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Starting a replacement flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by mocluckin, Feb 7, 2014.

  1. mocluckin

    mocluckin In the Brooder

    May 27, 2013
    Ione, California
    So we have a flock of 15 layers (from our starting flock of 24 two years ago) and I know they are going to start slowing down egg production in the coming year. The plan is to start a new batch of chicks that will start laying this summer and take over from the existing girls.
    My question is do we need to keep them separate as long as they are on chick starter feed to keep the older hens from getting into that feed? We raised meat chickens this past summer so I would do the same setup for the new chicks, put them in the movable coop when they hit 4 weeks old or so with a hot fence enclosure to keep them separated from the existing flock. I would like to eventually integrate the two groups, but it might be better to just harvest the older hens when the new group starts laying.

    Suggestions, ideas, your experience appreciated.


  2. sepaditty1

    sepaditty1 Songster

    Mar 29, 2008
    South Carolina
    If you want them to be integrated, you could feed an all flock/finisher feed & offer oyster shell on the side. I've read that that's what most do.
  3. ChickenCurt

    ChickenCurt Chirping

    Jan 2, 2014
    If your hens accept chicks you can put chick starter with the adults but put up a field fence barrier, the chicks can run in and out at will but the adults can't fit.
  4. mocluckin

    mocluckin In the Brooder

    May 27, 2013
    Ione, California
  5. pound4pound

    pound4pound In the Brooder

    Jan 28, 2014
    watching, wild and free!
    grow the chiks with the hen separately from the other adults to avoid worm infestation. if they are like 4-5 months old you can start "the reaping" of the adults to pot..lol
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2014
  6. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    You can brood the chicks right in the same coop so that the big flock can see and hear them but cannot reach them, then integration won't be such a big thing. You can feed an all flock when you integrate if feeding layer to chicks makes you nervous...I feed the same feed to them all when they are integrated and that's fermented layer or~when chicks have been in a brooder in the coop~chick starter mixed with layer. I integrate at around 2-3 wks without any problems, though my flock is free ranged so coop and run situations may not go so smoothly.

    Here's pics of the last batch of chicks raised on the coop floor from time of arrival and let out of the brooder at 2-3 wks to join the big flock:






    And here's some of the same chicks, all grown up and still ranging and eating with the big flock..... the older birds will teach the younger birds and flock social structures go so much more smoothly when the chicks are introduced at a very young age instead of waiting until they are 1-2 mo. old and then throwing them together. The older flock will treat younger chicks with more gentleness and deference than they will juveniles that suddenly appear on the scene from out of nowhere. It also helps them establish immunities to your flock's existing germs at a young age when they are developing their immune system...early exposure is best. I brood my chicks right on the coop floor in deep litter that has been in there for months and I place a light layer of clean shavings over top of that for their brooding time. In this way they get a low exposure to the existing germs.


  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Are these chicks hatched by a broody...... or brought in from outside as day olds?

  8. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    These are brought in from outside...but I've done the same with broody hatched ones. The younger the integration, the more smoothly it goes and with way less pecking issues and pecking order rituals. The chicks will get pecked on the head now and again at the feeder until they learn not to crowd in but it's usually very mild and they are not chased and pecked relentlessly like some describe.

    What happens for most people is that they keep their chicks separate from the flock, usually inside, for a couple of months. They don't know any social cues or rituals and they are turned in with an established social structure that doesn't suffer fools lightly...especially fools that are large enough to compete with them for food. Little chicks are not seen as food competitors by grown chickens so they largely ignore them or peck them lightly to move them.

    When chicks are little they are very quick to learn what is expected, where the food is, where the safety of the coop is, how to avoid danger out on free range and they learn all this by mimicking the older birds...little chicks are great at monkey see, monkey do. That's why it's easier to train them to use poultry nipples than it is older birds...they are very much in a learning how to survive state as young chicks, but not so much as young juveniles.

    Much like in the human world, where you can often teach a young child things but once they reach a prepubescent or teenager age, they feel like they know it all already and get into all kinds of trouble finding out they don't much after all. [​IMG]
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Bee, I disagree with you on one thing, feeding Layer to young chicks, and these studies are why.

    Avian Gout

    British Study – Calcium and Protein

    One bite won’t kill them. It’s not what is in one bite but how much calcium they eat in a day, and that is over a longer period. If they eat a lot of other low-calcium stuff or especially are out foraging with Mama, they are a lot less likely to eat enough Layer to do them harm. It’s not an absolute sure thing that the chicks will get hurt by eating Layer which is essentially what they are feeding these chicks, one study starting from hatch and the other from 5 weeks. They don’t just wait for a chick to fall over dead in these studies. They cut them open to see what is going on inside. If all they eat is Layer at those ages, the results are pretty clear.

    Grower is not any more expensive than Layer and has the same percent protein. Oyster shells are dirt cheap. You are a practical woman. I just don’t see the logic in spending the same money and giving them something that might harm them as opposed to spending the same and giving them something that is less likely to harm them.

    I agree with you on all that other stuff. My brooder is in the coop and my grow-out pen shares a fence with the adults. I use electric netting for predator protection and young chicks can get through those holes. That’s one big reason I use that grow-out pen, let them get big enough they can’t get out through that netting. We all have different ways to do things.

    I take dirt from the adult’s run and feed that to the chicks in the brooder starting from day 2 or 3, depending in when they are settled in. Every 4 or 5 days, I give them some more dirt. That gives them grit, they get any probiotics the adults have, and it gets them started on building up flock immunities. They probably get minerals from that too. I’m convinced they are a lot healthier this way. One of the first things a broody hen teaches her chicks is to eat dirt.

    One thing you didn’t mention that I think is pretty important is space. I think most of the problems people have with broody raising chicks with the flock or just integration boils down to them being too crowded. I’m a big believer in giving them as much room as you can.

    Some of my broody hens keep their chicks on a tight leash. They keep their chicks really close. Others are much more laid back and let their chicks merge with the rest of the flock. A couple of years back I had a hen wean her chicks at three weeks, left them totally on their with the flock. I’ve never had an adult kill or injure a chick. Like you say, an older hen will sometimes peck a chick to teach it proper flock etiquette, but I really haven’t seen any try to kill a chick. I have seen Mama beat the tar out of a hen that she thought was threatening her chick, and probably more common, teach a juvenile not to get too close to her chicks.
  10. Beekissed

    Beekissed Free Ranging

    I know everyone disagrees with me on that but it's still pretty evident in my flocks that it has no ill effects and no long term effects. The level of calcium absorbed and utilized out on forage is much higher even than can be found in layer rations. I have never had a bird with gout, bumble foot or any other health problem that would stem from calcium toxicity so I'll continue to give that same advice. Young animals are growing bones and utilizing calcium a lot more than one would think, hence the milk intake for most young animals after birth. For young fledglings in a nest, they are consuming large portions of calcium through the bones~or with lesser birds, the shells of bugs~ to help with bone and feather growth.

    As a nurse I'm not convinced that excess calcium is the main cause for gout, in animal or human. I'd be more convinced that diets high in proteins and fats will produce it more quickly.

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