In this installment on how to raise baby chicks, I will answer a question we frequently receive. Why can baby chicks be separated from their mothers, the hens, so early in their lives.
As we mentioned previously, you can purchase these little chicks online and have them shipped to you. When you receive them, you’ll probably notice the hen is not included in the package. Thus, many people email us with worry that the chicks won’t be okay, or they’ll get separation anxiety. Let me delve into this further for some perspective.
Baby Chicks Are Born With Instincts
Unlike us mammals, baby chicks instinctively know what to do when they’re hatched. They understand where to find food. Well, at least as much as a baby chick can. In addition, chicks know where to find water. Therefore, all the needs of basic self-sufficiency are met a lot faster than mammals.
Chicks also mature much quicker. You may have noticed this when your teacher hosted them at your school. One week they were cute and fluffy. One month later, they had grown considerably. In fact, chicks reach their maturity levels around 16 weeks. Due to this, their mothers aren’t needed as much.
Chicks Are Self-Sufficient
Plenty of baby chicks stay with their mothers. When this happens, the hens do contribute to the growth and survival of their young. Yet, while they provide basic needs, hens don’t do as much as mammal mothers.
Right before they hatch, the baby chicks absorb the egg’s yolk sac. This provides them enough nutrition for the first 72 hours of life. It’s true they will be okay at this stage. Nevertheless, we like to feed and water them before that for the extra push. But if they’re not fed by humans, they know where to find food and water.
Separation Better Ensures Survival
Separation from the hens not only promotes the chicks’ autonomy. It also helps protect them from the predators found around farms. For instance, we have skunks, opossums, and coyotes. All predators that don’t have any qualms in taking chicks. On top of this, other chickens or roosters might bother them.
To add an extra level of protection, you can show the chicks where the water and food are. At our farm, we pick them up and gently dip their beaks into the water, so they get that first taste. Then we do the same thing with the food.
If it looks like they don’t quite understand, we sit there and finger-scratch the food and water. They tend to grasp the concept after that.
Chicks Already Understand How To Socialize
With these survival skills also comes a set of good habits in the form of social skills. Granted, these won’t stop them from being bullied by other chickens, but it does allow them to interact with each other and safer animals around them.
This is not the case with mammals like horses. Though they seem to come out ready to walk, they don’t have the necessary social skills to go out on their own. The mothers need to instill these traits in them, so they act properly around other horses and humans.
In the end, don’t worry if the chicks feel homesick once they arrive at your doorstep. By the time you receive them they have already established their own paths to food and water. Furthermore, they have the social skills to interact with you and the other chicks. Granted, this might not stop a chick from wandering off. Yet, they’ll be back when they require food and water.
If you still feel uncomfortable when you first get the chicks, introduce them to the food and water stations by picking them up and softly dipping their beaks into the products. They chicks should be smart enough to understand for the next time.
Overall, enjoy their independence. Before you know it, they’ll be mature and ready to be among the other hens in your yard.
- Chicks don’t need mother hens because they instinctively know how to find food and water.
- Hens provide some protection, but not very much. They can’t stop a predator from eating their chicks.
- We usually separate chicks from mother hens on our farm to provide better protection.
- Chicks instinctively know social behaviors (unlike other species), so their mothers don’t need to teach them.
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.