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combining different age chickens and giving them the right feed

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by aldarita, Oct 28, 2012.

  1. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi everybody!
    I have just started a flock of hens this year, I have 9 hens 6 months old and they are all laying.
    They have a big run 46 x 12 and have supervised free ranging everyday (lots of hawks in my area). I plan to get 4 more chicks next year and race them in the brooder until they are 4 weeks old then move them in a "mini coop" we had built inside the run, this mini coop has its own run which is completely enclosed so the older hens cannot have access to it but they can watch the new comers.I need some advice about what to do when it is time to integrate them because my hens are eating layer feed and the new chicks should not eat it. I want to integrate them as soon as it is possible but the new chicks will have access to the
    layers feed. Will it be a good idea to give the older hens grower feed and a dish of oyster shells instead
    of the layer feed ? will the chicks eat the oyster shells?

    thanks a lot in advance for your experienced help. I am new at this so I am learning as it goes and any help will be very much appreciated
     
  2. math ace

    math ace Overrun With Chickens

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    I would not mix the young chicks with the mature hens until the young ones are big enough to handle the smack down they are going to take from the mature hens... In other words, by the time the young ones get big enough to be integrated to the grown flock they will also be big enough to eat layers food.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I've had a broody wean her chicks raised with the flock at three weeks, though most wait longer. I regularly integrate 8-week-old brooder-raised chicks with the main flock. There are a few tricks that make that part easier, like give them lots of space, house them where they can see each other for a while, have separate feeding and watering stations, and give them lots of roost space. My brooder-raised chicks normally roost in a separate coop until they are 12 weeks old, then I usually move them into the main coop. The broody-raised ones sleep in the main coop from Day 1. As long as you have sufficient space so the young ones can get away from the adults, they usually work it out.

    You can wait until they are fully grown if you wish. Sone people obviously do. With your space it should not be necessary but it is your choice.

    When I have mixed age chickens in the flock, whether broody raised or brooder raised, I feed either a 20% protein Starter/Grower combination or a 15% Grower/Developer with oyster shells on the side, depending on the age of the chicks. That's a standard way of handling the mixed age problem. The ones that need the calcium for the eggs should get that from the oyster shell. The ones that should not have the extra calcium may eat a bite or two, but should not eat enough to harm themselves. Just don't mix the oyster shell with the feed but offer it free choice.
     
  4. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    X2. Your babies are going to have a really hard time with the main flock. Since you can, I'd keep them separate until they are 20 weeks old. Since they can see each other during that time, it will ease the transition to the main flock also.

    We have a small portable hutch for pullets. They are in a pasture-within-a-pasture in the main flock's pasture. They see each other through the fence. At around 19 weeks, we switch their food to layer food and open up the gate to the main pasture. The pullets and main flock mix, but go to sleep in their respective coops at night. We let them mix like that for two weeks, then close off the portable coop and small pasture completely. By that point all the chickens are used to each other and the pullets follow the older hens to bed in the main coop (usually). I know it's long and involved, but when we integrated flocks more quickly we had lots of problems and even some pullets killed by the older hens. The photo below is of mobile pullet house and the pullets' first day out in the main flock.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2012
  5. karlamaria

    karlamaria Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I say wait for a broody hen and have her do your work, mine did wonderful and the 4 week old chicks are with mom and doing great. the other birds will bother them from time to time but there pretty much integrated into the flock. I got pullets last year, what a pain, seperating them and slowly integrating them in. it took a few months. from here on out, Im setting fertilized eggs from lacal farmers under my girls, its so easy and no hassles. so far I have let my broody hatch chicks for me, this way I get mama to do the work, and there automatically integrated.
     
  6. karlamaria

    karlamaria Chillin' With My Peeps

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    just feed flock raiser and put a dish of oyster shell out. the big girls will take what they need and the flock raiser can be fed to all the birds.
     
  7. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks a lot for your advice. I have read different opinions as to when to let the younger chicks loose with the older ones, but I think common sense tells me to wait until they are big enought to defend themselves.They will be in the "look but not touch" situation for a long while so I believe this will help when it is time to integrate them. I just hate to have the young ones in a small space compared to the big run and the free ranging yard (almost and acre).
    I think giving them grower feed and have a small dish with oyster shells available at all times is a great idea to resolve the problem of giving layer feed to the little ones when it is not time for them to eat it. My hens already have a small dish with oyster shells and I have read that they only take what they need.
     
  8. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Have you ever had one of your older hens fly into the small fence where you keep the little ones?
    That is a great idea! I have plenty of space to set a fence outside the existing yard so the little ones can free range with no problem. Just concerned about the hens trying to fly in to peck on the little ones.
     
  9. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Once the younger ones get to about six weeks, with the size of your free range you can just let them out at the same time, especially if they have had some pen side by side time. When I let mine out with the older ones they just kept to themselves at first with out the older ones bothering them.
     
  10. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    I think you might be replying to me?

    My hens are pastured, and they are wing clipped to keep them inside the fence, so I don't have them going over to visit very often. This year I did have a hen or two get curious and fly over, but there were 30 pullets in there and she was vastly outnumbered, so she tried to peck at some of them but there were too many and moving too fast so she couldn't really beat any of them up.
     

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