Jun 3, 2011

Integrating New Chickens into the Flock: "The Playpen Method"

The prospect of integrating new chickens into an existing flock is always nerve-wracking, whether they're 8 weeks old or 8 months old. The main concern is that the two groups of chickens will not get along. However, it is possible to introduce new chickens to a different group of birds without drama or bloodshed. Integrating new chickens into an existing flock does not have to be stressful for the chicken keeper or the chickens.
The prospect of integrating new chickens into an existing flock is always nerve-wracking, whether they're 8 weeks old or 8 months old. The main concern is that the two groups of chickens will not get along. However, it is possible to introduce new chickens to a different group of birds without drama or bloodshed. Integrating new chickens into an existing flock does not have to be stressful for the chicken keeper or the chickens.

I use an approach to flock integration that I call the "Playpen Method."  I have used it successfully with each addition to my flock over the years. The Playpen Method is simple: allow the newbies and the original flock members to see and hear each other without having physical contact for a reasonable period of time. This allows both groups to familiarize themselves with one another while maintaining a "safe zone" for the new chickens. Integrating new flock members should be done slowly in order to minimize the stress on everyone.
Chicken Tractor for integrating new birds with an existing flock.
The Playpen Method entails creating a confinement system ("playpen") for the newbies in the vicinity of the flock. This can mean that the flock remains in the run with a small, separate playpen near or in the run for the newbies. It can also mean that the flock free-ranges with the newbies in a playpen nearby.

I have used several different playpens for my newbies but the technique is always the same: look but don't touch.  After the confinement period of approximately a week, provide the newbies with an opening from the playpen to venture out at their leisure. They will stay close to the playpen and maintain a safe distance from the flock initially, but eventually they will become comfortable and begin mingling freely.

Here are a few of the Playpens I have used over time:
These three, 8 week old Bantam Cochin Frizzles were the first addition to my original flock. The pen was a rudimentary chicken wire and tomato stake enclosure that I put near the run. Obviously, water and feed should be made available to the birds in the playpen at all times.
 Here are Monica, Rachael and Phoebe in the new chicken tractor my husband built.
 Here are Monica, Rachael and Phoebe in the new chicken tractor my husband built.
 This set-up was originally intended as a maternity ward for my broody hen but it has been used as a playpen ever since.
 This set-up was originally intended as a maternity ward for my broody hen but it has been used as a playpen ever since. 
The flock checking out the residents, as intended:
The flock checking out the residents, as intended
I hatched two different groups of chicks a few weeks apart and wanted the Littles to have a chance to spread their wings for a few days before letting them play with the big chicks. It's safer that way and the older chicks became caretakers of the babies soon after being brought together. Hardware cloth inserted in the middle of the brooder provided proximity and safety for everyone.
I hatched two different groups of chicks a few weeks apart and wanted the Littles to have a chance to spread their wings for a few days before letting them play with the big chicks. It's safer that way and the older chicks became caretakers of the babies soon after being brought together. Hardware cloth inserted in the middle of the brooder provided proximity and safety for everyone.
With the construction of my new coop completed, I put a temporary playpen in the corner, which can be removed easily. This is the ideal set-up for the Playpen Method as the newbies are trained to know that the coop is home and they will always return to it at dusk.
With the construction of my new coop completed, I put a temporary playpen in the corner, which can be removed easily. This is the ideal set-up for the Playpen Method as the newbies are trained to know that the coop is home and they will always return to it at dusk.
 This shows the removable top of the playpen in the Little Deuce Coop. 
It keeps the flighty flock members out and the newbies in.
 This shows the removable top of the playpen in the Little Deuce Coop.  It keeps the flighty flock members out and the newbies in.
The dog kennel below is subdivided for two different age groups of chickens. The 'teenage' chickens will reside here for a week until being moved to the grow-out coop next door.
When they are moved, I will close off the nest boxes for the first week or two, which will prevent anyone from hiding or sleeping in them and teach them to sleep on roosts as they should. When chickens get into the habit of sleeping in nest boxes they soil the nesting material where eggs will be laid. Good coop management leads to clean eggs.
The dog kennel is subdivided for two different age groups of chickens. The 'teenage' chickens will reside here for a week until being moved to the grow-out coop next door. When they are moved, I will close off the nest boxes for the first week or two, which will prevent anyone from hiding or sleeping in them and teach them to sleep on roosts as they should. When chickens get into the habit of sleeping in nest boxes they soil the nesting material where eggs will be laid. Good coop management leads to clean eggs.
Newbies whose playpen is NOT in the coop, are put in the playpen every morning and returned to the brooder at night until I'm certain they're reasonably comfortable with the flock. It's a little tricky to get them to understand the concept of going into the coop at night, however, as they have not been trained to the coop yet. When they are placed into the coop full-time, they will be confined to the coop itself for a week or so in order to reinforce the new bedtime routine. Again, close off the nest boxes as described above to discourage sleeping and pooping in them.

