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When is the best age to get chicks?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by PouleChick, Apr 6, 2016.

  1. PouleChick

    PouleChick Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi, I'm totally new to the chicken world (I grew up with them on the farm but my job was just to feed them the scraps - my pop looked after the rest and I have no idea what happened!) but have been doing insane amounts of research in the last couple of months in preparation. The coop is about to be built and I have decided that we are going to have 4 layers (probably 1 sussex, 1 Marans coucou, 1 red and 1 grey (possibly Limousin depending where I get them from) - I'm in France so not sure if the breeds are called the same in English) plus 2 silkies - promised my 9 year old we would have these and also have a 16 month old baby who I think will appreciate them too :) . I was chatting to a new friend who has a purely silkie flock but is also new to chickens and she has some eggs that she thinks will be due to hatch pretty soon and she is happy to give me a couple of them. The only problem is neither she nor I know when the best time to take them from their mum and move them here would be. I'd like them to be young enough that we can do lots of handling to make them good pets for our family. Chances are they may be here before the rest of the flock. My questions are - when would be the best time age wise? Would it be better to have them installed in the coop before getting the big girls or will there still be issues? What would be the best age to integrate the 2 groups?

    Thanks in advance for your advice. [​IMG][​IMG] (and love the Chicken smilies!!)

    Tory
     
  2. 0wen

    0wen Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Most hatcheries and feed stores here in the states sell 'day old chicks,' and I prefer to get them then or as shortly thereafter as possible. The downsize is that you have to wait longer to eggs, but if they're going to be equal parts pet (especially with kids being able to observe them grow and such) I'd recommend doing the same. Chicken growth rate is completely insane - your birds at a few weeks old will seem like giants compared to the tiny things you brought home just a handful of days earlier. This also lets you handle them and allow them to acclimate to human contact and interaction.

    I have an 8 year old & a 19 month old (+ one due literally any moment) and we have various day old chicks being mailed to us Monday (+ a batch of eggs in the incubator). We've had chickens before (before my 19 month was born) and recently moved back to our home state and restarting our flock - any time we go to someone's house who has a chicken pen, my kids love feeding them grass through the fencing and such - I'd image most kids would also. My 19 month old is chicken crazy (in our feed stores they have bin after bin of them - he enjoys the trips to the store to see them - and 'peep' at them) - your 16 month old is the perfect age to be amazed by them and your 9 year old is the perfect age to be hands on - collect eggs, make pets, etc. Win/win ;)

    On integrating birds - I'd do it sooner than later. It's usually easier to get young birds to accept one another than older ones although if you're only getting hens, I think the integration will go well enough at any time.
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Overrun With Chickens

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    I think you still need to do more research before jumping in with Silkie chicks and standard chickens. I see a problem with mixing those two groups, no matter at what age you choose to integrate.

    You see, bantams often have a problem being bullied in flocks with standard size breeds. And Silkies, on top of being bantams, are also one of the most docile breeds out there. They generally have an even worse time trying to survive in a flock of standard chickens.

    If you really are set on having Silkies, and there aren't many breeds more suitable for kids than Silkies, perhaps you'd be wise to consider other bantam breeds instead of standards. You would have a much better chance of having a peaceful flock.

    As for integrating different ages, that can be tricky. But the best way to go about it is to raise the different ages side by side so they know one another well before they are allowed to mingle. I integrate different ages and sizes using the "panic room" method. That allows for safe integration with a safe refuge for the smaller, younger ones to find safety when bullied.

    I wrote about how to set it up, with photos, and it's linked below in the article on brooding outdoors. Scroll down to "Articles by azygous " It's the second link.
     
  4. PouleChick

    PouleChick Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi Owen, thanks for your reply. I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to get them as day olds as the lady seems really keen to have them with the mum for a little while, thats why I was asking when would be the best time as not new borns if that makes sense! I'm pretty sure she'll be handling them lots and we can probably go and see them while we are waiting. Also we are in the middle of crazy living in a barn renovation so not sure I'd be able to commit / deal with the whole brooder thing of tiny chicks.
    Thanks so much @azygous for your reply. I take your point but surely many, many people successfully have mixed flocks, and even within 'standard' bird sizes there are big differences? I totally get that it may take a bit longer and I love your idea of the separation and bolt hole /panic room for the little ones but I hadn't considered that it shouldn't be done [​IMG]. Off to take your suggestion and do some more research into this issue. I hadn't really considered having a totally bantam flock and can see 2 problems with it - I've not seen many of them for sale over here and surely my egg production is just never going to be the same (or if the same in numbers only tiny eggs)? I really want to have a proper egg production as we are aiming to be as self sufficient in our new life over here as we can.
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    Yes, many people have mixed flocks of bantams and full sized chickens, even the weird-looking bantam Silkies or Polish, without problems. They are living animals, no one can give you any guarantees about behavior, but it’s certainly worth a try. One huge issue in integration and just keeping a peaceful flock is room. You can follow the link in my signature to get some of my thoughts on that, but I’m convinced there are two basic reasons for most of the behavioral problems you read about on this forum.

