Keeping chick/hen feed separate, when can chicks go in coop?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by amama, Nov 21, 2016.

  1. amama

    amama Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 16, 2016
    Midwest US
    We have 13 free range Australorp hens that are a year old. We would like to add chicks next spring, hopefully laid and raised by one of our hens. I'm having a hard time figuring out the logistics of raising chicks and integrating them into the flock. I know they will need chick starter, and shouldn't eat layer feed, but our laying hens really need layer feed.

    1) How would I feed chicks and hens separately if they are raised by one of the hens and are with the flock?

    2) Our coop is raised off the ground and we really like it, but chicks won't be able to climb the ladder/ramp for a while. What age could they do that, and does that mean the mama and the chicks need raised in our barn separately? I don't want to cause problems adding them back in with some of the meaner birds in the flock.

    Thanks for the advice

  2. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    Good for you planning ahead like this. I might be able to help. Check this out:

    It's worked great for me for a total of 6 batches of chicks now. I'll never, ever go back to the old "heat-lamp-in-the-brooder-reducing-temp-by-5-degrees-a-week-and-keep-the-Bigs-and-Littles-separate-until-they're-all-the-same-size" wisdom again. I have full integration by the time the chicks are 4 weeks old. They are off all heat sources by 4 weeks, if not sooner. They know natural day/night cycles from day one. They aren't cheeping and eating and running all over each other 24/7. At night they go to bed and they sleep all night long. The dust and dander is NOT in my house. And most of us believe they feather out faster and are calmer and more confident.
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Your chicks will be able to manage that ramp at a few days old. There will be a learning curve, but they're physically able.

    But, my mommas don't brood in the coop, as a rule. Once the babies are hatched, they brood them in the run, or a corner of the walk-in coop. Not in a nest box. Depending on your predator load, you'll need to either encourage her to take babies back to the coop, or have alternate housing until they're able to manage.

    Change everyone to chick starter. It's higher in protein and lower in calcium, are the basic differences. The increased protein won't hurt your layers one bit. To offset the lower calcium, simply scatter oyster shell out for them to eat free choice. The adult hens will eat what they need (ti's really not that much) and the littles will taste it and then ignore it. When the littles reach point of lay, you can switch everyone back to layer if you wish. Personally, since I have so many birds of different ages and both genders, I've nixed the layer altogether and just feed everyone grower all the time.
  4. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    You just got the gold card responses from two of the best on BYC. They've pretty much covered your concerns.

    Whether you brood your own chicks or have a broody hen raise them, as long as the chicks grow up in close proximity to the adult flock, you will see that they are being integrated from day one. Chicks raised alongside the adult flock have much more self confidence than indoor brooder raised chicks. There simply is no comparison.

    Your layers don't need layer feed as long as they are fed a well balanced all flock feed or chick starter. (There's actually very little difference between the two.) Include oyster shell free choice and the layers will have everything they need.

    I have a coop with a ramp similar to yours. A broody raised a single chick in it this summer, and she was bringing the chick down the ramp within a couple days of hatching. I did staple a non-skid cloth up near the top for added traction for the tiny chick, but she no longer needed that after another week.

    Don't worry about the chicks and the "meaner" members of the flock. A broody hen is usually feared and respected by all. They don't have that "take-no-prisoners" attitude for nothing. She'll keep the rest of the flock in line and protect her chicks. If you end up brooding the chicks yourself in the run in a safe pen, opening small portals around age two to three weeks will give the chicks the same experience learning to mingle with the adults and they'll still be protected by being able to retreat to the safety of the safe pen where the adults are too large to follow.

    For more information on this method of integration, scroll down to the block of articles by azygous and click on the link for brooding outdoors.
  5. amama

    amama Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 16, 2016
    Midwest US
    Very helpful, thanks so much! I don't want to brood them myself at all if possible, they know what they are doing better than I do:)

    I was thinking I'd probably take the nest box out with the broody and set up a station in the barn for a little bit, then move it to the run. All 13 hens fight for and lay in one nest box, sometimes 4 hens in one at a time (even though I have plenty more) so it wouldn't go well for the broody in the coop.

    Thanks again
  6. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Many folks just move the broody and new chicks out of the nest box into a corner of the floor of the coop. They're out of the way on the floor (in deep bedding), and are safe. They will more easily be able to go out of the coop when the time comes. I would avoid separating the little family from the flock. It sets back the ability of the broody to exercise her rank in order to protect the chicks, and it makes it harder for her to re-enter the pecking order when her job of being a mama is finished.
  7. Weehopper

    Weehopper Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 26, 2015
    I have switched feed to Purina's Flock Raiser. Protein is 20%, the chickens love it, and I keep a cup of oyster shell available for the hens, on the side. It comes in both crumbles and pellets.
  8. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    My broodies spend time in a big dog crate in the coop, separate but with the flock. When the chicks are a few days old, and the flock is ranging outside, the cage door is propped open, so mama begins to take the babies out. Gradually, in her own time. I make sure that there are extra 'steps' into and out of the cage and coop, so no chick can't navigate the doorways. Usually mama brings them back into the crate at night for another week or so. When she moves them to a corner of the coop, the cage comes out. Everyone eats Flock Raiser, with oyster shell on the side for the layers. Mary

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