This past week we’ve been witness to the fickleness and overall meanness of chickens. To be fair, it’s really just one hen that’s being nasty and fickle, the other hen is just fickle.

Here are our three broody girls. Tilly is the little poofy one with white splashes. She’s a Cochin Bantam. She’s nesting on the floor. The middle lady is Ursula and she’s a Black Sumatra. She pecks at you when you reach under her to see how things are going. The third is Nancy/Gladys and she’s an Old English hen. We have two OE hens who are identical, hence Nancy/Gladys.

Gladys/Nancy started sitting first but was pushed off her eggs by Ursula. I gave Nancy some different eggs and then Ursula stole those. Tilly pretty much stayed out of it and kept to herself on the floor. Gladys continued to nest-hop for a few more days and then finally settled on one and has remained consistent.

Ursula hatched out two chicks about a week and a half ago.

Sumatra chicks

Aren’t they darling? But where is their fine mother? Down in Tilly’s nest. She decided she wanted more eggs so she left the chicks in the nesting box and took over Tilly’s spot. I tried some rearranging so that Tilly wouldn’t lose her eggs but Ursula would move wherever the eggs went, regardless of where the chicks were. (Not sure if this will work but we’ll try it – )

Urula on the floor w chicks

We went from the ground nesting box to…

T&U with older chicks

The two girls co-parenting on Tilly’s nest. That was fine with Tilly, and Ursula even started leaving the chicks with Tilly at night so she could go sit in the nesting box (on wooden eggs). Well, yesterday Tilly’s eggs started hatching.

She had two chicks hatch out, a little black Cochin and Sumatra cross, and the little yellow guy under her wing, who could be a Sumatra splash. The problem was that she kept leaving the nest to go with Ursula and Ursula’s chicks. One of other things that I found concerning was that Ursula attacked the yellow chick. I hoped it was a one time thing, scooted the chicks back with Tilly and left it. Then we found Tilly’s chicks outside the coop after dark last night, both outside of the netting of the run. One was tangled in the netting, and the other was tucked under the outer wall of the coop, a little dark puffball, and it was pure luck that we found it.

This morning, Tilly had a third chick and her fourth egg was pipping (starting to hatch out). She was again off the nest with Ursula and all four older chicks. The newest chick had just hatched and wasn’t even fluffed yet.

Tilly and chick 3

I ended up giving the new chick and still hatching egg to Gladys/Nancy, who all this time, has been gazing at the peeping chicks longingly. She wasn’t sure what was going on at first but was soon busy tucking it underneath and making it warm.

Meanwhile, the other ladies were back outside. It appeared to be a peaceful scene of co-mothering.

Until they got up to move again and Tilly’s two chicks came wandering out – the yellow chick with a bloody gash on the side of its head.

bloody chick

After doing some research, I found that a lot of people report that their chickens will attack chicks colored different than most of the brood. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to it – sometimes the white chicks get attacked, sometimes the black ones, sometimes the red ones. Both of Ursula’s chicks are dark and she seemed fine with Tilly’s black chick.

If the hen is protective enough, she’ll keep the other birds away from her chicks. Tilly doesn’t so I took Tilly’s two away from her and put them in a brooder. So far both look like they’re doing okay and Tilly is still busy with Ursula’s chicks. Next year we’ll create some hatching cages so the girls sitting can stay with their chicks, and not worry about one of the other hens getting nasty.

As for Ursula, she’s off the ‘good with children’ list…

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