Transition of chicks into flock

lurae

In the Brooder
Jun 18, 2016
19
1
39
Stonyford, California
I have somewhat of a dilemma. Currently I have three layers that are free range. I shut the coop up at night but during the day there is no run/fencing at all. My new chicks (2 roosters and 6 hens as far as I can tell), are in a large bathtub at the moment, are 2-3 weeks old. Another week or so I will put them outside in a "transitional coop" that is set up next to the larger coop. They will not have ground access. My dilemma is how to best put them in with my layers. I'm concerned with them being totally free range and not finding their way back to the coop. I'm not home from 10am to 4pm every day so not there to keep an eye on them. I was hoping they would just follow the older ones throughout the day but that may be wishful thinking.
Should I build a temporary run for them? I don't have any way to transition them into the larger coop without the layers unless I shut my layers out and I don't want to do that as, of course, the nesting boxes are in the coop. Guess I wasn't thinking about the transitioning to free range when I decided to add to the flock...
I still have to get the roof and the rest of the wire on the new one so have room to make changes/additions if needed and can be moved to better placement. The pallet fencing and hog wire in the background will not contain the chickens.
Thanks ahead of time for any advice!
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debid

Crowing
9 Years
Jan 20, 2011
7,543
6,821
496
middle TN
Yes, I'd give them a temporary secure run until they're large enough that they can start ranging with the big girls. They're such easy targets at that age and haven't had the benefit of a broody raising them.
 

chameleon

Chirping
Dec 23, 2016
414
87
96
Garden Route, South Africa
Finding their way back to the coop shouldn't be a problem, with or without the older hens. If you keep them in the coop for a few days so that they learn that it's home, they will find their own way back once you start ranging them.

As for integrating them, will the older hens be able to see them when the chicks are in the transitional coop? From your photo it looks like it has a bit of a run attached to it. If you keep the chicks in there the hens will get used to seeing them while they're ranging during the day. It will give you a chance to observe how they react. Once they are used to eachother and the chicks are used to their coop, you can start ranging them together under supervision, either over a weekend when you're home or for an hour or two in the evening before you lock everybody back up for the night.

You'll have to watch them and decide for yourself when they're ready, chickens react differently to integration, but once everyone is getting along well you can let them free range together full time and move the chicks into the main coop.

When you decide to put them together, they might decide to follow the hens into the main coop, but they might not. If they keep going to the wrong coop you'll have to move them yourself every evening for a few nights till they get the idea. In my experience it take take anywhere from a day or two to a week for them to understand, and then they'll go on their own.

I just want to add, make sure the hens are not showing any agression to the chicks before you leave them together unsupervised. You can also provide a few hiding spots that the chicks can get into where the hens can't reach them.

I hope this helps, let us know how it goes.
 

lurae

In the Brooder
Jun 18, 2016
19
1
39
Stonyford, California
Thanks for the input. I may have to put a door/ramp in the transitional coop and put a temporary fence around it. The new roos I may transition right in with the hens so they can teach them some manners!
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
10 Years
Nov 12, 2009
7,335
7,128
536
western South Dakota
I had some lattice panels and they worked slick as a one way gate. The chicks could go through at will, retreating back to the safe space if they were getting too much thumping. And the big chickens could not follow. They could eat inside the safe place and get enough. At first they stayed very close to the safe space, but ventured out on their terms. My hens were quickly used to them, and they adjusted quickly. I just carried them to the coop a couple of nights, and one night came home late, and they were there.
 

lurae

In the Brooder
Jun 18, 2016
19
1
39
Stonyford, California
I had some lattice panels and they worked slick as a one way gate. The chicks could go through at will, retreating back to the safe space if they were getting too much thumping. And the big chickens could not follow. They could eat inside the safe place and get enough. At first they stayed very close to the safe space, but ventured out on their terms. My hens were quickly used to them, and they adjusted quickly. I just carried them to the coop a couple of nights, and one night came home late, and they were there.
Did you have to cut the lattice or are the holes "chick size"? I'm thinking if I lattice the lower section for an escape route that just might solve a portion of my problem. Might instead/also put a lattice door that goes right into the transitional coop until I get them totally integrated in with the big girls and the big coop.
Thanks for the great idea!
 

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
10 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,164
12,240
707
Southeast Louisiana
What you are doing is pretty similar to what I do.

My suggestion is to put a fence with a top around that temporary coop and house them in that for a few days. You can lock them in the coop section for a few days before you give them access to that run or you can let them have access to the whole thing to start with. In any case teach them to go to bed in that coop on their own. They may do that on their own or you may have to put them in the coop and lock them in after it gets dark for several nights. The idea is that the hens can see them during the day and they will return to that temporary coop at night once you let them out.

After you are confident they will return to that temporary coop at night, open everything up and let them roam with hen during the day. You should be home the first time you do this so you can observe, so probably a week-end. I do this all the time and never have issues but some people do.

Since you free range the odds of you having issues with the hens is really small but with living animals you just don't know. Of course they are vulnerable to predators, any chicken in vulnerable when you free range. With them being small like that they are even more vulnerable, especially to large snakes or hawks. How much you let that paralyze you is up to you. There is no age they are totally safe. I've had broody hens wean their chicks at three weeks of age and left the chicks to manage by themselves. It hasn't been a problem for me but they certainly are vulnerable.

Let them free range with the hens for several weeks, returning to the temporary coop each night. They should form two separate flocks, that's normal. The young ones will probably be afraid of the older ones. I do this all the time. I usually wait until the chicks are about 12 weeks old then lock them in the main coop at night while locking up the temporary coop so they cannot get inside at night. Sometimes I only have to do this once and they switch to the main coop. Sometimes I have to move them a few times before they make the switch.

I always go down there at the crack of dawn until I'm sure there won't be problems if I leave them locked in there together. I've never had to do that more than two times until I'm comfortable they will be OK. I don't know how big your coop is or how it is laid out. Mine is big (8'x12') and they have hiding places.

Mine have ranged together for over a month before I try this. Your outside space is tremendous, the initial integration part should go well. I don't use anything like that lattice/safe haven but it is a good idea, it certainly won't hurt. I can't give guarantees with anything to do with living animals and their behaviors, but I do this every year and I haven't lost one yet.
 

flydutch

In the Brooder
5 Years
Aug 14, 2014
2
0
39
My 17 assorted "chicks" are about 6/7 weeks old. I have put them in the main coop, in a separate pen for 2 weeks now. The chick pen is moved outside in the grass during the day and returned at night. Today is the first day of releasing them free in the main coop area. My established flock consists of a rooster and 3 hens. Should I introduce the established flock to the younger ones face to face, with no protection of the chick pen? And when should I leave the main coop area gate open so the new chicks can free range?I am afraid of hawks and other predators (cats, fox) I guess I should wait until they are bigger?
 

msswede1

Chirping
7 Years
Apr 22, 2012
25
1
82
Homestead, Iowa
Yes, I'd give them a temporary secure run until they're large enough that they can start ranging with the big girls. They're such easy targets at that age and haven't had the benefit of a broody raising them.
I have 8 month old australorps and 6 week old wyandottes. How long until we can integrate the 2 groups.
 
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