When can I let my chicks loose?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Achelois, Nov 14, 2013.

  1. Achelois

    Achelois Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 22, 2013
    I have four, four week old chicks in the wood shed at the moment with their mother. They have nearly all their adult feathers and with it, they're getting boisterous and flying and looking for things to roost on. I'm not sure how many weeks I can keep them happily contained, or how much space they should really have. The hens are usually free ranging.

    I've seen it said on here that they should be the same size as the other hens. The thing is, the only other two hens are a couple of docile, timid black orpingtons, and the mother of the chicks is the bolshy gingernut hen who rules the roost. I don't see the other two hens having the guts to have a go at her chicks, but I am worried about predators in an open area, particularly as we have a cat [​IMG]How well are the mothers able to defend them? When do you start worrying less about cats? TIA!
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I'd try it now. You can actually let mamas raise their chicks in with the rest of the flock, in most cases. I've done it several times. The mama will protect the chicks, until she loses the sense of being a mama. Soon after she loses this sense, she returns to roosting with the adults, returns to laying, and chases the chicks away from her if they want to sleep under her. Usually this has occurred somewhere around 6 weeks for me; it does vary a fair amount, though, like most things chicken. At that point, even though the chicks are smaller than the adults, the adults will leave them alone. They will stay together, and may sleep somewhere like on the floor or in a nest til they are larger.

    You do need to remove the layer feed, though, as it can harm the organs of the small ones. People who have mamas raising chicks with the flock usually feed everyone a flock raiser; you can also feed everyone a grower feed or even starter or game bird, anything but layer with its extra calcium. Of course, you'll want some oyster shell in a separate container for the adults who need the etra calcium. The chicks will ifnore the oyster shell.

    Pet cats are rarely a problem for adult chickens, but they will certainly kill young chicks. Occasionally a feral cat will take an adult. There is always at least one adult outdoor cat here, and we also have ferals at times. As far as I know, a cat has never harmed a chicken. We used to have one who would hide near their path and jump out at them as the chickens walked past. The cat seemed to enjoy startling them, but the cat would also not get too close to a chicken. I'm guessing it got pecked at some point.
  3. YlwBrchHobbyFrm

    YlwBrchHobbyFrm Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 12, 2013
    I completely agree with Judy. My mamas have always raised their chicks with the rest of the flock from day 1. Very convenient as she integrates them into the flock so we don't have to ;)

    Enjoy those little ones!
    1 person likes this.
  4. Achelois

    Achelois Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 22, 2013
    Thank you! I guess they have to take their chances with the cat at some stage. There are other neighbourhood 'pet' cats, but it's ours I worry about most. She's young, only just coming up a year old, and she tries to stalk everything - she even tried to stalk the horse across the road! (The horse ignored her). She has been bad for chasing the chickens, to the point where the timid orpingtons scatter when she's around. I'd brush it all off as kitten bravado, but she's killed a mouse and several birds. Hmmm. I will talk it over with daughter & hubby tonight - I don't want to be the only one responsible for this call! I think I'm best releasing them while she still has the 'mothering' instinct though, which may only be another couple of weeks - that way, she's more likely to protect them, right? I assume after that they have to fend for themselves!

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