Joining the gang


7 Years
Mar 6, 2012
I have 10 little chicks 6 weeks old. They have been in a pen next to the older ones. How old do they need to be to join the gang?


Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
You'll find that we do it all sorts of different ways and at all kinds of different ages. There is no one right answer for all of us. We all have different situations and set-ups.

A broody hen will often wean her chicks at 4 to 5 weeks of age and quit protecting them. Those chicks then live with the flock on their own. They still have pecking order issues, but they normally do OK. You are dealing with living animals, so anything can happen. I will not give you any guarantees about any of this.

Your first issue with them is what I call pure integration. Chickens can be territorial and protect their flock or territory from outsiders. When I say CAN means it might happen. It does not mean it always happens. Some chickens do not resist outsiders. Some do. But by keeping them next to each other for a while, they recognize each other and normally accept that the young chicks have a right to exist. Housing them side by side is a great step, but not everyone does that and it still usually works. I firmly believe the more space you have, the better this works.

The other issue is the pecking order. Young chicks are always at the bottom of the pecking order compared to mature birds. If they invade the personally space of a dominant more mature chicken, they are very likely to get pecked. If the chick runs away, proper order is normally restored to chicken society and all is well. If the chick does not run away, this is a challenge to the dominance of the more mature bird. Things can turn real violent. Again, the more space you can provide the better. The chick needs to have enough room to run away. Sometimes that older hen will chase the chick. They are living animals and anything can happen. They really need space to get away.

Something I have observed many times with my flock. It is not unusual for a two week old chick to leave its broody mother's protection and stand next to the other adult hens at the feeder. Occasionally the other grown hens will ignore the chick, but usually one of them will eventually peck the chick to remind it that it is bad chicken etiquette for the chick to eat with its betters. The chick runs back squawking and flapping to Mama as fast as it can. Mama usually ignores all this. But if the hen that pecked it starts to chase the chick, Mama gets really irritated and takes great offense.

If your space is tight, you probably want to wait until the chicks are older. If they have enough room to get away and stay away from the older flock, you can try earlier. The young chicks learn real fast that they need to avoid the older birds. That's why they seem to form a separate flock. It really makes a difference if they can stay out of the older bird’s way. It helps to have separate feeding and watering stations so they can eat and drink without challenging the older birds. They need places to hide, either perches, things to get under, or things to get behind.

Whether they are broody raised or brooder raised, they are going to go through this pecking order stuff. If they have plenty of space, it is not that big a deal. If space is tight, it can be deadly.

Good luck with yours.

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