I am hoping that someone can help me with some chicken concerns that I have. First disclaimer: I live in a town, on a 12,000-ft. lot that is unfenced (will be soon!), and can't have my hens out in the yard w/out protection from the many neighborhood dogs and cats. Second disclaimer: I do not have a woodworking/handyman husband...or a husband at all (am working on manifesting him)!
I have four, year-old hens who reside in a stationary (was supposed to be portable originally) coop with a small fenced run. The run is detachable from the coop and the girls are moved around the yard when I am home and can watch them. This year, I have three chicks, aged 8 and 9 weeks, who have outgrown their inside brooder. I have an A-frame tractor in the yard, where I have been putting the little ones during the day when it's warm out. Our temperatures are fluctuating this time of year (I'm in Oregon) and our nights are back down in the 40s. I have been bringing the little ones in every night, but having a hard time catching them. If I don't bring them in, they will lie on the wet ground in the tractor and not go up to roost. They only use a perch during the day for siesta times. (And none of the year-old hens go up to roost at night, either.)
I think the large hens will just beat up the smaller ones if I try to integrate them at this point and the chicks will have nowhere to escape, so I haven't tried this. Can't leave them out at night, but also spend an inordinate amount of time/effort just trying to catch them to bring them in each evening. Am concerned that keeping them in their brooder inside may be cruel and unusual punishment, but am a loss during this transition time to figure out the right thing to do. Really cannot afford to buy yet another coop structure for these tenuous weeks.
Any help is most appreciated!! Thank you in advance for not telling me that I am dumb.
Can you add a small shelter inside the A-frame, something as simple as a rubbermaid tote turned upside down? We use old ones that had cracked rims and cut a door where ever they were broke. Mini brooder hutch will keep them warm and dry.
We always integrate with a "cage within a cage" kind of system. The little ones get put into a rabbit cage inside the coop for a few nights to get introduced. Then the cage stays there for a week with the door open as a refuge. The big hens can't/won't go into it.
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Since the season of chicks and integration with older flocks is rolling around for some of us, I thought I would revisit this thread with a few pics of the process at my place and how these chicks were brooded. I received 28 heritage line Delawares from Missouri on Apr. 25th in the mail. They were brooded in a haybale brooder right on the floor of my coop, within full sight and sound of my older flock and right on their deep litter. Full exposure to my flock's pathogens. They were fed fermented feed and mother vinegar was added to their water.
Yesterday I tore out the brooder and integrated the chicks with the flock at 2 1/2 wks of age. Daytime temps are 40s-50s, nighttime temps can dip into the 30s right now. I kept the heat lamp on for nights and cool, damp days. The chicks have a corner that is blocked from the wind in my open air coop, with their heat lamp available at night.
Here are some pics of big chickens and small chicks at meal time. A couple of them got a good pecking for daring to try to feed from the big feeder instead of their own, but no marks were left and it didn't discourage them for long.
Free ranging on their own out on the big green. They already respond to the alarm call in an appropriate manner and came back to the coop with bulging crops...and STILL fought the big chickens for supper!
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