Well...jeez....am I doing this right??

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Jaxdrisc, Aug 7, 2014.

  1. Jaxdrisc

    Jaxdrisc Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Wow! I just spent about 45 minutes "introducing" 2 new younger chicks to my existing 14 wk olds (4 of them). The chicks are 6.5 weeks old, have been in a grow out pen within the run the others are in. Looks like this:
    [​IMG]
    They have been side by side for 12 days. When free ranging, the chicks are in a dog pen, but out on the lawn with the others. Today, I used a portable fence to enclose a section right off the run door. With the older pullets out in that space, I released the 2 younger ones and stayed very close, leaving the run door open. Glad I did. I totally get now, why people say it is tough to watch! Initially, I had to untangle 4 on 1, but I can say, as time went on, it got somewhat bette. My BO, who is the lowest on the pecking order was the toughest on them. She almost had one pinned. Luckily, you all had me on high alert for that one, and I intervened quickly. The head hen was the least aggressive. Ok, I don't get it. That seems reversed to me. Anyway, I was trying to begin small limited exposures, as some have suggested, to get them even more used to each other. My question....do they all start from square one again next time I do this?? Should I even continue along this way, or wait until I intend to fully release them, at around 8 weeks?? They weren't injured, but boy, were they terrified! My daughter and I decided it looked like a hazing ritual! I could really use some input here....I don't want them hurt. I can't even imagine closing them up in the coop with the others at night! Yikes!
     
  2. ShockValue

    ShockValue Chillin' With My Peeps

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    As in humans, the ones that feel the most powerless are often the most likely to be bullies when little ones come along.
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    So far, you're doing it right. You can make this a whole lot easier on yourself, though, by turning your chick pen into a "panic room" for the chicks.

    A "panic room" is an enclosure for the chicks to duck into to escape being chased and bullied and pecked. It can be anything as long as it has entry holes too small for the big hens to get through, and big enough for the chicks to get through, say around 7"x 5".

    Your chicks need somewhere to feel safe, and then they'll have confidence to explore the big pen and learn their place in the pecking order. It's also important to make sure there're no dead ends in the big run where a chick can get boxed in and trapped and pecked to death.

    I would simply cut a couple of holes in the chick pen you have, keep their food and water inside, and they'll learn very, very quickly that they can come and go whenever they feel like it. It will simplify your having to spend so much time and energy refereeing.
     
  4. Jaxdrisc

    Jaxdrisc Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I could absolutely see the value in that! They were ducking behind the little coop where they could fit and the bigger ones couldn't. I had read making sure to have escape pods around the run!:) What I can do is put a board on their pop door, which is currently 12" square ( I sized the whole thing with a full sized hen in mind in case I needed a separate space to isolate someone), to shrink the entry size down, then remove/move it as needed. Ok, as far as dead ends go, that happened too. That was how it became 4 on 1 little one. In a rectangular run, how does one do that?? I've got 4 corners that become dead ends.....Make little spaces for them to scooch behind, i.e. logs?? I SO appreciate your help! I wonder how many others out there struggle with this?![​IMG]
     
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Beware that if you put a board across their pop door, and that's their only way in, they can still get very trapped outside of their sanctuary because one hen can block the door and allow the rest of them to gang up on the littles. I've seen this gang mentality often enough to know that the older gals and guys will work together to attack the littles.
     
  6. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Instead of blocking the 12" hole, try making a little cardboard (or wood if you're handy with a saw) 5"x7" frame and putting that over the larger hole. You do need more than just one entrance. I once had a hen who would station herself just inside the coop pop hole and pick off the chicks as hey came inside to roost at night. I battled her for a few nights, then got the saw out and cut another door into the coop at the other end. (I spent the whole day building a proper entrance complete with header, supports and hinged door flap.) I can't stress enough how important it is to have as many exits and entrances as you can.

    That's why I cut 5"x7" holes everywhere I saw a dead end. I made them permanent with hinged flaps over wooden frames that I can close when I don't have smalls in the flock The flaps also come in handy when I ever needed to close off an area to the chicks.

