These are my chicks-- playing, fighting, or establishing order? Plus other questions.

ck1500

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 13, 2014
12
0
22
Hello all, my family just got some three week old chicks and we got them mixed but all from the same local hatchery. The breeds are, I think, Buff Orpington, Ameracauna, Golden Sex Link, Rhode Island Red, and a Barred Rock. All are supposed to be female. It's our first time raising chickens and we're all excited.

I have some questions that pertain to this short video I made, plus some others:

1.) In the video are they playing? Fighting? Or establishing order/hierarchy?
If they are fighting, is it anything I should be concerned about, or is it normal?

2.) I found the treat chart and it's quite handy, but when exactly should I start with treats? I've read that it might be best to hold off until they are 8 weeks+ and move off of the starter feed so they get the maximum amount of nutrition and get used to eating regular plain chicken food, but other places I see people discussing what to give baby chicks, so I'm not sure.

3.) If I do give them treats, do all treats need grit still? If I throw in some oats for example, will they be okay with it? What about already soft or thin food like lettuce, fruits(banana, cantaloupe), etc?

4.) They've only been together for about half a week now, so I don't want to separate them yet, but when can I handle them? I want to see if I can incorporate at least a little basic training, teach them their names and get them familiar.

5.) When can I let them play outside in the grass a bit without being concerned that they'll try to run away? They can get quite hyper, run quite fast, and jump quite high! Or should I just wait until our run+coop is finished?

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope to hear from someone soon! For now, I'll go back to browsing the various super informative topics and articles.
 

Judy

Crowing
Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Feb 5, 2009
34,024
597
448
South Georgia
1. They are playing and play fighting, and establishing their pecking order. And, to a point, fighting. I'd encourage you to increase their space and provide some diversion. Things to jump up on and hide behind will help. Getting them familiar with you is also something you can be doing, but I wouldn't suggest lifting one out for this. Lay your hand in the brooder and let them check it out. They'll eventually peck at it, after they get their nerve up -- you'll find this is quite gentle especially at this age. They use their beaks to explore their world. After they get a bit used to your hand, moisten a little of their feed and put it in your palm. Again, it will take some time, but they should eventually eat out of your hand. You can try accustoming them to their names, but you could also just choose some call for all of them and use that consistently, then relate it to putting our hand in, etc., so that they will come when called in time.

Taking them outside for short outings is a great idea, even at this age if you have a warm, sunny day for this -- but they will run and hide, so you will need to contain them, or you may lose them in bushes or under your house. Perhaps you can tig up a piece of fencing temporarily. They will also love being on grass and trying out hunting and pecking or foraging. They willl need some time in your coop and run to learn that it is home before you can turn them out from it and count on their returning at night on their own.

Maintaining good nutrition is important, and if you do choose to give treats at this age, just keep the quantity small, less than 10% of their diet. A great first treat is a bit of yogurt mixed with a bit of their feed. The organisms in the yogurt are beneficial, too.

They need grit to grind up food, and there is some in their chick feed, so yogurt doesn't require grit. If you do choose to give small amounts of fruit or veggies, a little sand will do for now as grit. Be sure the pieces of food are small enough that they won't get choked; they do essentially swallow their food whole.
 

ck1500

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 13, 2014
12
0
22
Thanks for the tips! It's going to be in the mid 60's today so I got a little fence enclosure setup on some grass-- I'm thinking I'll let them out for a little bit! I'm pretty sure if they try really hard they might be able to jump over it, but unless they all jump at the same time(knock on wood), I should be able to catch stop them from getting out.

I'll try some yogurt mixed with feed too. Does it have to be plain? Greek, regular?
 

JessicaThistle

Songster
5 Years
Mar 27, 2014
915
185
196
Oregon
My family are new to having chicks this year too and it is so much fun! Ours are 5 weeks old and have been living in the coop for 3 days now. They are super happy. I have a small garden that is surrounded with chicken wire that I haven't gotten ready for planting yet. I have been taking them out there since they were 3 weeks old. They loved running around pulling at weeds and hunting for goodies.

My girls are also chest pumping, jumping at each other and stretching themselves up tall. They chase each other and are definitely squaring off. They never hurt each other and it doesn't last long. I am sure they are just establishing pecking order. I just keep an eye on mine to be sure no one gets hurt.

The yogurt you use is plain only. I have also given my girls scrambled eggs which they absolutely love! They will get a piece and run around peeping like crazy playing a super fun game of keep away. It is adorable to watch. They have also done this when they find a worm or just a leaf in the garden.

I am really enjoying having chicks and at this point, I think it is something that I will do for a long time.
 

ck1500

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 13, 2014
12
0
22
They sure seemed to like the grass!

Even with a lot of space they seem to generally stay together, and they scream really loudly when separated. They're a family already!

They eventually seemed to like the yogurt + starter feed combo, although for the first 45 minutes out in the sun they were much more fascinated with the grass and dandelions.

