I have 22 Rhode Island Red chicks. They are 2 weeks old and are in the same brooder I used for my 20 mixed flock chicks who are now grown. They have clean water and bedding, they have plenty of food and heat and an area to get away from the heat if they would like. They keep smashing each other. It seems like the bigger ones just sit on the smaller ones. Most of them the are spread out and a few are out of the lamp area so I don't think its a heat issue. They have killed 2 already by smashing them. We made the brooder bigger, thinking there is not enough space but they keep piling up. I don't want to loose anymore but I am not sure what to do other than put a 3 or 4 in smaller brooders but then I don't have enough lamps, feeders and waterers. Does anyone have any ideas on why they are doing this? The bigger ones just seem like bullies. They are straight run and my husband thinks it could be the little roos but I see it more in the larger birds. Thanks in advance of any and all advice.
Need some help
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We have 30ish (it varies) 1-2 week RIR chicks in a 40"x 48" brooder and it can be a slug fest when the older ones start pushing 3 weeks. I've never seen them sit on each other, but the smaller ones definitely get bowled over when there is a stampede. We also have some wood cutoffs and wood branches that they can screw around with and that seems to help.
At this time of the year in Tucson, anyone that is feathered out enough to tolerate the harsh 60 degree nights are sent outside to a 4' x 8' coop/run, and will be integrated with the larger flock when they stand a fighting chance. The outside chicks are typically 3-6 weeks old, no sitting from them either.
In my very limited experience with chicken breeds, the RIRs seem to be far more aggressive than others we've dealt with. However, we've generally found that adding more space for any breed will typically fix a lot of behavior issues, particularly aggression.
Brooders are sometimes unnecessary, and such as in your case, detrimental. Ideally, a brooder should have one square foot of space per chick. Space issues cause a lot of problems as you're discovering.
You mentioned you already have an adult flock. Why not move the new chicks out to the coop, or even your run if it's secure against predators and the weather?
It's very simple to rig up a safe pen for the chicks, and they will benefit in many other ways by being brooded outdoors alongside the adult flock. Read my article on outdoor brooding by selecting the second link of the four articles below under 'Articles".
I brooded two batches of chicks this past year outdoors in my run under temperatures dipping into the 30s at night, and the chicks thrived. You might also learn some useful tips on integrating the chicks into your adult flock. I start letting mine mingle with the adults at age three weeks, and they're sleeping in the coop by age five weeks.
Really, brooders are sometimes more trouble than they're worth. Maybe you'll decide a change is in order.
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