    The idea of a panic room came to me when I had my first chicks and the two adult hens were scarfing up all their chick feed. Even if you have adult hens who are kind to babies, it helps the small ones to feel comfortable eating all they need without being intimidated.

    I raise a batch of chicks every other year, and I have one section of my run that doubles as a grow-out pen. I begin bringing the babies out to spend the day in the chick pen when they're two or three weeks old. By the time they're four weeks, everyone knows they belong to the flock, so I open the pop holes from the chick pen, and the chicks start exploring the rest of the run. It takes them maybe ten minutes to figure out the set-up. By the second day, the chicks are zipping in and out of all the pop holes, evading the adults at warp speed. It's the funnest darned thing to watch!
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2014
  7. Jaxdrisc

    Jaxdrisc Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Excellent advice! Thank you so much!! When I mentioned placing a block of wood over the opening, I didn't mean blocking it, I meant decreasing its size so only the littles could get through....I was definitely not clear on that! Poor little ones getting blocked out! Yikes! I will need, then, to add a few more small openings to the mini coop. I'll get on that. Suggestions for nighttime, when I finally release them permanently? Put them on the roost at night?? Let them figure it out during the day? My main concern is the morning and how the older ones will treat them when everyone wakes up.
     
  8. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    This merging business is a three-phase endeavor. You're in phase one, and it's not over yet. You need to give the chicks at least a week mingling on their own in the flock before you attempt phase two. It's nerve racking in itself without trying to accomplish both at once.

    To introduce the chicks into their permanent home, you'll need to have a handle on when the adult hens lay. Hopefully, they get this over with early. On the day you decide to move the chicks in, wait until you're certain all the hens have laid. Move the chicks' water and food into the coop (for this purpose only), and put them all inside and lock the adults out. The earlier in the day you do this, the better.

    The chicks need time cooped up to accustom them to this being their new home. At dusk, let the adults in, but try to wait until almost dark. This will minimize any conflict. Place the chicks on the perch at the far end from the adults. If you can, it's helpful to rig up a partition on the perch so the adults and chicks won't be distracted by each other's presence. The chicks will probably try to hop down, but keep putting them back up. It helps to make a shh-ing sound like you would to a fussing baby, and rest your hand softly on their little backs until they calm down.

    Next morning, the big girls will chase the babies out of the coop, but they know where to run for safety now, so no worries. You may want to repeat the cooping up routine again after the hens are done laying. It will reinforce that the coop is home. You may need to supervise roosting for several nights, but the chicks should get it down pretty quickly.

    But wait. You aren't done yet! You still need to teach the chicks to go into the coop at night. You thought there couldn't be any more hard stuff? This is the hardest, by far. If you're really lucky, like the type who always win the door prize at a meeting, the chicks will learn from the adults to go in at night. You are probably going to need to show them the pop hole and push them through the opening, then go into the coop and help them up onto the perch. This can take anywhere from two nights to two weeks to accomplish.

    But after that, you're done! Simple!
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Great advice by azygous........I love this technique and the term 'panic room'.

    I used this theory while integrating 2 age groups(4 weeks apart) of chicks this spring and it worked great!
    My panic room, with food and water, was a wire dog crate in the coop with an opening only the smallers could get thru.
     
  10. Jaxdrisc

    Jaxdrisc Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Lol....absolutely a breeze! Azygous, thank you for your very sound advice and patience with me! I promise, I was no where near putting them together in the coop at night yet! I was looking ahead and trying to conceptualize what that would be like! I'm a planner, ok, a control freak really, and I wanted to be prepared. Thought I'd tap into your wealth of information, and I can see I was right in doing so! People like you are an incredible resource for people (newbies) like me. Thanks tons!
    The littles hate going into their little coop at night as it is. I don't think I won any awards there! My older girls are not laying yet, and were a breeze. They put themselves into the coop from the word go. Then again, they were confined to it for 10 days early on, while I finished their run, so they were very acclimated to it before I added the outside element. The littles have spent time in there, too, before their little setup was complete, but I will definitely reintroduce it when the time comes. However, I see me needing to teach them to go in at night, as this seems to be the case now. They roost on a tree stump in their run when it gets dark. Gosh! Thanks so much!! I have a better clue now and a plan!! [​IMG]
     

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