Spring is here at last!
For some of us, one of the best parts of spring is the anticipation of chicks. Soft chirps, downy fuzz, tiny wings, bright eyes….
But those little chicks grow so fast. Before you know it, it will be time to take them out of the brooder and send them outside.
If you have an existing flock of chickens, unceremoniously adding the newcomers is a recipe for disaster. Pecking order takes time to establish. The mature birds will probably resent the intruders, and may even injure or kill them.
Take the time to introduce the two groups. They will need separate housing for a while to prevent fights. Besides that, the chicks cannot process the high levels of calcium in layer ration until about four or five months of age, depending on the breed. You probably don’t want your hungry hens eating expensive chick feed that whole time!
So give the chicks their own home for safety, but don’t isolate them from the rest of the flock, either. Allowing the two groups to see each other will save trouble later on. Ideally, the older hens should be able to walk around the house for the chicks to inspect them as desired.
By the time that the chicks are old enough to start eating layer ration, the established flock should be ready to accept them. There will still be some pecking and chasing, but outright bullying should not be a problem.
Roosters, however, can be more difficult. There may not be any fights between old and young roosters at first, but the situation can grow ugly when the younger rooster starts coming into his own. Frankly, it is best to avoid mixing roosters of different ages altogether.
And one final word on expanding your flock. If you have any doubts about the health of either group of chickens, do not mix them. Keep them apart until the situation is resolved. Buying chickens from a reputable source and moving them to fresh pasture regularly will help avoid disease outbreaks.