I really didn’t have it planned, but yesterday, I knew it was time. Solemn agreement turned to outright glee and a flurry of action. 15 minutes later, the glee turned to desertion, and I was left alone to sweat.
It was finally warm enough to take the babies outside and introduce them to the big girls!! SQUEEEE!!!!
When introducing chicks to established flocks, unless they hatch outside with either a broody hen or their mama, chicks stand a pretty decent risk of getting pecked, injured, or even killed by the bigger birds. Some of it is establishing pecking order; some of it is curiosity. Because of the difference in size, the big girls can really hurt the babies without trying, just because they are interested.
What this means to me is that they have supervised visitation until the babies are old enough to be outside full-time. Hopefully, by that point, when they wake up on the roost together in the morning, they will just be absorbed and all will be well.
The other consideration at this point is the difference in food. Chicks can’t handle the extra calcium in layer feed, as it messes up their kidneys. And because my chicks are getting medicated feed right now (to prevent coccidiosis), I absolutely do not want my big girls eating their food.
The best solution at this point is to have supervised visitation. We brought the babies outside, and put them on the other side of the run, while the big girls were still contained. I didn’t have my camera at that point, so I didn’t get any pictures.
By in large, the big girls were a little afraid of them, and they all huddled on the other end of the run. It took a few minutes, but Butternut (flock mistress) came over and checked them out. Eventually, a few other big girls rotated through and then went back to what they were doing.
A few more minutes later, I decided it was ok to open up the door and let the big girls out, as we do every afternoon. Eventually, they did come cautiously out and went on their merry way. All told, the babies were outside for over 2 hours. I was impressed- they managed to go in and out of the run, and Blossom (one of the sultans that I think is probably a boy) even had a stare-down with Daisy (which I didn’t get a picture of because I was standing right there, waiting to intervene if I needed to).
The biggest surprise was Roxy, who is the most mellow, sweet chicken with us. She is the flighty one of the bunch, and the only one that’s figured out she can fly into the garden. Maybe it’s because she is one of the lower ones in the flock right now, but she was the most interested in the chicks, and was giving them some pretty hard pecks. Once I heard them peeping in pain, I figured it was time to keep her away from them.
Overall, though, I think the first introduction went very, very well. Since the babies are no where near being ready to be outside full-time, this part of the integrating will take a few weeks. Once they get to the point where I don’t have to hover and the babies are fully feathered, I’ll be ready to try having them spend the night outside.
One of the bigger considerations is that 6 of them are bantams, which means they are going to be smaller. In the picture, you’ll be able to see the size difference. The older chicks are will be 5 weeks old tomorrow, and the babies are 2 weeks, 3 days old. They are already pretty much the same size as the silkies, but the sultans are a little bit bigger.
Babies will sleep in a puppy pile, but already my regular chicks are sleeping more on the perch, and while silkies generally don’t perch to sleep, mine are on the perch quite a bit. They also can catch some wind, even though they won’t be flying like the others.
We’re planning on doing some remodeling inside the coop, so that the bantams will have a lower perch on which to roost if they want to. The key is positioning it so they don’t get pooped on all night.
Without further ado, here are some pictures:
Whew! The first grand adventure into the wild for the babies was great fun all the way around!