Introducing chicks into a house with established hens

Jacqueline : This is a response to the gal who wanted to know how/when to introduce baby chicks into a house with established hens. I have done this many times successfully. When the day old chicks come home, I put them into a wooden box about 6 inches high with wire on the bottom, and several wired windows on the top. The box needs to be big enough to put a food bowl and water inside. I put this box into the hen house. The babies can hear the adults and vice versa and I can keep their food separate. When they start to get too big for the box (after several weeks) I transfer them to a dog crate. Now everyone can see and hear each other and food is kept separate. When they get bigger I open a door on the dog crate just far enough that the babies can get out but the adults can’t get in. The babies wander out but can escape from the adults if necessary by running back into their crate. I usually leave the crate in the henhouse until they are on layer mash, but, the babies do get into the adult food as they stop hanging out much in their crate once they feel entirely safe. The babies seem to work their way into the hierarchy quite naturally with this system. I have never had fights in the henhouse, and have never had a baby injured. Maybe this system will work for others. Thanks for a great newsletter. It is always an informative and enjoyable read. Jacqueline Colyer

Nancy : In response to Victoria’s question about expanding the flock, I have only tried the following once but it seemed to work. I raised my chicks in a separate coop in the adult chicken yard so they were in plain view as they developed. At around 10 wks I started letting them out and they were not warmly welcomed at all. I waited a week or so more and tried again only this time I let the juveniles out first and gave them some time to forage alone before letting out the adults. I cannot be sure, but this seemed to bestow some status on the youngsters and they are integrating nicely. Best, Nancy, Claremont, CA

Some more experiences of adding to your flock are here :



  1. Susan Martin June 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    I have only had adult hens up till now. I’m trying to introduce my new 12 Rhode Island chicks, now about 6 wks old to the 2 adults (Silkie and Americana). They’ve been separated, but within view of each other for weeks. Adults seemed to enjoy hanging around the chicks when chicks were contained, but the adults were free to roam. Now they are sharing the same coop and wire pen, but the adults are used to being free range so they are out in the yard during the day and I let them back in to lay their eggs. When are the younger ones old enough to let outside the pen so they can roam the yard? They seem interested every time I open the gate to let the adults out, but I’m afraid they won’t return to the pen/coop at end of day. The adults do peck at the kids if they get in the way, and the kids are cautious around the adults, but so far no real squabbles. The kids still are not sleeping on the roosting bars, but squeezing into 1 or 2 of the nesting boxes. Will they eventually move to the bars at night? Thanks for any suggestions.

  2. Gina June 13, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Mother hens will quite often lead their chicks around with them from a few days old so from that point of view they are old enough. It is usually around 5-8 weeks old that they get their full feathers (although even with them they will not yet be as hardy as the adults which may be why they are sleeping together in the nesting boxes at the moment). If it is quite warm they should be fine going out and probably would just huddle together somewhere if they were feeling a bit cool. It sounds as though they have been in the coop and with the adults for several weeks now and should know where ‘home’ (and their food) is. You could gradually extend the amount of time they are free ranging for over a few days until you (and they) are comfortable with being out and about for longer periods. It may be easier to try them out for just an hour or two the first time – perhaps an hour or two before dusk so that their roosting instincts should in theory keep them fairly near by and get them to go back to the coop before it gets dark. They will probably stick quite near to the older ones (and/or you if you are out there with them) anyway. A few treats given to them outside the pen door as they are leaving should encourage them to take their time exploring the area around their pen (and treats would be a good bribe if you did have any trouble getting them back in).

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