Last summer we got six hens, and we are now down to four (due to raccoon predation). Now we have two Americaunas, a Leghorn, and a RIR. I'd like to get some more chicks this spring. Three questions:
1. How does it work best to introduce young chickens to already established older chickens?
2. Does anyone know the rule of thumb for how many chickens are appropriate for a certain size of house or coop? I know we have room for more, but I'm not sure how many more. (I don't have the dimensions handy now, but I can post them later... Oh, my husband seems to remember the coop being 12x16 with the house taking up about 6x8 of that space.)
3. Any recommendations on breeds? I like the variety in egg color. Right now I'm leaning toward Sussex (although I've heard they may be harder to come by), and they should have lighter brown eggs compared to the RIR. They also lay fairly prolifically and are good brooders/mothers in case we decide to get a rooster sometime. BUT I'm open to suggestions. :D
I found a good source for sussex, and would consider those for my son to show. i understand they are not only small, but quite docile. i thought i read they wouldn't do well wihtout protection, seems you have that handled. somehwere i wrote down some good dual purpose breeds i like, they are called antiquiteies. kinda like an heirloom seed, they are excellent breeds that without help will die out. they became less popluar when everything was industrialized!
Anitquities are also very broody hens, as they haven't had it bred out of them.
here is a link ot the American Livestock Breeds Conservatory. there you can select poultry, and then click on poultry, it will take you down to their page. then they are prioritized. the ones in bold are from N America. Most all have links to a page with history, characteristics, and pictures. It's a lot of fun, i will warn you, addictively time consuming!!!
somewhere the other night, i read where a certain breed held a laying record of 364 eggs in a year! hoping i can find where i wrote that down LOL
as far as room go, you don't go by the square footage. you probably have roosts built, or will, or you have rafters for them to roost in, and you add in that space as well. then chickens i think, only need 2-3 square feet of total space. i won't be crowing mine like that, but it can be done safely. a friend of mine had a building smaller than mine with almost 200 chickens in it! of course, then they free ranged at times too...
i got a nesting box at an estate sale for 5 bucks. it is built solid, and has 35 boxes, which is enough for about a hundred hens. so eventually i might have nearly that many in laying hens TOTAL. but some will free range in the day, and others let out. still working on how to accomplish that LOL
looks like i am working backwards through your questions. lol. what i have learned pertains mostly to guineas or guineas with chickens, but here goes: when introducing new animals to the flock, there needs to be a period of time when they can see each other, but not peck. so you need a divider with QUARTER INCH hardware cloth [they can peck through half inch!] then it is hard to say how long. once you remove the divider, you can watch the behavior. mostly the head animals [top of the pecking oreder] will want to re-establish their rank with the new one, but if it goes on too long, then it is too soon, and you need to separate them once again.
it is much easier when you have "groups". like you have the four hens now, and you might get 4 or 6 or more the same age, and keep them separate a while. then even after they are introduced, they may kinda keep themselves separated, like a 'clique'.
i have no experience with any of htis yet, just done lots of reading and looking ofrward to getting started myself. i read lots of good info here: http://www.guineafowl.com/board
and you might also try here:
OK, well that tip through my Poultry folder of favorite web sites took me a while LOL!!!
WOW, you are an excellent source of information! Yes, we have roosts (which they only seem to use when they're inside during the day), nests (which they occasionally roost on instead), and rafters (what they really use for roosting). I'm pretty sure we have plenty of room for at least four more, and I don't think we'd want too many more than that since we'd have so many eggs.
I'd really be interested to know about free ranging them during the day. As I mentioned above, we have already lost two to raccoons, who climbed into the coop at night, we assume. Now we lock the chickens in the house every night, and my husband is covering the top of the coop with chicken wire. We've had chickens get out on accident before and be terrified, almost hurting themselves trying to get back in the coop. But I've read about the better nutrition in free range eggs, and a lot of people see it as almost a humane treatment issue (although I absolutely think our chickens are loved and well cared for!). Do you just let them out and let them roam? Do they need a fenced area? Aren't they a lot more vulnerable to predators (although at least most would be dangerous at night, when they would return to their house, but at this point they don't even know they can go through the door when it's open!)?
Do you think Sussex fit into the category of vulnerable hens who need a lot of care? Since we're new at raising chickens on our own, I'd probably like to go with a more hardy breed, but I sure liked the Sussex...
