In the Brooder
- Mar 2, 2016
How old do baby chicks need to be before putting them in the coop with the other chickens
Somebody mention my name? Here I is.
I'm a huge advocate of brooding chicks right alongside the adults, either in your coop or in your run, depending on how you're set up for rigging a brooder pen protected from the weather.
I brood in my run from the time the chicks arrive at one or two days old, and by the time my latest chicks were just two weeks old, they were already integrating with the adults in the run via their panic room setup, involving portals in and out of their pen enclosure that only their small bodies fit.
Moving chicks into the coop to sleep with the adult chickens can occur as early as four weeks. It's not a huge affair since the chicks already know how to protect themselves by running into their panic room when they get rousted by the adults come morning.
The secret to integrating very young chicks is the panic room. It makes it possible for chicks to become part of the flock early on with almost zero possibility of injuries. If you haven't brooded the chicks alongside the adult flock, no problem. You can move your chicks out of your house any time into a safe pen in run or coop (I prefer the run). Give them a week alongside the adults and then open portals for them to come and go from their safe enclosure. You can integrate chicks at any age with this method.
When I'm integrating youngsters, and even after they are settled into the flock, I like to put out their FF in at least 3 locations. Water, at least 2. I also open up an other door between coop and run so one old biddy can't block access to the coop. I use a lot of scratch, and be sure to add lots of greens during this time to give them plenty to do. Have also given them a hay bale/pallet play house. It will be even more of a challenge when the pullets start laying. Currently, I have 5 nests available, with an other one that just needs a board across the front. 4 - 5 girls at one time bickering over the top 3 nests, sometimes 3 birds in a single box. Need to put out some more golf balls to spread the joy around a bit more.I’ve had broody hens wean their chicks at three weeks old, leave them totally alone to make their way with the flock. Those broody hens raised the chicks with the flock, they were certainly not strangers. My brooder is in the coop, my brooder-raised chicks are also raised with the flock. Sometimes I move them to a grow-out coop and don’t open the gates so they can mingle with the flock until 8 weeks of age, but they are in a run with a common fence. They are not strangers. Sometimes I just open the brooder door at 5 weeks and leave them on their own. I know I’m being more cautious than I have to be, but I’ve never lost a chick to another adult flock member, either with a broody hen raising them with the flock or with my brooder-raised chicks. My brooder is maintenance free (wire floor) so it’s just as easy to leave them in there for a little longer than the absolute minimum, whatever that is.
I do not provide a safe haven, but it’s a great idea for most people on this forum. One thing not mentioned earlier is that you need room to integrate chicks. If they are shoehorned into a tiny coop or coop/run where they cannot get away from the adults then you have a recipe for a problem. If room is tight, I’d think a safe haven is close to essential. Even if you have plenty of room, it will not hurt and could be a big help.
Another thing that helps is to have separate feeding and watering stations. The older chickens can intimidate the younger, that’s almost a given. If you have room, spread the food and water out so the younger can eat and drink without challenging the adults. Or provide extra food and water in the safe haven.
There are various tricks to this but to me the two essentials for early integration are to provide plenty of room (either a lot of physical space or in a safe haven) and keep them side by side with the adults for a time so they are not strangers when you let them mingle.