Hello! My husband and I have 5 hens (RIR's) that will be a year old in March. We recently purchased 7 chicks. When they are old enough to integrate in the coop with the "old" flock, how do we go about doing this?
I brood chicks right in my run using the heating pad system instead of in a brooder in the house. They grow up from day one under the watchful gaze of the entire flock, although in the safety of their own pen. This pen serves the purpose of what I like to call a "panic room", where only they can fit the entrances (and there should be more than one). It not only provides optimal safety, but it helps develop self confidence in the chicks so they're better adjusted going forward.
Food and water are inside this panic room so the chicks don't have to be stressed and fearful trying to compete for essentials. It's a place for them to relax and be themselves without having to be on guard all the time.
A couple of years ago, I built a new run and incorporated a chick pen or panic room into it as a permanent feature. Then I created small chick portals in every partition in the run where a chick might get trapped against a wall or stuck in a corner with no escape. This provides safety for baby chicks so they can have free access to the entire run and still have a safe place that they can use from the time they first mingle with the adults at three weeks of age until they're around three months old.
Everyone who utilizes a panic room for their chicks have had peace of mind and no casualties. I highly recommend it.