Tips for Integrating Chicks
Chicken math is a real thing y'all. You start your chicken journey with a handful of adorable little chicks and before you know it you have 40 chickens running around your yard. We have been on the farm just over a year and are already on our third batch of chicks! If you have chickens it won't be long before you have to add more. So I thought I would share some tips for integrating chicks into your flock. I will focus on chicks that were purchased or hatched away from your flock. I would love to hatch out own eggs but we aren't there yet. Maybe one day.
I would say the most important factor in integrating chicks in their size. If they are not big enough to defend themselves they are not ready. Chickens have a pecking order and anytime new members join the flock the pecking order war starts all over. The bigs and littles will peck, chase, and scratch at each other and it can get deadly. So it very important to watch them and if there is too much aggression the chicks need to be separated.
Integrate them slowly & safely! If you want good success with integration you have to introduce the chicks to the flock safely. Start by placing the chicks in a safe fenced in area. Let your flock check out the chicks through the fence line but don't put them together yet. This allows the chickens to see them without fear of aggression. Do this consistently for about 2 weeks. If you are able to bring in a mama hen to take them under their wing it can help bring some added protection once they are fully integrated. After a few weeks you can trial a supervised integration but again if there is too much aggression the chicks need to be separated and then try again in about a week.
Food may seem like an odd topic to include on integration but it is very important. Chicks under the age of 18 weeks aren't ready for the same feed your laying hens are eating. If you integrate before 18 weeks make sure that you have an appropriate feed for all ages. Our laying hens are on a layer feed which has extra calcium, so when we integrate we switch the whole flock to a flock raiser feed. When we make this switch we also have to put out a calcium supplement, such as oyster shells. If not you will end up with weak shelled eggs. Once your flock is all over the age of 18 weeks you can switch back to a layer feed if you desire.
The best time to fully integrate flocks is at night. After you have done the slow and safe integration trials and you feel it is time to merge the flocks full time, put the chicks in the coop at night. Chickens have poor night vision so there is less chance for fighting and aggression. You will still need to keep an eye on the chicks in the morning and make sure the flock doesn't bully the chicks too much.
There are probably many more tips to integration but these have worked really well for us. I would love to hear what tips or tricks you may have for this integration process. Like always if you have any questions about chickens or anything on our farm feel free to reach out. I would love to help you on your farm journey.
This week Baxter brought us a baby possum, unfortunately it was not viable. He also added several bones to his collection and a green plastic bottle.
How can I pray for you this week?
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