Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Getting Chicks to Get Along

Chicks can make life difficult, that's for sure.

Now don't get your nose all out of joint. :D

I'm talking about poultry.

The first batch really is quite easy... but the subsequent, newer flocks are more difficult. Why?

In real chicken life this is not such an issue because the little chicks usually have a Mother around to defend them all the time. However, bringing home a bunch of chicks from a breeder, breeds a whole new set of problems because the bigger chicks will peck the tiny chicks to death if they're allowed access.

Then, you've got to deal with 'gentle introductions as the newer chicks become teenagers, so that the older chickens don't assault them continually.

Here's a method that worked well for us:

At first, we just put the little day old chicks in a kiddie swimming pool during the day. And we kept them in a rubbermaid bin at night in our back entryway to keep them warm enough.

As they got older, they needed more room, so we built a covered pen to protect them during the day from rats, hawks and the other chickens. The older chickens free-ranged around the little chicks though, which I believe, is part of the process. It's just a bunch of 2x2s covered with chicken wire and a tarp on one end for sun/wind/rain protection. The bin that's located on its side in the pen, gives really good wind protection for the chicks that feel they want more coverage. We keep a towel on the 'floor' of it.Once the chicks became teens, we simply let them free-range in the yard with the older chickens. No one seemed to really notice that the barrier was gone. However, we still kept the younger ones in our back entryway at night.

Now, the teens have graduated to the large chicken pen where we keep the chickens when we leave the house. It gives them a fair bit of room to roam while covered with wire, while still being protected from the neighbourhood cats and hawks (they're too big for rats now).

Don't get me wrong, someone still gets pecked every once in a while... but they're not so small that one good peck will kill them. They're big enough to run away... and the older chickens just couldn't be bothered to chase them.

You can see that Cutie, our old girl who is more than 5 years old now, couldn't really be bothered with the teens that are right beside her.

Right now we've got a third batch of Barred Rock chicks, so the pen is still being put to good use because the 'teens' are really on a bit of a power trip and cannot be allowed any access to the very tiny chicks at all.

Later on, we'll disassemble the 'chick pen' and use the panels to keep the rabbits out of the vegetable garden. :/


Will said...

This is exactly the method we used the first couple of times we had to integrate a batch of new chicks into our flock. Then we discovered an easier method that works for us:

Every spring 2 or 3 of our hens get real broody and will start sitting on a clutch of eggs. We do sometimes let one of the hens hatch the eggs, but we also play a dirty trick on some of the hens... Once the hens have been sitting on a few eggs for several a couple of weeks, we will get our day old chicks. We keep the chicks in a heated box in the barn for a couple of days to get them of to a safe start. Then we go out to the hen house late at night with a dim flashlight. We will move all the eggs under on of the hens. Then we will put the 3 or 4 day old chicks under the other hens. (Chickens are not very smart and in their mind, anything that happens in the dead of night, has not really happened.) In the morning the broody hens take a look and start making a fuss about what they have done. The mother hens protect the chicks from the other hens and they all grow together. At night, the chicks sleep safely under the hen. We have lost one or two during the day to hawks, but the mothers are remarkably adept at protecting the chicks during the day also.

KimS said...

Awesome tip!

Hopefully I will be able to use it next spring!


Kind regards,