I dug around in the garden for a couple of worms and dropped those in too. The first took them a good 5 minutes to approach-- they seemed frightened of it! After one was brave enough to finally pick at it and grab it they all went ballistic though. She ran around the small enclosure sucking it down while they all chased her wanting a bite for themselves. The next couple worms went a lot faster...

I have another question: Are there any small things I can put in their brooder that they can play with or that changes it up for them? They have a small roost that they spend a good deal of time on, but I was anything else I should put inside, maybe as entertainment or just a place to hide.
 

JessicaThistle

Songster
5 Years
Mar 27, 2014
915
185
196
Oregon
We cut a hole in the side of a small cardboard box and put it in the brooder. They enjoyed going in and out and hopping up on top. They especially liked it because they could stand on it and stretch up to peek over the top of the brooder. Within days they used it to get themselves high enough to small jump and flap up to the edge of the brooder. They would just sit on the edge all happy.

Once they all learned that, we took a couple of skinny flat boards and put them around the edges to roost. It wasn't long before the first one flew to the floor and learned how great that was.

Note that they only got to perch on top of the brooder or run around on the floor when we were in the room. Otherwise we got an old window screen to cover it when we were not at home.
 

donrae

Hopelessly Addicted
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Jun 18, 2010
31,453
4,088
581
Southern Oregon
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At this age, playing, fighting and establishing the pecking order is all pretty much the same. What they're doing is totally normal
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I don't see any problem giving treats young. Momma hens teach their chicks to eat many different things from the first few days.

It's just best to have grit available so you don't have to worry if they can eat a specific treat or not.

I don't handle my birds, so I can't really help you much there, except to say no reason to hold them and interact with them now.

Outside is good, as you've discovered! Remember these chicks don't have a momma to show them what's safe to eat, or where's safe to go. They instinctivly know they're pretty low on the food chain and it's normal for them to stay together (safety in numbers) and avoid wide open spaces. They'll get bolder as they get older.
 

JessicaThistle

Songster
5 Years
Mar 27, 2014
915
185
196
Oregon
I forgot. We have handled and snuggled with our chicks since we got them at 2 weeks old.

I did watch your video and just learned today to watch carefully with the chicken wire that you have around the brooder. I have that kind of wire around my garden area and one of my 5 week old chicks stuck her head through today. We couldn't get her to comfortably pull it back out the way she came. So we had to cut it to get her out.

Don't be scared. Just have a set of wire cutters handy if you need them.
 

ck1500

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 13, 2014
12
0
22
I have another question-- this one in regards to a chicks sleeping habits.

How are chicks generally supposed to sleep? I snuck down to the room they're kept in at around 1:30AM and I heard a couple of peeps. I opened the door and sure enough, they were up and about. One was eating, the rest were preening / doing not much of note.

In fact, when I sit with them in the room (no more than 1-2 hours at a time usually), I rarely ever see them sleep longer than 10-15 minutes.

I think I read that more grown chickens generally sleep throughout the night-- they can even fall asleep in the rain and just sleep through that. Is this not the case with littler ones? Could it perhaps be because of the heatlamp? They often sleep together (sometimes one sits by themselves) under it instead of a darker section, so I'm not sure if this is a problem or not.

In other news, they're generally good around me now! They often peek over to see what I'm doing if I'm in the room, and a couple even allow me to pick them / 'pet' them (even though I don't really do it unless i need to.) One is still -incredibly- flighty, however.
 
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Peach Mom

In the Brooder
7 Years
Oct 27, 2012
50
9
33
They sure seemed to like the grass!

Even with a lot of space they seem to generally stay together, and they scream really loudly when separated. They're a family already!

They eventually seemed to like the yogurt + starter feed combo, although for the first 45 minutes out in the sun they were much more fascinated with the grass and dandelions.

I dug around in the garden for a couple of worms and dropped those in too. The first took them a good 5 minutes to approach-- they seemed frightened of it! After one was brave enough to finally pick at it and grab it they all went ballistic though. She ran around the small enclosure sucking it down while they all chased her wanting a bite for themselves. The next couple worms went a lot faster...

I have another question: Are there any small things I can put in their brooder that they can play with or that changes it up for them? They have a small roost that they spend a good deal of time on, but I was anything else I should put inside, maybe as entertainment or just a place to hide.

Your videos are so cute! My younger flock now 1 year old was much like yours as babies. I think they will be happy girls together. Your play area may be large enough to do what I did with mine. I had a circular doggie play fence and when I brought mine out I would quietly sit in it with them. They were pretty used to me by this point but would use me as a place to hide from the big scary world. It was also a good way to get them to hop up onto my lap for their little treats. They got to check me out and I let them go at their own speed (though I have to say that chickens are as curious as kittens). One word to the wise...wear clothes you do not care about! They did not mind where they went if you know what I mean;-)
 

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