New chicks: what’s the drill?

Hen with chicks

Hen with chicks - Credit: Archant

Once your chickens have hatched, what is the procedure? For example, how long is the hen with the chicks? And how old are they before you integrate them with the rest of the flock?

Anne Perdeaux says:

Your broody will let you know when she’s had enough of motherhood – usually about eight weeks after hatching. She may start pecking the chicks, or try to return to the main flock.

By this time, the chicks should be well-feathered, and will be fine by themselves in the broody coop. The hen will need to re-establish herself in the flock, so watch for bullying when she returns.

At six to eight weeks old, the chicks can gradually be started on growers’ pellets. Don’t give layers’ feeds to young chickens – this can make pullets come into lay too early, which could lead to prolapse.

At about four to five months old, the youngsters can join the flock. By now they should be more able to defend themselves, and have acquired some resistance to disease. You may also be able to

identify the cockerels and decide their fate. It’s unwise to run several cockerels in a small flock – they will fight and cause stress to the hens.

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It will help if the newcomers are kept within sight of the others before ntroducing them. Make sure there’s enough space in the run for your extended family to sort out their differences, then pop the youngsters nto the henhouse when the flock has settled for the night. There may be some fighting in the morning – make extra feeders and drinkers available, along with some bunches of leafy vegetables to provide a distraction.