Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Getting Started with Backyard Chickens - Part 5

This fall I decided to add three Hy-Line Browns to my flock.  I ordered the pullets from Southern States for $7 each and picked them up on November 17.  I thought it would be good to phase in chickens each year.  Little did I know all the drama there would be when I added these girls.   I first put the four in the mobile run until right before dark then placed them in the permanent run with the other flock.  Aggressive attacks took place and had the Hy-Line Browns running for their lives!  I had to place an iron screen in the coop so the new additions could sleep in the coop.  I did this for two days before they would all sleep together without fighting.  The four older ones did not like being behind the screen so I think this helped in its removal and their peaceful nights.

I thought out the steps I would take to integrate the and worked the plan. 
  • The first couple of days I took the three from the coop in the morning and placed them in the mobile run which was next to the permanent one.  
  • On day three I let the girls out of the coop and found I had to physically remove the three and put them in the permanent run and then close the door so they could not get back in.  I found them mainly in under the coop in a small area, coming out only when I gave them treats.
  • I found that it was important to cut up the treats in small pieces and distribute them throughout the run so the new girls could eat instead of being pecked at by the older four.  I was surprised to find that the chickens ate the feathers they plucked from each other.
  • After a couple days I blocked off access to the coop so all the chickens had to be in the run.  This worked since the hens had already stopped laying eggs to molt and for the short days of the year.
It took eleven days but at that point I could say they were integrated.  The "birds of a feather, flock together" is so true with chickens.  Pecking order was obvious.  After another week there was very little fear from the Hy-Line Browns and nothing more that the normal social pecking order behavior.

I think it may have been easier to start with a whole new flock.  It will be interesting to see how many eggs the older chickens will lay this spring. 

The favorite green food the chickens enjoy is chick weed, a very common cool weather weed.  Here is a pictures of chickweed to help in the identification process.

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