Thanks a lot for the advice about introducing new chicks. I'm glad I asked early enough that we can work out a plan before we jump into this. It will take a little creative energy to set up a good separation scheme, but I'm sure it will be worth it. We really enjoy our chickens!
Thanks also for the links! I'm heeding your warning and I'll delve into them when I have some time on my hands. :) I know I'll get sucked in!
Danak, I had 5 mature chickens and bought 4 more last summer.
I tried putting the chicks in with the mature chickens and they would have killed them if I hadn't gotten them back out. So we built a 2nd pen adjoined to the main pen for the younger chicks. They stayed there for a couple months, then predator killed 3 of the babies. So, feeling sorry
for the one lonely chick, I tried putting her back in again... no luck. They all picked on her terribly. Took her back out and kept her seperate until she grew as big as the other chickens in size and put her in again.
She still dosen't fit in, they all peck her when they get a chance. But she's learned to scurry real fast and watches for them. Uh, the little rooster dosen't mind though...he thinks she's mighty fine. He's a little tiny banty and she's a Rhode Island Red. They're so funny. But the other 4 hens don't like her at all.
My hen house is 4x8 with three nest boxes. I have had up to 14 hens and 1 rooster in there and room for more. All of mine like to cuddle into one area together on the roost and I had 12 nest boxes and discovered that they only were laying in 2 boxes. It was funny to open the lid and find 4 hens all squished together in one box. They have a door that opens out to the "yard" and a ramp to get in and out. The door is hinged so I can close it up at night. I let mine out to roam around but they like to come into the yard and trim all my flowers and vegis so mostly I take them grass and weeds from the beds untill the fields get up enough for them to go out. I have to watch and make sure everyone is done laying or they will nest out and then go to setting and then bring me home 16 baby bantys, that was a shock...Lauri
Wow, that's quite a few birds. I think we'll be more than okay with eight or so, then! They definitely do all cuddle up. I saw a post by Zeppy on another thread about a chicken tractor. I'm considering that as a possible way to keep new chicks separate from the hens for awhile. If we parked the tractor close, they could also get familiarized with eachother, too. Chickens are so much fun! I hope someday my husband will want a rooster. I think it would be fun to have chicks sometime. :)
I built a small 2x4 cage from pvc and small chicken wire and the lid was on the top, so I could put the babys in the yard with the hens and that way everybody got used to them I do this when it's good and warm. Then when they got bigger, about 1/2 the size of the hens, I'd lay it over on the side and leave the lid cracked so only the babys could squeeze in and then let them out and watch everyone to make sure no one got too onery. After a while just a few stayed in their "house" and then I'd have to put them in the hen house every nite untill they figured it out .I also put cardboard boxes out in the yard so they could run under and hide if they needed to...Lauri
Our problem is that we don't have a fenced yard and so we don't free range them. They'll have to be in the tractor or the coop. But I sure like your idea of providing hiding places that the smaller ones fit into that the bigger ones don't. I'm feeling much better now about introducing younger chicks to our hens. Thanks so much for all the ideas!!
Bad news today. In an earlier post I told how my mature chickens didn't like the younger one that I put in ? Well, today I went out and the younger one was dead in the pen. I don't know that the other chickens did it, but I suspect they did. She was fine when I fed them this morning. She was healthy looking and energetic. I could find no place on her that was bleeding or cut in any way. Not at all like a predator attack. The only thing I can figure out is that maybe they chased her until she flailed around and broke her neck or something. That was the only thing that looked a little peculiar, was her neck looked crooked, but no blood or cuts. I am so surprised, because she outweighed all the other chickens in the pen. She was bigger than them, so I really thought she would be ok. But they were very hostile to her. She had feathers plucked from her backside in a patch about 2 inches across, but no skin broken.
It's sad to me because she would have started laying any day now.
I think she's the one that laid the marble sized egg last week, and was just gearing up to her Rhode Island Red production. Darn ! :(
OH, how disappointing!! That's really not good news. I think I wrote above about our tractor idea, though. I think that would work out well for us, and if the two groups don't end up getting along, we could keep them permanently separated...
I'd love to hear from anyone else who has introduced chicks to adult hens. Since this seems like a tricky endeavor, I want to do it in a way that is likely to work!!
I'm so sorry to hear about your hen. :( We lost two of our chickens to predators and I've been thinking about them, too, especially as our others are laying now.
