My babies are 6 weeks old, and they are all fully feathered. I want to start integrating them soon with the rest of the flock. At what age is it safe for them to free range with the adults to start introducing?
Good question...mine are 6 weeks & 8 weeks. I have them in coop, and during day have a temp caged in area outside for the day. Would love to let them free range but thinking it might be safer until they are a bit bigger....due to prey. We had someone a few miles up the street that said a fox came out during the day when she was close by and scooped one of her adults right in front of her. I have never seen a fox in my yard, think the smell of dog keeps them away, but thinking now that our nature friends smell the chicks they might start coming around. We live in the hills and never know what is surrounding us.
I will keep an eye on this post to see what answers you get.
I think it's better to let them out when they're a bit younger. They will follow the adults who have been free ranging and learn from them. If they're with their mother, they should definitely go out now, so she can teach them and also protect them from the others. We once kept chicks in the house over the winter b/c their mother died when they were days old. When they finally went out, they were about five months old. Every one (there were seven) fell victim to predators, except for one roo, who we still have. He is now the alpha roo at four years old. I still think they had such a high mortality rate b/c they never had a chance to mingle with the flock, and learn, when they were younger, and they never had a mother to help them. Who knows, really it's a tough call. But that's what we do.
They are not with a broody, that's why I am concerned. They have never seen the adults til tonight. They were separated from them by a half wall in their shed. Tonight they are in a pen, we made for them so they are with the older flock and can see them, but the big ones, won't kill them. I think after about a week of this, they will get used to seeing each other and the babies might stick with the adults when I let them out.
Yeah, should've said that's what we do, too. We put ours in a tractor, so they can interact and get used to each other through the wire. Then when we do let them out, one of us stays out there with them for the first couple of hours.
introducing them while free ranging is the best course of action. That way as they decide the pecking order there is plenty of space for escape. i introduced mine at 3 weeks. They soon learned that if they had something the other bigger birds wanted they would have to either eat it really quick or run away. Usually they ran away, space is the best form of defense from more dominant birds. If you have predators just do it while you are out there.
Chickens are extremely hardy birds, think that if they were wild they would have been out for the last 6 weeks, at 6 weeks they can comfortably survive temps down to a little below 50 and up to 90 degrees plus. They will naturally learn to scratch and will follow the lead of the other birds just by watching. If there is a group of them they will probably stick together, that will help protect them from Alpha hen or Roo.
Thanks guys, just wanted to reaffirm my hunches. They will definitely be supervised for the first few times. I have always had broodies and didn't have to integrate babies, but not this time. I am definitely be doing it ONLY broody from now on.
I've got a flock of 3 hens and 1 rooster that are 14 months old. One hen hatched a few, but had no interest in brooding them so I took them. They are 8 weeks old. I also have 6 littler ones, about 6 weeks old.
The 8 and 6 weeks were together til they outgrew the brooder, at which point the would all go outdoors in a pen together during the day, but slept separately. Several days ago I put the 8 weekers in a dog crate in the big chickens' coop. They stayed in there for a day and a night, then they got to go from their crate through the pophole into a temporary fenced area outside. The big chickens were happy going out the people door that I propped open. We picked the beginning of a three day weekend for us to try this so we could supervise.
After two days, I took the fence down and moved the crate. Now everyone has access to the crate and the entire coop and our 75 acres if they wish. The hens are quite disciplinarian with the 8 week olds, telling them where they can and can't be, that they can't eat until the big chickens are bored and go away, and generally being clear that little chickens are nowhere in the pecking order.
They are essentially two separate flocks as the little ones quickly learned to leave the big chickens alone. Interestingly, the rooster is being pleasant to everyone - a surprise as I'm nearly certain I've got two roos and one pullet in the 8 week old group. I am worried about the young ones as they seem to think they have found chicken Utopia and are happily running around, expanding their horizons every day with no thought to danger. The big chickens are aware of hawks and other predators, but the little ones don't even know to look up yet. We'll see if they integrate more and the little ones learn from the older ones. I hope so! Today was their second day of total freedom and they were as far as 400 feet from the house and coop already.
All free ranging chickens spend a considerable amount of time each day gossiping outside the pen where the 6 week olds spend the day.
I have no idea right now how I will safely integrate the 6 little ones in a couple of weeks, unless the current three do really become part of the flock by then. Right now it looks as though they will stay separate. I have already explained to them that the coop is big enough for all, although barely, and I am NOT building anyone another one. Hopefully they are listening.