Introducing chicks to flock

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by heby, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. heby

    heby Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I was wondering at what age is it good to place chicks with the rest of the flock? I have been told by many to add them all together when the chicks get a few weeks old. I throw out layer pellets and the ppl tell me that it won't hurt them but I don't want to lose any so I was wondering what to do. These ppl have raised chickens for years but don't think they have ever taken the chicks from the mom.
     
  2. salt and pepper

    salt and pepper Chillin' With My Peeps

    I've been wondering the same thing...
     
  3. heby

    heby Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Maybe someone will know. [​IMG]
     
  4. cmoore333

    cmoore333 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ok I'm pretty new, but we've raised chickens for a year:) I've added several grown birds to my flock with no big issues. So in January I bight baby chicks. For the first 2-3 weeks they where inside my dining room:) as the weather got nicer I started taking them out to a small coup my hubby bought for me ( we call it the baby coop, as it's pretty small, and has no roosting bars (so once they get older they have to be moved again to the big girl coop) fist week they stayed in the run of the baby coop, and when it got dark, my son and I would go retrieve them to stay in thier playpen in the dinning room. The second week I had them stay over night in the baby coop. All this time my flock has seen the babies everyday:) the last week I made a small pen around the coop, gets the baby's used to being outside the coop itself and they got to play in the grass, the rain everything without being in direct contact with the older hens and my rooster. Now they are 8weeks old and today I let them out to free range with the flock. My rooster didn't even take notice of them, the hens on the other hand picked on them ( but not terribly ) so I find today worked out pretty good:) when I did take off for an hour I did put them back in thier pen, and let them out again when I got home. At about seven I gathered them up again put them in the pen, and as soon as it got dark up in the baby coop they went.. I'm planning on finishing a big chcicken coop to move them too this coming week(as I have baby's ready to move out to the baby coop) I'm home most of the day so I did do alot of checking on them, after all they are my babies... Hopefully some of the veterans will give us all some more advice...
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    A broody hen will often wean her chicks and leave them on their own with the flock at 4 weeks so they can be integrated at that age. The younger they are the more risks and I’m not a broody hen. I wait a little longer.

    I think how much room they have has a lot to do with it. Chickens have developed ways to live together in a flock. One of those ways is that the weaker runs away from the stronger if there is a confrontation or just avoids the stronger to start with. They need enough room to run away or avoid.

    There are a few things you have to worry about. One is that chickens can be territorial. They recognize which chickens belong in their flock and can attack strange chickens. There is a big difference in what can possibly happen and what will happen each and every time. Sometimes this is not a problem at all, but it is often enough to be a legitimate concern. A good way to help out on this is to house them side by side but with a fence between them so they can get used to each other’s right to exist but cannot get at each other to attack. Usually a week is enough but there is nothing wrong with longer.

    Then you have the pecking order. For the flock to exist peacefully each chicken needs to know its social rank. They establish this by intimidation, pecking, or fighting. If a chicken invades the personal space of another and they don’t know how they rank or if there is a challenge to change that pecking order status, one will peck the other or in some way try to intimidate it. If the weaker runs away, the pecking order is established and everything is again peaceful. There may be some chasing and running away involved, but as long as there is space, things are well. But if one does not run away, it’s a challenge and can get pretty violent, maybe even deadly. So they need adequate room to run away.

    A mature chicken always outranks an immature chicken and is usually not very slow to enforce and protect that rank advantage. I’ve never had a mature dominant rooster harm a chick in any way, but it’s pretty normal for some hens to be brutal about this. Some hens seem to go out of their way to harm a young chick. If they have space, a chick old enough to take the weather can do OK with the flock, but the tighter the space the more at risk they are. If your space is really tight, you may need to wait until the young ones are grown before you try to integrate them, and even then it can get really messy.

    Maybe a story will help put this in perspective. I’ve seen several occasions where a chick maybe 2 weeks old being raised with a broody with the flock leaves the broody hen’s protection and goes to stand beside the other adult hens at the feeder. Sometimes the other hens ignore that chick entirely but it usually does not take long for an adult to peck the chick to remind it that it is bad chicken etiquette for it to eat with its social betters. The chick goes running back to Mama with wings flapping and peeping its head off. Mama generally ignores all this, but if a hen starts to chase the chick to drive that message home, Mama gets all kinds of bad attitude and teaches that hen to not threaten her chick like that.

    My brooder is in the coop. They see each other from the start. I have a grow-out coop and run that is next to the adults. I have a lot of space in the main coop and outside. At about 8 weeks I let them out to range together. The young ones still go back to the grow-out coop to sleep. Usually around 12 weeks I move the young ones in with the adults. I put in an extra roost lower down and separated a bit from the main roosts so they can sleep further away from the adults if they want to without going in my nests. I have yet to lose a chick doing it this way, which means I’m probably being over-cautious.

    Other than provide as much space as you can, it really helps to provide separate eating and drinking stations so the young can eat without challenging the older. Having things they can hide behind or under can help them avoid the older birds. What you will normally see is that they form two separate flocks during the day. They need room to do that.

    Growing chicks should not eat Layer feed. It has excess calcium in it that tests have proven can seriously harm growing chicks. In these studies they cut the chicks open to see what the excess calcium does to the chicks' organs. It’s not pretty. It’s not how much calcium is in one bite but how much calcium they eat in a day on a regular basis that does the damage. If the chick gets most of its food from foraging, the extra calcium in the little amount of Layer it eats is not as likely to hurt it as if it eats nothing but Layer.

    The way I get around this problem with a mixed age flock is that I feed them all the same feed, Starter or Grower, and offer oyster shell on the side. This way the ones that need the calcium for egg shells get it from the oyster shell and ones that don’t need it won’t eat enough to harm themselves.

    As you can see from this, there is not one perfect age to integrate chicks. What works for you will depend in your specific flock (whether you have a brute of a hen) how you manage them seeing each other, how you feed them, and especially your space. Good luck on determining what is right for you.
     
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  6. heby

    heby Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 15, 2013
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    If they are all together, how do you manage to gather them up to put them in the smaller pens? It seems very smart but a lot of work. My hens will come up to me but scatter if I bend down. I hope the babies will get used to my voice since they are inside and get used to handling more.

    Thank you so much Ridgerunner!! That was a lot of information and I thank you for typing it all out. I enjoyed it. I am going to start drawing out some blueprints of a bigger coop and pens to house all the chickens. We have a very small flock right now but as the babies get bigger we will need the room. I told him that I will do it but he don't like the idea. Haha. He thinks he does the best job building and such. :)

    Thank you all so much. [​IMG]
     
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Once chickens determine where “home” is, they return every night just before dark on their own. No rounding up required.

    There are different ways to go about this. If you can keep them locked in the coop for about a week, they usually determine that is home. If they are not yet roosting they may try to sleep just outside the coop, especially if the coop is raised, but they should go to their coop area every night just before dark. It’s also possible they might try sleeping on top of the coop. You might need to gather them up and put them in, but after they are settled in for the night, no real chasing involved. Just pick them up.

    If you move them into their coop after they are settled in for the night they usually learn fairly quickly this is where home is. This can take a several days though.
     
  8. pretty lew

    pretty lew New Egg

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    . I just brought 3 chick 1 Red 1 black jersey giant 1 amercuns how long do they chirp
     
  9. salt and pepper

    salt and pepper Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mine chirped until they were over 12 weeks.
     
  10. cmoore333

    cmoore333 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 28, 2013
    They seem to know where to go, like Ridgrunner said, no rounding up required:) I was more worried about them wondering to far or getting picked on by my other chickens...
     

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