    The first is how much room they have. People are a lot better behaved if they can spread out, so are chickens. Shoehorn people or chickens together in a tiny space and it is no surprise there are problems.

    The second is that people often confuse adolescents with adults. When they mature and settle the pecking order a flock is usually quite peaceful. But when chickens are going through the adolescent phase of becoming adults there can be a lot of issues in flock dominance and pecking order. An all-pullet flock is not usually that bad but if you have a cockerel or two in the mix it can be hard for the faint of heart to watch.

    One of the problems of getting baby chicks and raising them yourself is that it is extremely difficult in most cases to sex them. Silkies are especially bad at this. You just don’t know if you are getting a male or female. You are not going to get any eggs from a male and they change flock dynamics. Since it sounds like yours are going to be pets, you may have big issues in getting rid of excess males. You may want to think very hard about waiting until they are old enough to be sure you are getting a female.

    Normally baby chicks need a heat source until they are maybe 4 to 5 weeks old. That can be a broody hen or some artificial heat source. After they are fully feathered out, normally 4 to 5 weeks, they no longer need a heat source unless. In southwest France your weather should be turning very nice soon if it hasn’t already. You should not have to worry about severe cold weather anytime soon. While it is not difficult to set up a brooder for a few weeks, it’s an inconvenience and a bit of an expense. Baby chicks can be tamed easier in a brooder but with a little patience and food, you can tame older chicks or chickens. Everything is a trade-off.

    Many of us integrate young chicks with older chickens all the time with very few issues, yet occasionally there are disasters, even if the chickens are the same age. As I said, with living animals you don’t get guarantees. There are various tricks that can make the process less likely to be stressful for you and the chickens. Azygous’s safe haven is an example. Providing lots of room (coop, run, and roosts), housing them side by side for at least a week and preferably more, and providing separate eating and feeding stations are a few.

    I really like getting baby chicks, either hatching them myself or getting day-olds, and raising them with the flock. That suits my goals and I have the set-up for it. From what you describe you might be better off waiting until you can be assured they are all female.

    Welcome to the adventure. It can be a lot of fun with kids.
     
  6. 0wen

    0wen Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Egg production will suffer quite a bit with bantams vs LF obviously - both quantity a=of eggs and size. When I first started keeping chickens I was a worrier because of all the warning of how docile breeds would be bullied and such. "Buff Orpingtons are docile and will be bullied" "Salmon Faverolles are docile and will be bullied" so on and so forth... The most wretched birds I've owned to date were a pair of Orpingtons - mean as hell. Adequate space, along with proper care and nutrition is almost always the answer in keeping a flock's general health and well being at high levels. There will always be a pecking order (but look through the archives here and you'll find enough posts about bantams - even silkies - being at the top on occasion) - good birds, bad birds, and everything in between. My current mix getting mailed to me is a mix of various LF (Orpingtons, Legbars, Hamburghs, Olive Eggers) and Bantams (Leghorn,Sumatra). They'll be housed together from day 1. I know my bantams are a different animal than silkies since they're "flighty" breeds that can escape more readily and such - but if I get a problem bird that's dangerously aggressive towards the others he'll be gone - rehomed, culled, etc. Be hands on and invested with your flock (as with anything) - and it sounds like you're planning that all ready - that will let you see whats happening in your coop and give you an idea of how you need to manage it.


    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ridgerunner [​IMG]

    One huge issue in integration and just keeping a peaceful flock is room.

    ^ they beat me to the punch, but I concur
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2016
  7. PouleChick

    PouleChick Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks so much for your detailed reply @Ridgerunner - I had actually read your article at some point over the last 48 hours which has made me start questioning my coop plans which I did a while ago (and therefore a bit of research ago!). I've actually posted in the coop area as I was a bit unsure exactly on the terms and what I should be counting as my coop and run and they have replied to me over there. I think I'll post my actual plans and the updates I need to make before I go any further - I'm so glad I didn't start building - I'd been cursing it had been put off (we are renovating our barn / house!) but everything is always for a reason and I would have been sad and it would have been too small to do anything else / extend my flock etc so I'm now thrilled I didn't build it!

    A separate tractor or pen of some sort is definitely on the cards straight away then so I can keep them separate and do it properly and hopefully it will work out with the 2 types. If it doesn't I'll have to rethink.
     
  8. PouleChick

    PouleChick Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 6, 2016
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    So sorry just to go back to the original question, at what age should I get the silkies from my friend? When they have their feathers - would 8 weeks be good - or too late / too early? I would like to intergrate the way that azygous suggests and have a bolt hole for them. Would it change how I did things if they were there first and then the older hens came?
     
  9. PouleChick

    PouleChick Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 6, 2016
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    Anyone? [​IMG]
     
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    There is no clear cut answer. You can get them as soon as they dry off after hatch, you can wait until you can tell the sex, or any time in between.
     

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