Grow out pen with mother hen - how big?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by louiseoz, Oct 22, 2014.

  1. louiseoz

    louiseoz Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi All,
    My pekin successfully hatched some fertile eggs for us and we now have 4 x 2 week old chicks. They are all in a little pen together (about 1m by 2m) and this is within our normal coop which is 13m by 3 wide. Our mother pekin has had enough of being in this box (even tho it has a small run) and she obviously wants to take her new brood elsewhere but they are too little to join the others at the moment.

    How big do you guys normally make a grow out pen when the mother hen is with them? I am assuming that the chicks will join the other hens in about 3 weeks time?

    Thanks for your help in advance.

    P.S This is my first hatch :)
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Usually either you let the mama raise the chicks in with the flock from day one (she should protect them from any aggressive hens,) or you let the chicks grow out to about the same size as the rest of the flock before attempting integration. If you put 7 week old chicks in with an adult flock, there is a good chance they will be attacked and injured or worse by the adults.
     
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I think they're the perfect age to integrate into the flock. The're past the first fragile day old stage, but still young enough Momma will look out for them. I leave my chicks in with the flock all the time and don't have any issues. The others learn to leave Momma and babies alone pretty fast!
     
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  4. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    You need to understand hormones. Hormones are what makes the broody sit on the nest. Each day she gets off the nest to take care of her needs, and is CRANKY. Her pecking order rises. I swear, even my rooster tiptoes around her. When the chicks first hatch, the hormones are very high, and the flock has already learned to give her space. The chicks learn quickly to keep mamma between them and the rest of the flock. They get more exercise and are healthier than when confined to a small area.

    The flock gets used to them, and other than an occasional mind your manners peck, they are just part of the flock. I have had chicks eating right beside layers. There is no integration, and it is a natural way to bring in young birds. Roosters raised in this way, seem to have better manners too, they respect the older birds, and don't act quite so wild.

    Now somewhere, between 4-6 weeks, the broody hens hormones drop, and she forgets her chicks. She no longer takes care of them, they are on their own. If they have been with the flock all this time, this is not a problem.

    Unfortunately, many very well meaning people separate their mamma and chicks away from the flock, until the separation pen gets too small at about 4 weeks and then try and reintroduce the new birds. This is often a disaster. Now, instead of being at the top of the pecking order, the broody hen is the stranger, and the flock is attacking her and the chicks. The mamma is already losing the hormones, gives up the chicks, and makes a desperate attempt to get her own pecking order established. The chicks are on their own, and often can be killed by the layers.

    I am hoping to have chicks hatch on Saturday, they will hatch in the coop with the flock. She will raise them there.

    You have two choices, either take the hen away from the chicks and raise the chicks separately until they are full size, or get them into the flock before the hormones wear off and the hen is considered a stranger. I would do it immediately.

    MRs K
     
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  5. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Judy, Donrae and Mrs. K all have good advice. Let me add one thing about my experience this summer. My first broody of the season hatched out 5 chicks. I integrated them in with the flock at around 2 weeks. About 2 weeks after integration, the broody was killed. The orphans were already integrated into the flock, totally accepted, and also had the protection of the flock while they were free ranging. If they had not been integrated already, I would have had to keep them separated for another 6-8 weeks, and integration would have been much more traumatic for them.

    PS - The next day, our pup alerted DH to a mother raccoon and her babies near the coop. They won't be killing any more chickens.
     
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  6. louiseoz

    louiseoz Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you All so much!! I just tried to integrate the broody and the chicks in with the flock and all hell broke loose with another pekin attacking the broody (lots of blood) so i popped the mum and chicks back in the pen to recover. I'm hoping the shock doesn't harm the chicks. Already the broody has gone down in the pecking order even tho she is in plain sight of the other chooks constantly.

    My chicken house is up a ramp so I'm also concerned the chicks would fall off getting in and out of the house so I guess I ensure the pen still has easy access for the chicks and mum?

    What is the best way to integrate every one?

    Thanks for your help again!
     
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    I was afraid of that when you explained your set up to me. Being in plain sight is not the same as interacting with other chickens, interactions determine pecking order. If only one bird attacked the pullet, pull that bird and another bird, put the pair in your broody pen and keep them there for two weeks. Once you pull the meanies, immediately add the broody hen and chicks to the others. This will allow you to get the broody hen and chicks into the flock and established while the hormones of the broody hen are still active. By pulling the aggressive birds, they come down in the pecking order. By taking a pair, it will make the eventual integration easier, two birds is easier to integrate than a single bird. Basically when you added back the broody, it was adding a single bird, hence the attack. What might happen is the other layers attack the broody, but if the broody puffs up and growls they will generally back down. If so, I would leave it, just check them several times today.

    Do you have hideouts in the run? A pallet up just high enough that the chicks can get under it can help. The ability for birds to get away is crucial in an integration. You mentioned the ramp problem, my broody tonight went in the coop and created a new nest on the floor of my coop. All of my broody hens have done this. By the time chicks are two weeks old, they should be very mobile, but perhaps if you have kept them in a small pen, they are not. However, if you let them out, they will quickly get more athletic. So whereas you may have to go down a night or two, just a little earlier than the layers go to bed and just make sure everyone gets into the coop, by 3 weeks, my broody hen will have hers roosting on a board several feet off the ground.


    If this does not work, and it might not, you may have to keep the the chicks separate from the flock until they are very close to 4 months old. This is the problem of separating birds, the flock equates strangers with danger and go into attack mode. I only separate birds that I am going to cull, as separating birds cause more problems than it solves. However once you have them separate, then you have to wait until they are much bigger.

    My own broody started hatching Friday night, I went down to the coup early Saturday morning, to hear peeping but she was still on the nest. Next time I went down she had two chicks out of the nest, with her in the run. There was peeping in the nest, 5 downy chicks not quite brave enough to make the leap. I scooped them up and put them near the broody and they ran quickly and got a warm up. I went down several times yesterday, I saw the layers come in to see just what had Butter done. I saw a layer get a drink, and a chick run under her feet, and she ignored the chick. I did let the layers out, just to give her a bit more space, but late afternoon, all were penned up again, Broody was puffed up, chicks snuggled under her and peace in the run.

    When you hatch out under a broody in the flock, you may lose a chick, but really the healthy vigorous ones will make it, and the advantages of a peaceful flock is what I really want. The number one way of causing stress in your flock is to separate birds and add them back. Many people wind up in your exact same position, all with the best of intentions.

    Mrs K
     
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  8. louiseoz

    louiseoz Out Of The Brooder

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    I can't thank you enough Mrs K for taking the time to explain in detail what is happening! It makes perfect sense. I tried to reintroduce the mum and chicks again this afternoon and it has been successful so far. The same pekin was an issue but not as bad this time and I was able to monitor the situation a lot better with this new gained knoweldge. I stayed around the coop for a few hours and very occasionally intervened when it got too hairy. They have all since spent the afternoon together dust bathing, eating and scratching! I have ensured there are numerous escape routes for both chicks and mum just in case and have 2 feeding and watering stations to cut down on competition and/ or exclusion. I will (like you suggested) ensure they all sleep together from tonight onwards but have the other pen temporarily open (with just enough entry space for chicks and mum) to use if required.


    Can I just ask what you feed your mixed aged flock? Obviously I have layers amongst the mix so I have just changed the food to pullet grower crumble and left oyster shell out for the layers to help supplement their calcium levels.

    Thank you again![​IMG]
     
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    You are doing fine by the feed..... that is what I do too, and it has been recommended here on this forum several times.
     
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