Adding 16 chicks to exsisting 2 hens?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by FunnyFarm17, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. FunnyFarm17

    FunnyFarm17 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 14, 2013
    Hello everyone,
    I am very new raising chicks and to this site as well, so I apologize in advance if I sound a little slow! We received 4 full grown hens from a friend who has a good sized flock. We are down to 2 currently in an approx. 12' x 12' coop (my Queensland heeler got one and a bobcat got another [​IMG]). We let Mary Kate & Ashley (I can't tell them apart) free range an average of 5 or 6 hours a day. We've had them for approx. 11 months now, and besides learning A) my dog has an insatiable fixation on chickens and B) bobcat/mountain lion/coyote proofing the coop, everything has been smooth sailing.

    About 3 - 4 weeks ago we got 16 chicks from our reputable local feed store. We were told that all the chicks but one were guaranteed pullets. We lost two off the bat (including the one that was possibly a rooster), but the other 14 are doing very well and growing extremely fast! We are quickly realizing that they won't fit much longer in the large dog kennel we've been using as the brooder. I've been reading a lot of the forums on how to introduce new members to a flock, but I still wanted to write in and ask you nice folks for advice on my particular situation, seeing as how the new birds greatly outnumber the older ladies.

    So #1. How old do the chicks need to be before they can be outside overnight? I live in a rural inland area of San Diego and it's fairly moderate temperatures at night (mid to low 50's mostly). I've heard they need to be "feathered out", does this mean COMPLETELY rid of fluff and have all feathers? Or just mostly feathered?

    #2. When it does come time to introduce, what would be the best method? I've thought about just adding the dog kennel to the coop for a week or so without letting them out unless the other two are out free ranging. But on the other hand, I'm wondering if the chicks are just big enough to possibly take a little pecking, but not too big to gang up on the other two, would they all eventually just figure things out and fall into order?

    #3. Quarantining? Is this really that necessary, and if so, how long do you need to do this? The chicks have been in the house since we got them, and have gone outside on supervised "field trips" a few times in area's where the other hens frequent.

    #3., and this may sound like the most ridiculous question, but I have to ask it! Do you HAVE to have a rooster in the flock?? We've heard conflicting information on the issue, and if we could avoid having a rooster we'd like to. Although I'm not sure we have a choice in the matter (I have a feeling one or two of my "pullets" might be roos).

    I probably have 20 more questions but I'll start there! Thank you so much for any advice! We were very happy to find this site and it's members with their wealth of knowledge!
  2. BuffOrpington88

    BuffOrpington88 Non-Stop

    Mar 20, 2012
    1. Most chicks can go outside around 4 weeks. They don't need to be fully feathered, just have most of their adult feathers. The nighttime temps should be fine for them after a couple days of leaving them out during the day and taking them in at night. As long as the coop is draft free, they should be fine. Also, they may be a little scared when it gets dark out at first, and although they are pitiful, they will quiet down soon after.

    2. It would probably be best to allow them to see each other first through a fence. After they've gotten used to each other, it would be best to let them all go out and free range. It's easier for them to get used to each other when they have more space. One suggestion is to watch them outside for a while, and whenever one of them begins to bully another, shake a tin can with pennies in it and duct tape over the top. They don't like the noise and will stop what they're doing to see what it is. In my experience, it has made transitioning two flocks together a lot easier.

    3. You shouldn't need to quarantine them if you haven't noticed any signs of illness so far. The average quarantine period is two weeks, and since you've had them longer than this, they should be fine.

    4. A rooster is not necessary unless you want to hatch out eggs. There are some benefits to having a rooster while free ranging because when the hens are scavenging for food, a rooster will keep a lookout for predators such as hawks. A rooster is also said to help the pecking order somewhat.

    Also, at first you may want to have an extra feeder and waterer to make sure birds who are lower on the pecking order get enough to eat and drink.

    Good luck!
    2 people like this.
  3. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

    Jun 28, 2011
    Rep of Ireland

    1. Chicks can go outside and stay outside as soon as they have enough feathers to help them regulate their body heat, which is at 6 weeks of age, on average. By lowering their brooder temperature weekly and exposing them to cooler temperatures you will encourage them to feather out.
    2. Putting them out with the older hens, but in a separate little coop and run you will make introduction much easier when the time comes. Ideally the chicks should be more or less the same size as the older chickens before you let them mingle.
    3. If you are sure the chicks are healthy and your hens are healthy you don't have to worry about quarantine.
    4. No, you don't have to have a roo. They are great to have around and the fertile eggs are handy if you want your hens to hatch some eggs for you and my roosters have always done a great job protecting the ladies and watching out for predators. But if you don't want one, you really don't have to get one.
    1 person likes this.
  4. FunnyFarm17

    FunnyFarm17 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 14, 2013
    Great advice from everyone! Thank you so much! I feel more comfortable now! [​IMG]

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