Originally Posted by lazy gardener
I want to weigh in re: age of integration. When I first joined BYC, I followed the party line: NEVER integrate chicks into the flock until they are as big as the adults... or almost so. 12 weeks was given as the golden standard. So, that's what I did. Integration went ok. Nothing spectacular. Then, MHP entered the scene, along with the increased ease of brooding chicks in the coop. Many of us found that integration went MUCH better when integrating youngsters... (my preference is to integrate between 3 and 6 weeks of age, and the more chicks being integrated, the easier it is) These littles are no where near being sexually mature, and therefore are not considered a threat to the pecking order. They are small enough that they aren't considered any kind of threat. Many of the hens respond to them the way they would to a pesky fly. And the littles are small enough that they can run circles around the older birds.
Re: feed: If calcium in layer feed were an issue, many of us would have chicks dropping dead. Or our hens would not survive to become healthy geriatric hens. And, what about the roosters who all live their whole lives on layer feed. How often do you see a sick rooster? As far as calcium goes, I venture to make an extremely uneducated guess that there is a heavy load of calcium in the diet of any chicken of any age who gets any amount of free range time. Many greens are very high in calcium. Ever seen a chicken chowing down on soil? Gotta be a fair amount of calcium there also. Bugs? Bet those tough exoskeletons are also loaded with it. That being the case, why is it that free range chickens are more healthy??? My preference when raising chicks is to switch the whole flock over to a multi flock feed (with oyster shell and egg shells on the side). If that's not available, I would choose grower. The ONLY reason that I EVER purchase layer feed is b/c it is less expensive.
Actually insect exoskeletons are primarily composed of chitin, a form of glucosamine not too different than the keratin that makes up your hair and fingernails, AFAIK there is little to no calcium in it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chitin I don't know what the red clay in my area is composed of (probably silicon dioxide). and while there may be calcium in greens, it is nowhere near the concentrations found in the enriched feed I am giving to the layers.
The chicks aren't going to be sexually mature until they start laying anyway, right? As this usually occurs sometime around their 21st week of age that gives me until almost September! I'll give them a week or two to get used to their surroundings and let their elders get used to their presence, then try letting them de facto mingle with the others. Currently both can easily (and safely) observe the other so they can get to know each other first. That way the chicks will not be as surprised by the sudden appearance of Yet More Big Strange Things
And I have sized the coop 'door' to their portion of the coop so that theoretically they can easily get in and out but it would be difficult for a full grown chicken to squeeze through. Hopefully this will provide them with an adult-resistant safe zone.
I still have a couple of weeks worth of grower crumbles, and I couldn't find any all-purpose feed, just layer, scratch and chick grow, So why not use it up and let everyone enjoy the best nutritiously balanced diet for their individual needs for a while? both hens are currently giving me 6-7 eggs a week, so they need that extra calcium.
In the past I have integrated 'outsider' babies with the rest of the flock once they were about half size. judging from the rate they are growing that will be in about a week or two anyway.
Edited by FlyWheel - 5/13/16 at 5:49pm