Free ranging chicks

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by chicknmania, Jul 20, 2008.

  1. chicknmania

    chicknmania Overrun With Chickens

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    Just curious about this, although I know there's probably not any right answer...just curious what other's thoughts are. We have two chicks with no mom, about two months old, almost. We have eight others with their mom, about a month old. What age does everyone free range theirs? I'm not talking about free ranging when you're watching them, then putting them in at night; I mean, letting them free range with the flock, they go in the barn at night on their own, then, of course, we shut up the barn. The first chicks we had, we let free range with their mom and the flock at an early age, probably six weeks. They all grew to adults, although only two are left, we lost some due to disease and coons who came in the barn a few nights. The next set had no mom, they lived in our basement all winter, didn't go out til around five months. Only one is left, all the rest were killed by predators. We had one chick with her mom last year, we let her out to free range with her mom at about seven weeks, and a hawk got her after a week, but by the time she went out, her mom was not really with her as much, she was starting to wean her. And by the way, mixing her with the older ones seemed to be ok, the roosters left her alone.

    So, my question is...is it better to let them go out at an earlier age with their mom, who will teach them things? Or is it better to wait til they're older and bigger, no so much easy pickings for predators but more likely to be picked on by other flock members and little to no protection from mom? And, we were thinking about putting an old quiet hen in with the two who have no mom for a few days, hoping they might bond and the chicks would then have someone to follow when they do go out.
    For those of you who are frowning because it sounds like we have had a high mortality rate, we really haven't...we've had several adults we've had for three and more years, as long as we've had chickens. Just trying to figure out the best way to help the young ones. Right now the older chicks are in a coop where they can practice flying and also can socialize with the others through the wire; the younger ones are with mom in a small coop that they're going to quickly outgrow.

    Sorry this is so long....[​IMG]
     
  2. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have chicks that were free-ranging with their moms, then their moms "weaned" them on their own when I thought they were too small. but what's happened is the 4-5 week old chicks hang out with their siblings. They get picked on by the older chickens so they hang out in other areas, so I've made several feed/water stations so that the chicks have alternative places to eat. I even made one special "juvenile" pen with food and water next to the main chicken feed area. I set this "juvenile" pen up on bricks (about 3" off the ground) so that only the little chicks can run underneath. The adult chickens try to get underneath to get at the food, but they are too big and gave up trying. It works well. The other problem is roosting. The little chicks want to roost with the big chicken but the rooster chases them away. So now they hang outside until it's pretty dark, and the rooster and others are settled in ... then they dash inside and hop onto the end of the roost. In my second coop, the adult chickens don't care that the chicks are on their roost. Just make sure the chicks have a ladder or a way to get up on the roost. Does this help?
     
  3. chicknmania

    chicknmania Overrun With Chickens

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    Yes, thanks. There are lots of places for them to roost in our barn, that are lower, but Doodle (the 2 month old cockerel) is so timid...I mean, I guess everyone worries who does this. That is a good idea about the run- in juvenile pen.
     
  4. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I thought for sure the little chicks wouldn't do well on their own free-ranging, but they are smart little critters and they can run like heck if they need to (usually from me, for example, trying to pet them cuz they're so cute). I don't have predators though, except for an occassional hawk which I haven't seen in a year or so.
     
  5. hankshens

    hankshens Out Of The Brooder

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    Hey, it sounds like you have some experience in raising chicks. I just had 2 babies hatch. One is a silkie and one is a mix but it is alot bigger. The mom is a Dominique/orphington cross, she is very big. She is also very protective. I cant get the chicks from her and was wanting to let her raise them. She is in the coop and I have blocked off the enterance so the chicks cant escape. All mine free range. My question is, should I let her keep the babies or take them from her. She is in with the rest of the chickens. I have 19 adults that range from silkies to my game rooster who is my baby. He is really friendly to the other chickens. He was a rescue. Please let me know what you think. Thanks!T
     
  6. chicknmania

    chicknmania Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote:Certainly, let her keep them. She can do a much better job raising them than people can, and if she's that protective, all the better. She will show them what to eat and what to watch out for, where to go to roost and all the other stuff a mother should do. All ours are different sizes and breed mixes, too, cause Hedwig (the mom) sat on a clutch of eggs laid by everyone. I don't know about everyone else, but in our flock, the older chickens generally ignore the young ones, except for the mother, of course. We only have one old hen who harasses any new birds, regardless of age, and a mother hen would prevent that if you have any like that in your flock..
     
  7. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, let her keep them. Less work for you. Better for the chicks.
     
  8. hankshens

    hankshens Out Of The Brooder

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    Well, I got scared and took them from her. When the other chickens went to roost they got the mom all worked up and she was running over the chicks. A couple of the older hens pecked at them. I also had a baby hatch from another mom and she left it and went to another box. She had a bloody head like she had got in a fight with something. I have the baby under a heat lamp and it seems to be ok but a little weak. It has eaten and drank a little. If they hatch anymore I would like to leave them with the moms, but should I put them in crates at night? And loose during the day? I am just worried about the chicks safety. Oh yeah, the hen with the bloody head is fine. I cleaned it off and it turns out that another chicken pecked at her comb and it had bled. I put medicine on her and she seems to be fine. Thanks for the help:)
     
  9. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When a henmom hatches a batch of chicks, you should keep them in a separate pen for at least 2 weeks or more -- it's up to you how long. that way they can bond safely with mom not having to fight anyone off and the chicks can develop some strength and wing power. Then, if you want them to free-range with the flock, you can let them loose with the others because they're a little bit older and able to get away if necessary.

    I would have COMPLETELY different advice if your flock is kept in a pen (meaning not free-range). If they are NOT free-ranging, I would keep the chicks and their mom separate until the chicks are much bigger (3 months even). The reason being they have too little space to get away when necessary. If they are free-ranging, they can easily go to a different place to hide and their is not near so much stress about all the hens and their pecking order.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2008
  10. redkan

    redkan Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have 6 feed store chicks that are about 11 weeks old now and they've been free range for about 3 weeks now. We do occasionally still lock them in in the morning and a couple of times I had to go out and round them up because it's lock down time and they hadn't quite figured out it's bedtime but generally speaking they're on their own. I do have another flock that's also free range so there is an "example" flock ... I also cooped them for about 4 weeks in the barn coop so they knew where "home" was.

    ETA - I keep my chicks with mom inside for about a week, until mom is flying up over the walls of the indoor coop. At that point I think she's pretty sure it's time for them to roam and since "mom knows best" I let them out.

    As you said, no right answer.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2008

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