Our New Chickens, and How To Introduce Young Chickens Into Your Flock

I swore that I would take more pictures of the baby chicks this time around, and I totally didn’t do it. They just grow so fast; before you know it, their feathers are in and they’re starting to look like chickens instead of little stuffed animals.

I’m really excited for some of the breeds we have.  Up until now, our flock has been 100% ameraucanas, so our eggs are a lovely mix of pastel greens and blues.  When we placed this order with the hatchery, we decided to worry less about egg color more about having an interesting flock with a large assortment of breeds.  I’m particularly taken with the blue-laced red wyandottes, one of which held still long enough for me to take a picture: I ordered us a couple special roosters too.  This guy was absolutely not excited about the camera, but you can see how long his tail feathers already are.  He’s a phoenix, a rare variety where the roosters have wonderfully dramatic tail feathers.  (Click here for some pictures to get an idea of what I mean)The baby chicks growing up means that it’s time for them to join the big girls in the main coop.  If we had tons of space, I would keep them separate for another few months, but we don’t.  I’ve learned a few things about this process over the years, (some of which might conflict with information you may read elsewhere, which usually advises against different age groups in the same coop).

It’s completely possible to combine multiple age groups of chickens into one space.  Ideally, you can keep them separate until they’re full-grown, but not everyone has that much room.  Here are the tricks that I’ve learned over the years:

  • Never put day old chicks with laying hens. The age difference just too much.  Instead, put the day old chicks in a smaller space for a month or two to grow a little bit.  The smaller space doesn’t need to be lavish since it’s so temporary (but do make sure that it’s warm, dry, that they have plenty of food and water and space to move around.) I’ve used rabbit cages, sectioned off areas of the main coop, and makeshift cardboard boxes or storage bins.
  • The actual age that you decide to put the young chicks in with the grownup hens depends on a few variables.  If your hens have a lot of space to roam around, you can put the chicks out a little younger.
  • When you first combine the two age groups, do it about an hour before sunset.  That way, if it’s too soon and the grownup hens start picking on the little ones, they won’t really cause too much trouble because they’ll be going to the coop to go to sleep soon.
  • The most important thing: The key is to distract the grownup hens from the younger ones.  Put out lots of scratch, vegetable scraps from the garden, leftover kitchen scraps, whatever you have.  You want to have the older birds so caught up in eating all this awesome stuff that they don’t notice that there are suddenly a bunch of little ones running around.   Remember, there is such a thing as too much scratch.  It’s much better to give your hens lots and lots of fresh vegetables than to overdo it on the scratch.
  • Pick a day that you’ll be at home and can hang out with your chickens.  Don’t just combine the two groups and assume it’s fine.  There will be the occasional scuffle.  An adult bird may peck a younger chick, and if it draws blood it can turn very dangerous for the younger bird.  If you catch it right as it’s happening, all you have to do is grab the younger bird and wipe off the blood, then the bird can go right back into the group. (I’m talking about a very small amount here, just a speck of blood.  If you’re around to pay attention to the birds, it shouldn’t progress any farther than this, but if it does and you have a bird that has a larger cut that is actively bleeding, you need to separate it from the other birds immediately.)  If the two age groups are not getting along and you’re having to break up more than one or two little scuffles, it means that they’re not ready to be combined yet.
  • It will probably take a couple days for them to be completely comfortable together.  You’ll need to keep a closer eye on your chickens than usual and give them lots to do for these two days.  This is the time to give them a fresh bale of straw to play with, some heads of lettuce to tear apart.
  • The two age groups aren’t supposed to be eating the same food. The calcium in the food for the laying hens isn’t good for the young chickens and you don’t want the older chickens eating medicated chick starter (we don’t use medicated starter, but if you do, know that the medication can end up in the eggs if laying hens eat it).  The best solution that we’ve found is to use a flock-raiser mix and also put out oyster shells for the hens that are laying.
When we first let out the little chicks, this one immediately flew onto j's head and then pooped on him. Charming, right?
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14 thoughts on “Our New Chickens, and How To Introduce Young Chickens Into Your Flock

  1. Thx for your story! 🙂 I had 2 chickens, 1 died so we got another chicken of 1.5 years old from a friend of mine. My old one (3and a half) was pecking her the first 6 days, after that they became best friends.
    After 2 weeks another chick came, 6 months old, they pecked on her so I kept her seperate , still in the same territory but seperated by barb wire. They all have loads of space, like 10 meters on 8 or something, if not more. In the evening I let the little one into the big chicken house and she went inside to sleep. Its day 3 today and I decided to get another little one to keep the other company, she is 4 months old. I put her with the little on. She did peck on her (my 6 month old) but not tjhat agressive as the old ones + after that she left her alone, they went to look around in 2 different locations.
    I plan on putting them all in the same house to sleep at night again, do you think this is a good idea?

  2. I have 2 groups of chickens that were both laying groups. Since we mixed them the fighting and territorial fights have ended up with all of them stopped laying. I moved the groups apart to separate areas again and one of the groups have yet to begin laying again. any helpful suggestions will be appreciated…

  3. Is it best to wait till the younger one are 6-8 weeks old to put them with 2 year old ones, or should I wait longer?

    1. hi arthur. in general, the longer you can wait the better- ideally all the hens are roughly the same size when you combine the flocks. if you can’t wait that long, though, i would say that 8 weeks is probably the minimum age for the younger ones to join the older. Any smaller and they could be severely injured if a grownup hen decided to give them a curious peck on the head.

      good luck!

  4. I have a silkie that have chicks that are about 5-6 weeks old they are starting to get some feathers, I have a cochin that has 3 chick that are a day or two old I have kept the silkie and her chick separate from the other hens, is it ok to add the cochin and her chicks to the shed where the silkie and her chicks are?

  5. Hello! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new project in a
    community iin the same niche. Your blog provided
    us useful information to work on. You have done a extraordinary job!

  6. Omg!! I’m so happy I found this blog. I have 6 week olds arriving May 19th and then 3 week olds arriving June 16th. I thought a chicken is a chicken and they’d all live Happy Days in the coop. Then I read some horror stories on Backyard Chickens and had at least 10 mini panic attacks. We have only 1 coop and I need it to work. Your realistic approach is a welcome relief to my anxiety.

    Thank you!!!

  7. We just received 4 chicks 1 month old & we are needing to mix with the other chickens & 1 rooster. Right now they are separated, they are all kinds? What do you think is the best way to introduce them to each other.

    Thanks

  8. We have two adult Isa Brown and have added two 3mth old sussex lights.Mrs Brown has been vefy bossy but no harm done.Our run is good size , but coop though big enough is a bit too close for safety. The newbies are going to sleep in the nest box which leaves them vunerable in the morning. When its dark I move them from the nestbox to another coop.Not sure if am doing the right thing.but if Mrs B had ago at them while in nest box they would be cornered. Am reluctant to just leave them to get on with it. Would be grateful for any advice thanks.

    1. Thank you for your posts. I have laying hens and have purchased 6 chicks about 4 wks old now, getting feathered. Still using the heat lamp (cold at night) and wondering when to mix ’em in. These thoughts helped a lot and clear talk better than other sites. Thanks! From Maria

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