not work in each situation.
Hens that are raising chicks are vigilant and protective, even around familiar chickens. Some hens will do fine together while others will have difficulty, but there are a few things you can do to keep them all safe.
Broody hens that raise chicks after they hatch are innately protective over them. This can lead to issues between hens when the babies venture too close to other chicken “families”. Learning about how to keep all your hens and their chicks safe can prevent a lot of issues.
Do Hens with Chicks Get Along?
Sometimes, two different hens with chicks can get along but it depends on a couple of factors. The size of the coop or enclosure plays a big role in determining whether two hens can be housed together with all of their chicks.
A larger enclosure allows each hen and their respective chicks to maintain a safe distance from the other hen and chick groups.
Personality and pecking order play an even larger role in whether or not two hens and their chicks can be put together.
Some hens are naturally dominating and will antagonize other hens and their chicks. Other hens are calmer and more docile and tend to not have an issue being housed together.
Why Put Two Hens with Chicks Together?
It can be cost-effective.
If two of your hens and their chicks can safely be put together, you will have less need for multiple coops or separate areas to house them in. This can save coop owners money in the long run.
It will provide better protection from predators.
Two hens are better than one when it comes to fighting off predators. They will be able to defend their clutches against snakes, hawks, and other predators easier together than alone.
Daily care will be quicker and easier.
Caring for the two hens and their chicks each day will be much easier because you will only have to check one area instead of two different ones.
Will a Hen Kill Another Hen’s Chicks?
In some instances, if a hen is aggressive, they can and sometimes will attempt or succeed at killing another hen’s chicks. A broody hen that has sat on and successfully hatched a clutch of eggs has a natural instinct to protect its chicks.
While this is a great defense against potential predators or roosters, it sometimes spills over to the other hens in the flock and it can be dangerous.
If you notice any aggression like this happening, you should separate the two hen families as soon as possible. Do not wait until one hen kills a chick before you make a change.
Unfortunately, sometimes an overly vigilant hen will mistakenly feel like the other hen’s chicks pose a threat to their own chicks.
Will Chicks Kill Other Chicks?
Baby chicks from separate hens are less likely to harm one another if they are close in age.
If you want to try housing two hens with chicks together, then make sure the chicks were hatched within a week of one another. If one set is noticeably larger than the others, that could spell danger for the smaller ones.
While most chicks do not intentionally try to harm other chicks, sometimes the larger ones will peck at or step on the smaller ones.
This can cause unintentional injuries that can be deadly. Chicks of different ages, over a week in difference, should be housed separately until they are all big enough to defend themselves.
How to Keep Hens and Chicks Safe
- Only put hens and chicks together if the chicks are close in age to prevent accidents.
- Put familiar chickens together, preferably ones that have been housed together for a while. Hens that are strangers to one another will often be on guard and more likely to attack one another.
- Watch the two sets of hens and their chicks closely. Separate them immediately if anyone appears aggressive.
- Only put two or more hens and chicks together if the enclosure is larger in size. The chicks and hens should be able to sleep and move about without constantly overstepping or getting too close to the others.
- Provide extra waterers and feeding devices so that the groups can stay apart while eating and drinking.
How to Know When to Separate the Hens
You should separate hens and their chicks at the first signs of overtly dangerous aggression.
If you see that one of the hens just will not stop attacking the other hen or its chicks, then something has to be done immediately. It is not worth losing a chick or healthy hen over.
If you find any deceased chicks in the coop, you should also separate the hens and their respective chicks from one another.
Unless you know for sure that aggression or overcrowding did not cause the fatality, then you should be extra cautious to protect the rest of the chicks.
Can You Put More Than Two Hens with Chicks Together?
Unless you have an extremely large coop, like the size of a large barn, it is not recommended to put multiple sets of hens with their chicks together.
Additional hens mean more chicks and more chances for aggressive and defensive behaviors to emerge. It is inevitable in large-scale situations like this.
When Can Chicks be Separated from Hens?
Technically, baby chicks can be separated from the brooding hen right after they are hatched.
If they are separated immediately from the hen, they should be moved straight to a heat-regulated brooder box. This will help them maintain their body temperature and stay safe from the elements, like the hen would have been doing for all of them.
Chicks that are left with the hen should be separated from the hen sometime between 6 and 8 weeks old.
If the hen is ignoring them or trying to get them away from her, that is a good indication that they are ready to be on their own. If the hens starts to get broody again and wants to set more eggs, that is another indicator that is time for the chicks to move to another area.
Why Keep a Hen with its Chicks?
While brooder boxes will keep chicks safe and warm, there are some issues that can arise. If the heating goes out or if there are too many chicks in the mix, there can be deadly consequences.
Keeping a clutch of chicks with the mother hen is a great way to keep them safe until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
Hens not only teach their young how to eat chicken food, drink, and find natural food on the ground, they also keep them warm and dry.
A hen will also protect its chicks from predators and other aggressive chickens, even to the death if needed.
In the right situation, two hens with chicks can be put together in the same enclosure, but it is not always possible. Some hens just do not play well with others, while some will get along just fine with another hen and her chicks.
If you think you have two calm, friendly hens with chicks around the same age, then putting them together is definitely worth a try, although you should monitor them closely, at least for a while.
Learning about hens and their chicks is exciting. Here are the articles used to write this article.