CHICKEN PSA: Make sure your chickens have shade, cool water and dust on these hot summer days! Post Malone here spent the entire day yesterday dust-bathing himself in the shade of the coop.
When I visited Orscheln’s one day back in early May, I saw that chicks were on sale for $1 each, so even though I already had a whole flock at home, I took 15 more feather babies home with me that day. Since my first flock was born back in early March, they’re already looking a bit adult-like and get to adventure outside on their own every day. (Post Malone, pictured above, is one of my March babies–my only rooster.)
I knew that I wanted to keep the babies with the “grown-ups” from the get-go. If you’ve ever seen what happens when a new baby chick runs out into a flock of older chickens that don’t recognize it, you’ll understand why… (Spoiler alert: it’s a cannibalistic fight to peck and kill the chick.) Raising the two flocks as one is crucial step in achieving a family-like atmosphere in the coop. My goal as a chicken owner is to have happy, friendly chickens.
I set up my same dog-kennel brooder for the new chicks. I put it right on the coop floor so the older birds could see all their new friends. Chicks need to be with their flock, but you certainly can not turn them loose. Since it warms up incredibly quickly here in Kansas, they didn’t have to be under the heat lamp as long as my March baby birds. I kept them under the light for about three weeks.
Once my chicks outgrew their dog kennel brooder, I moved them to the lofted cage/brooder which sits on a perch in the coop:
( Not pictured in the coop because it was being washed out to keep it clean and poop-free!
The biggest part of making sure your chicks are tame and family-friendly is handling them. I make sure each chick is handled at least twice daily by myself, my husband or our girls. One easy way to make sure this happens is to allow them to exercise and forage outside. (Obviously, if it’s March when you’re getting your chicks, it may be a bit too cold for them to play outdoors.)
So I can clean out their indoor cage, my girls and I move each chick to their outdoor moving cage which I put under our mulberry tree. The chicks love to forage for the berries and actually do a nice job keeping the yard cleaned up of all the excess fruits. Picking around in the dirt is also a good way to build up their immune system.
My husband made me this little moving cage. It has a removable top so I can easily put the chicks in and out.
The chicks spend almost all day outside (under the shade, and with lots of cool water!) and really enjoy their time foraging. I also enjoy watching them interact with the larger free-range girls through the wire. It’s a perfect time for them to get used to one another without there being the fear of a small chick being picked on.
Whenever it does come to move them back in, I make sure I touch their heads (combs, beaks) and talk to each one. When the birds know I’m friendly and that I won’t hurt them, they’ll settle down.
They’re going through their ugly phase right now. Shhh. Don’t tell them! It’ll break their hearts.
You can tell this little gal has been digging in the dirt–look at that messy beak!
Here are some of the kids enjoying their time outside.
The great part of integrating new chicks into your flock is that it really does require a lot of hands-on work which, in turn, creates happy, friendly chickens!