New to chicken raising and in need if any/all advice available


In the Brooder
9 Years
Jun 3, 2010
North Carolina
We found your website today, and decided to write... hoping for encouragement and advice for us as we care for our new "fine feathered family."
Our lives have become quite an adventure since we became backyard chicken "tenders"

Quite unexpectedly, my husband and I "inherited/adopted" a mother hen with 13 baby chicks just over 2 weeks ago (they were abandoned by our former neighbors).
We don't even know what kind they are... but think they may be of the gaming kind (we have some nice photos).

As far as we know, "Henrietta" (as we named her) has always been a "free-range" chicken, so up until the time she came to us, she had only eaten bugs/worms and maybe table scraps. Henri's chicks appeared to be only a day or two old when she came over so we bought special feed for newborns and a little feeder from the local feed store. Surprisingly, the baby chicks won't eat it... but have eaten some of the cracked corn we bought for mom (and pop - "Rascal" the rooster, who unfortunately didn't make it across the road one day). We were anxious about Henri & babies getting ran over too, but after being fed for a few days, she stayed... choosing a secluded place among the leaves of the iris plants by our barn to roost each night. We put up a pen and constructed what we are calling a "roosting hut"... which is just big enough for Henri and her family to sleep in right now. We even placed it over the place she liked and she's happy with it, settling in with her family at the end of each day! We lock them in at night so that predators cannot get to them.

However, we have a problem. Our new family prefers the "lively hi-protein diet" instead of cracked corn and chick-meal... and wants to keep the free-range lifestyle!

We didn't put a top on our pen and Henri began to fly out sometimes to scratch for bugs and such... clucking for her chicks to come too (who obviously couldn't because they were fenced in and too small to fly). Like "mother's helpers"... we began gathering bugs (hundreds of them) from all over the place, throwing them over the fence throughout the day, every day, for about a week. Well, the chicks have tripled in size in just 10 days, and some of them have begun to fly over the fence too, leaving the others behind who cry and pace/run back and forth until we open the gate and chase them out to join the others. Just in the last 48 hours, Henri and family have found our favorite bug haven where they run to the moment we open the door at sunrise. T hen, just today, the chicks actually began to flutter up and perch in the low lying limbs of one of the tree shrubs in our yard. They scratched all over the yard around every tree, bush, flower patch, etc. today... at least twice... but they promptly returned to the pen and to the roosting hut at dusk.

We live out in the country... have about an acre of yard around our house.
For so many chickens, is this enough space for them to roam/graze?

We eventually plan to give some of the chicks away... hoping to "in pairs"... a hen and rooster chick (if we knew the sexes).
How long are we going to have to keep them before we can tell the difference?

I apologize for the long letter... but being "first-timers" at this... We are desperate for information!

Vickie (and Chuck) Campbell
Dunn, NC
I would just open the pen and let them all free range!! Sounds like they would love that! That's what my chickens do. We have 7.5 acres. Before "they" decided that chicks needed chick starter, chicken mommas raised their kids on the land, so I don't see any harm in letting them eat what they can find foraging, since you live in the country especially!! Corn is actually nutrient deficient, and should never be a main part of their diets anyway. It's more of a treat. I throw some out once every couple of days to keep my chickens happy and to keep them trained to come running when I call them.

My one concern is your plan to give away "pairs" of chickens... roosters can be pretty rough on hens. Especially if there aren't enough hens. 1 to 1 ratio isn't very ideal. I know a lot of people don't want to hear this, but you might be better to cull and freeze the extra boys. Better that, and know they had a good but short life, than to have the hens live under the stress of over mating. That's just my thoughts. So cool that you have babies being raised by mommy! That's the life. I hope to be able to let my hens to this next year.
ALSO... lol
They should stay good about roosting at night! My girls will still roost in their house if I move it around the yard! They know it's home no matter where it's setting. They are pretty neat creatures.
from California! What a wonderful story. Sounds like you don't have a predator problem like some of us. Foxes, hawk, etc. Your little hen must be experienced in being free and surviving. We'll be waiting to hear more stories. There's lots of information on identifying gender but you won't really know for sure until your chicks are about 4 mos. old, or as they say, "Until the rooster crows".
Best of luck!
Hi there Vickie and Chuck!
from S. Florida! Its great to have you both here! How kind to take in the "forgotten".
I'm sure you're going to do just fine with your new found family.
All your answers can be found here as well.

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