I went to Lowe's today and bought supplies to make a chicken tractor.
I'm wanting to have more baby chicks also, so I've got to do some revising of pens etc. before that time. I don't want to ever have that happen again.
Breezy... what happens if a hen goes broody and hatches her chicks ? Do the other hens try to kill them also ? If a hen goes broody and you move her to another pen, dosen't that disrupt her broodyness ?
I read somewhere that if you don't want your hens to be broody, to move them and that will break it.
Very fun, PeggieK! I hope you'll keep us posted on how the tractor building goes. Especially since we'll likely be doing it next! Where did you find your plans? I know there are some good links here on DG, and soon I'll be examining them all. :) My husband isn't as keen as I am on getting more chicks, so I may have to learn some carpentry. Then he can't complain too much!
Hi all again, PeggyK sorry to hear about your chicken... If you leave your hen to set in the hen house the other hens will lay in the nest with her. They don't seem to care that she's setting and going to raise babies. So you can either move her and her eggs or just fix a small pen around her box so she can get off and eat and no one can get in. Some hens will break right up if you keep moving them off the nest others will simply go right back. I've had to move them out into a pen with no box or roost or anything but feed and water. I had a Chinese Silky that would even set on rocks when you broke her up off her nest, she'd gather the rocks around her and tuck them under her and just sing and cluck. I used her to raise all my babies , everytime she went to set I'd buy more babies and once she even raised 6 turkeys for me that was a funny sight little her and her monster babies...
To be honest, I don't know if moving a hen that's already setting would break her broodiness or not. It probably would depend on the individual hen, as some are more bent towards setting than others.
When I allowed one of my hens to set some eggs, she did it in my regular coop, but I removed the chicks as soon as they hatched & raised them indoors in a brooder just as I would with purchased chicks. Once they were older, they were kept outside in separate quarters until they were around the same size as the rest of the flock, at which time they went back in with the rest of the gang.
I have no doubt that had I left the chicks in the coop/run with the rest of the flock (which included a large & sometimes dicey-tempered rooster), they wouldn't have survived.
That's kinda what I thought. Seems like the bigger chickens always pick at the smaller ones. I've even noticed it when they were just baby chicks a couple weeks old, that if you put a new one in and it's smaller, they'll peck at it.
Thanks all for the info on brooding hens. That was helpful. I guess I'll just have to try it and see what she will or won't do. No one has offered to go broody so far, but just in case...with all your help, I'll have a few ideas
what to do. Keep ya posted.
Lauri, does the broody hen stop laying ? And what happens with all the
"added" eggs, do they all still hatch at the same time or is it strung out according to the regular time ? Or does she refuse to sit on new ones that are added? I know she can only cover so many.
My broody hen seemed to stay on her eggs 24/7 except for very brief forays for some food & water. I never saw any other hens lay in her nest, & all of the hatched chicks resembled her so I doubt anyone else laid eggs there when she was gone. She laid about 8-9, if I remember correctly, & all the eggs hatched within a few hours of each other.
Breezy, so is the trick to introducing the chicks to the flock just to wait until they're the same size? Did you do anything special at that point? How did it work out? If I build a tractor I won't HAVE to worry about it, but I would like to have one flock rather than two.
The one thing I discovered over the years - whether introducing young stock or just new stock was to never introduce just one. That seemed to always cause immediate trouble for the newcomer.
Pairs or more "buddied up" & never experienced the stress of a single newcomer. If I did just have a single new bird to introduce, I'd first keep it separate & put one of the older hens in with it until they got used to each other; then put both back into the flock.
Now I have four, and I'll probably be adding four more. TamaraFaye mentioned above that introducing a group to a group is a good way to do it, and then they can kind of form "cliques." I'm glad to hear that it can work, and the tractor will be our back-up.
PeggieK , Yes your broody hens will quit laying while they are setting and won't start again untill the babys are starting to feather, can't remember how old that is. But re-laying times may vary with the breeds. When our hens set we marked the setting eggs with a pencil "X" so we knew the fresh ones to gather other wise the ones laid a week after she went to set would'nt hatch out.
Thanks Lauri for clearing up my blurry view of what's going on. Hey that's a really smart idea to mark the eggs so you could tell the added ones. I'm sure that would be my situation also, since all my hens use the same nest.
That's funny about your Chinese Silky, setting on rocks. I bet that was an amusement for you. I'm always amused and entertained with my chickens'