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When is it safe to put chicks in with the hens

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by mcmoody, May 14, 2016.

  1. mcmoody

    mcmoody Out Of The Brooder

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    May 28, 2013
    I'm sure this question is asked a lot. But I'm fretting! I've got four 7-8 week old chicks that have outgrown their "brooding box" in the house. We've been using decent weather days to let them in a round pen in the yard. But it's cold and rainy still and them living in this little brooding box isn't working anymore and the round pen is in the open air so they can't be left in the elements.

    They seem to have all their feathers. But they're barely 8 weeks old by my count.

    I think it's time to move them into the coop. We have 5 hens that all get along well, I see no real aggression issues. They have plenty of room. Our coop is large enough to accomodate 10-15 hens inside and it opens (24/7) into a covered run that leads out into a large outdoor covered run that winds around our landscaping. The babies would be able to escape the coop in the morning into the runs, but they have no cover to hide from the hens. I think building such a thing is impractical? But maybe we should try it today - a "box" that they can get into but the hens can't?? Any ideas for how to construct such a thing quickly? Is this necessary?

    If we put our 8 week olds into the coop tonight, will I wake up to henpecked or injured chicks tomorrow? Is it a likely risk? Or is this commonly how it's done? How have you done it in the past?
     
  2. kbky1973

    kbky1973 Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi I just lost a 8 week old chick to older hens. I had 6 older hens, put them with my 15 iso browns ,p8 weeks old. Large chicken house and run. Killed a 8week old in about 4 days. I let my older hens out free range . Won't let them in till younger chicks grow up.
     
  3. mcmoody

    mcmoody Out Of The Brooder

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    May 28, 2013
    Did your chicks have a safe place to squeeze into so the hens couldn't bother them? Would that help mitigate possible attacks? Did the kill happen all at once or over the four period a little at a time?
     
  4. junebuggena

    junebuggena Overrun With Chickens

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    Integrating young chicks into a flock of mature adults is actually a lot easier than waiting till they are 8 to 12 weeks old. But you really need to have a separate place for the younger birds to live, next to or near the adult coop/run. A simple grow-out coop/run consisting of a dog crate and a wire pen will suffice. The idea is to give the adults time to get used to having the younger ones around, and still keep the little ones safe. After two weeks, you can give the younger birds access to the adult run, or let them free range with the adults. Using a grow-out coop/run to integrate chicks, I've had several batches of chicks living peacefully with the adults by 6 weeks old. When they are that young, the adults don't see them as threats to the pecking order, and the exposure to the adults begin at just 1.5 weeks old, when I start taking chicks out for 'playtime'. By 3 to 4 weeks old they are mostly feathered and ready for living in the grow out coop full time. After a week or two, I open up their run into the adult's run. By 5 to 6 weeks, they start roosting in the adult coop and move out of the grow out coop on their own. The chicks are learning all about how to be chickens from watching the adults, and the adults mostly just ignore the chicks.
    When integrating groups of chickens, at any age, it's very important that there is more than enough room in both the coop and run for all. And you absolutely must have more than one food and water station.
    [​IMG]
    These are 4 six-week old and 2 12-week olds that are all sleeping in the 'adult' coop.
    [​IMG]
    3 week old chicks living outside in the grow-out coop next to the adults.
    [​IMG]
    The same chicks, 3 weeks later, living with the flock.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    I like June’s post. I do things a little differently but the results are similar.

    My brooder is in the coop with the adults. The chicks grow up with the flock but are protected from the adults. Sometimes I just open the brooder door at five weeks and let them mingle. Sometimes I move them to a grow-out pen with run next to the adults when they are five weeks and let them mingle with the adults when they learn to go to bed in the grow-out coop, often at 8 weeks. I have an 8’ x 12’ main coop, a 12’ x 32’ run, a 4’ x 8’ grow-out coop and 8’ x 12’ run, and an area 45’ x 90’ in electric netting. I have lots of room. I’ve never lost a chick doing it this way. I think the keys are that they grow up with the flock and I have lots of room.

