When to open the coop to let Moms and chicks free range?

MadAsh

In the Brooder
7 Years
Aug 7, 2012
43
1
34
I did a search, but must not be typing in the correct words. I'm sure this has been answered somewhere on this site, but can't find it so I apologize in advance. Also, I hope this is in the correct forum. Anyhoo....

Three broody hens have accepted their new baby chicks and are all three doting mothers. I have them in the bottom of the coop with food and water. I added chick grit (poultry grit...not sure if chick grit is smaller than poultry grit) to the food since they are on the ground eating what the adult birds are eating. The chicks are crawling all over the place then run back to moms when they want to get under the wing/breast to warm up or rest. We (normally) leave the coop door open during the day and shut the chickens back up after they put themselves to bed at night. The adults usually spend the day around shrubs about 200 yards from the coop. Should I go ahead and open the coop door now? Will the mommas monitor the babies if they scramble out of the coop? I suppose I'm worried about the poo all over the coop floor. I cleaned it out but you know how quickly it gets yucky again. I don't want the chicks to get sick from crawling around poo all day. I've read the healthiest chicks are the ones who get out of the coop early, but don't want to do it too soon.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
8,829
10,913
636
western South Dakota
yes, let them out. It is so much more healthier.

I always keep my broody with the layers. And have several times. Once everyone is hatched, and moving well, the chicks will stick pretty close to mama. The broody hens will position them selves so that they are in between the layers, and the chicks. And quickly the layers learn to give the broody hen a bit of space, and the chicks learn to stay out of the reach of the layers, and everyone gets used to everyone.

The sooner you introduce the chicks to the flock the better, as in the early days, those hormones are very strong that will cause the hen to defend her chicks. Usually once or twice is all that is needed, and layers leave them alone. People often wait, till the chicks are bigger, but by then, the hormone may be lessening, and the broody hen will not be nearly as aggressive in her territory.

My broody's always sleep on the floor of the coop, and usually goes in before the layers, the chicks follow her, and they all get tucked in for the night. But weeks before chicks raised by humans, she will get them up off the floor and either roosting or will cuddle under her on a higher placed flat board.

Last summer, my chicks were out in the pasture crawling over branches, up and down hills by the time they were 3 days old, eating grasshoppers. Generally the broody hen does not go so far from the coup as the layers, and she does not seem to hang with the flock, they are all together, but separate bunches. But if you pen them up in the run, they will be fine. Do however, have a few obstacles, and multiple levels in your run.

I feed chick starter to all, and have a bowl of oystershell available for the layers.

Best wishes, Mrs K
 

MadAsh

In the Brooder
7 Years
Aug 7, 2012
43
1
34
Well, I opened the door this morning! One hen brought her baby out and was showing her how to scratch and peck. She would scratch and drop something and the baby would mimic her. It is SOOOO precious to watch. She cracked me up because she hovers over this little chick and sits down on her to cover it up and then the chick pops back out again. She reminds me of myself after my first daughter was born...a bit smothering. The other two hens just watch and let the chicks venture out with a watchful eye and call them back if needed. I suppose I'm like this with my third child. It's neat to see their different personality in how they mother. It's raining and I keep checking on them. they are all back in the coop now, but did go venture about 4 feet out the door earlier. I'm going to take some fresh tomatoes out to them in a bit for a special treat. I'm so glad there is a place I can talk about my babies without anyone thinking I'm a crazy chicken lady. :)
 

heybarb

Songster
7 Years
Mar 9, 2012
425
21
111
North Carolina
My experience is the same as Mrs. K. My broody hen is usually venturing out with the chicks around the 3rd day. She also doesn't stray too far from the coop, but that also means she is not with the flock and protection of the rooster. We actually lost one of the chicks on Friday. So, over the weekend, we have been keeping all the girls penned up a little longer than usual, so less time for free-ranging and hopefully less time to be hunted...
 

MadAsh

In the Brooder
7 Years
Aug 7, 2012
43
1
34
I found a dead chick this morning. All three broodies were piled into the same box last night at nightfall when I checked on them. I didn't try to move them back into their own spaces. I figured they would just move back to where they wanted to be anyway. I assume it was squashed or somehow got out and got too cold. So sad. The other five are full of energy this morning and were out of the coop with all the big chickens. Mommas are staying close, but the other chickens don't seem to mind the peeps at all. And life goes on....but my heart is broken. I'm going to take picture of the chicks today, I think.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
8,829
10,913
636
western South Dakota
sometimes chicks do die.... for lots of reasons.... it just happens. I would rather raise them naturally with a hen, and loose a chick now and then, to raising them in a brooder box under perfect conditions, and even that way, you can loose one.

I think there is nothing cuter than a hen and chicks.

Mrs K
 

bj taylor

Songster
8 Years
Oct 28, 2011
1,131
45
168
North Central Texas
I have a buff orp that has been broody for about 18 days. i'm so looking forward to seeing a mama and her babies. this is how I want to raise chicks - I would much prefer a mama take the responsibility & let me sleep.
 

MadAsh

In the Brooder
7 Years
Aug 7, 2012
43
1
34
Here are pictures of our little chicks and their foster mommies. So precious!!!!

 

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