Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Babies Join the Flock

Note: Since not all my readers are chicken owners, here are a couple definitions.
Chicken Run: A large, fenced area to keep chickens in and predators out.
This is where many chickens spend their whole lives.
Chicken Coop: A secure sleeping area and place to lay eggs.  
Preferably, the Coop is within the Run.
Free-Ranging: When chickens are allowed to roam an unfenced area.
My chickens are allowed to free-range for several hours each day.

Integrating new chickens into an existing flock can be a challenge.
Often, the old flock makes it difficult.
Blood can be shed.
The last two times I've gotten chicks, I've had to meet this challenge.
Once the chicks are old enough, they need to go outside.
Both times, I've jury-rigged a small run for them, inside the existing run.
It's not pretty, but it works for me.
I use a small dog fence and hook it to the existing chicken coop and surrounding fence.
Then, I add all the comforts of chick home, outdoors---a "coop" for sleeping, food and water.
To keep the little girls from inadvertently flying up and over the top of their 'run' and into the big chicken run, I zip tie a couple sheets over the top.
Big chickens stay on their side, babies on theirs.
This way, all the girls can sort of coexist without any bloodshed or bullying.
I keep it this way for two weeks.

This morning, I opened the magic gate between the two chicken runs.
I only open it as wide as little chickens (about 6 inches) and make sure it can't move one way or the other.
That way, little chickens can retreat to their run if the bullying becomes too intense by the bigger girls.
As expected, the bullying is minor.
In fact, the little girls only get popped on the head if they get too close to the older girls.
My run is large enough that the little girls can give the older girls a wide berth and there's still room for all.

 This is Eleanor or Ruth (can't tell them apart just yet).  She's checking out the big girl coop.

 Big girls and little girls, all in the same area.  So far, so good.

 Jane, Ruth and sweet, sweet Amelia.

 Amelia showing off her head turning skills.
Really what she was doing was looking at something in the tree above.  

 The big girls, believe it or not, seem slightly afraid of the babies.  Here they are huddled up against the coop door, as two babies peck in the corner of the run.

 Marie and Eleanor checking out the big girl coop.
I believe that Eleanor is the top chicken in the new flock of babies. 
She's terribly bossy.

Can anyone tell me the breed of my little Amelia?
She was out of the "take your pick" bin at Tractor Supply.
She looked like a chipmunk as a chick.
She and her sister, Marie are smaller than the others.

And so, for now the little girls will continue to sleep in their own little coop and run.
Next week, I'll move their miniature coop into the larger coop.
The following week, I'll remove the little coop and they'll all be in the large coop together.

If you're doing the math, you'll see that I take a month for full integration of the babies into the main flock.
I will say, that I feel like it works better if you have more new babies than you have older hens. 
That way, there are too many little ones for them to focus on just one.


  1. I adore chickens. Your have the best lives!


  2. They are so cute. Can't believe how big they have gotten. Have a great weekend.