    In your situation I’d do what June said. Maybe build a pen in the coop where it should be predator safe and house them in there for a couple of weeks, then let them loose when you can be around to observe. A chicken wire pen should be good in your large coop and is cheap to build. Definitely have more than one food and water station. I have three of each.

    You are dealing with living animals so you cannot be absolutely sure about behaviors. That’s why I suggest you try this when you can observe. But this works so well so often it is worth a try.
     
  6. mcmoody

    mcmoody Out Of The Brooder

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    If I turn them loose in the coop for nights with the adults after a few days of them in their box in the coop... in the mornings, I assume I have a couple hours to go check on them and separate them again before the pecking order starts? And then..during the day I have an idea to separate them for a short term. They have been living "with" the hens free ranging - the hens have been ranging around their round pen made of chicken wire. So they know we have chicks.
     
  7. kbky1973

    kbky1973 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 8, 2016
    Yes chicks had a safe place to hide. This happened, all at once, no pecking nothing wrong , thought I had it made. Come in from work ,there it was dead still slightly moving legs. Blood from the head , neck. Just about cried. No one around it.
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    What I suggest is that you build someplace where you want them to sleep at night and house them there about a week. That will get them used to going to bed there. Normally that is inside the coop. I will also give the adults some up-close time with them in the morning while they are still locked in the coop. Apparently you are not down there at the crack of dawn to let them out. I’m not being critical, I’m not down there that early either.

    When you are ready in about a week, after you open the pop door and let the older chicken out, open the door to the chick’s pen and let them out. The adults will probably already be outside. Don’t force anything, just open the door and walk away. Let them come out and do what they will. Check on them and see what they do and how it is going but let them decide when they want to go outside. They may hang around inside the coop for a few days before they venture outside, they may be outside within 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter. Each group is different.

    Do not leave them locked in the coop with the older chickens when they are awake. The idea of having room is that they have room when they need it. They might need it when the adults wake up. The first few days after I let mine out I’m down there pretty early to open the pop door until I gain enough confidence there won’t be a massacre if I’m late. Usually that only takes a couple of days. What I normally find is that the chicks are on the roosts while the adults are on the floor. The chicks are staying out of the adults’ way, as they should.

    A safe haven for the chicks is a good idea. If you leave their pen in the coop for a while with an opening sized so the adults cannot get in but the chicks can, they can hide in there away from the adults. I don’t do that but many people do. It’s an added level of safety.

    If you build a safe place for them to spend the night other than the coop, it’s easier. That may mean putting a dog crate or something like that in their current playpen, something similar to what June mentioned, just make sure it is predator safe. Then you just let them out after they are used to going to sleep there. At night each flock returns to its bed. You lock them in to keep predators out and release them at your convenience the next morning. That’s how I use my grow-out coop. If you are going to be integrating a lot you might want to build one.
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    How sure are you that it was another chicken, or even an adult chicken? Many predators go for the head first, both to kill and to eat. Weasels and birds of prey immediately come to mind, thinking of a chick versus an adult chicken because so little was eaten. I could see a small hawk or a weasel doing that. Maybe even a rat.

    I had a two week old chick kill its two week old sibling. It pecked at the head and made the kind of wounds you describe. The broody hen just stood by and watched. Another time a fifteen week old cockerel killed another 15 week old cockerel. The wounds were not all that obvious but it also went for the head.

    An adult hen would also make those kinds of wounds. They trend to go for the head too. I can easily see a scenario where the chick was trapped in a corner and a hen just kept pecking it. It’s hard to tell what happened across the internet. Sometimes even when you see it you are not sure what actually happened.

    I’m sorry you experienced that. You don’t get guarantees on the behavior of any living animal. Sometimes tragedies do happen whether it is to chickens, dogs, or cats. That kind of thing can happen even if you wait until the chicks are laying eggs before you try to introduce them. Usually this stuff goes pretty well but not always.
     
  10. kbky1973

    kbky1973 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 8, 2016
    No other animals there, safe co-op. Have just older chickens to blame. I know animals are swift in their kind of justice. But it hurts . Take all kinds of pains to do it right , then bang. Oh well must go on, and hope for the best. Thank you all.
     

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