Some minor conflict is to be expected as the established pecking order is rearranged. However, if there is any persistent bullying or bloodshed, remove the victim from the general population immediately, clean their wounds and keep them segregated until they are fully healed. This is necessary for their own safety. If the victim is bullied upon her return to the flock, separate the bully in a playpen for a few days, after which she should play nicer with the other kids.
Some minor conflict is to be expected as the established pecking order is rearranged. However, if there is any persistent bullying or bloodshed, remove the victim from the general population immediately, clean their wounds and keep them segregated until they are fully healed. This is necessary for their own safety. If the victim is bullied upon her return to the flock, separate the bully in a playpen for a few days, after which she should play nicer with the other kids.
Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick®

460 comments :

  1. I have accidentally done this! Now I can add the newbies to the 'flockers' without worrying (as much). Thank you for this article.

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  2. That was a great post! I hate bloodshed and bullying:)

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  3. Good to know I am doing something right. I jsut did this with my newest girls and they are all getting along great! Thanks for the confirmation!

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  4. Very cool, I was doing this without realising!! So I totally agree that it works!!!!! Also when I let the newbies out of the pen, I make a hole only big enough for the newbies to get through so that they can get away from the Flockers in need. Then as they out grow the hole well, they are official flockers themselves :O)

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  5. Love the tractor!! can you give plans for it I would like one for my garden!!!

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    1. We didn't have plans, my husband just threw it together. Sorry. :(

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  6. Elizabeth Fogle2/20/12, 11:24 AM

    Thanks for the info! I have babies that I will have to introduce to the flock in about a month and was needing some great ideas! And I'm now apart of your blog!

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  7. Can I ask a question? I have 3 breeds of chickens, and with each type I do have one Rooster. They are,R.I.R.'s @ 11 months, Silver Laced Wyandotte's @ 10 months and Dominique's @ 9 months. Each are very possessive of their own territories, runs and coupes. Even though they can all see each other from one another's area's of run as well see one another through the inside walls of their condos (as I call them)I can't ever put them together without them scrapping and the Roo's attacking the other Roos. They all have large coupes and runs and I allow each to free range. I love and spoil all of them equally. The Roos are very nice and gentle to me and treat their respective hens wonderful. BUT, as i said I have to keep each breed of chicks separated. Why doesn't this work for me? Thanks for all your info as usual!! Brenda

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    1. Hi Brenda. If the roos had been raised together, the probability that they would all be best buddies now is pretty good, but given the fact that they have always been separated, they have their own turf and it's their job to defend it against intruders and other roos. It has nothing to do with integration techniques, it has to do with instinct.

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  8. This procedure has worked for me also. thanks for a well written post about integrating newbies into the flock. I am so glad I found you on Facebook, as you have great information in your posts

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    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Janet. I appreciate that!

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  9. I did this with our White Cochin chick and Buff Silkie chick! It works perfect! In just a couple of days in the playpen and POOF! No picking or pulling feathers!

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  10. Im going to show hubby your chicken tractor and see if he can make it for me. I could use one for my broody when she has hatchlings.

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    1. Michelle, the tractor is great for playtime during the day but they'd need a safe location to sleep at night. (this may be obvious but I felt the need to point it out).

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  11. robin mcdowell4/19/12, 9:16 AM

    That is a great post as I have a new roo to add but now he is still in isolation for another week.Have to make sure he isn't ill so he doesn't have anything to pass to my flock.

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    1. Happy to hear you're taking the safe approach to bringing new chickens into your flock, Robin.

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  12. Thanks for the timely post, I have 2 brooders of chicks going out soon.
    I just put in my first order for egg carton labels! Very excited to have customized egg cartons soon!

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    1. Happy to help, Michelle! I hope you enjoy your new egg carton labels!!

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  13. I am integrating four 8 week old Marans into my flock of a RIR, an EE, and a Black Orpington. The 7 all free range during the day, but have their separate pens at night. Thank you for this informative article.

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    1. Tracey, I'm curious as to whether they select the coop to sleep in at night.

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  14. Martha Waugh4/19/12, 9:32 AM

    I have four young girls that I'll be integrating with my two EE ladies. I've been a little scared in how I was going to do it, but your blog has given me the confidence to go in the right direction. Thank you

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    1. I'm so happy to hear that, Martha. That's the whole point of sharing these things. Please let me know how it goes!

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  15. Marilyn Shapinsky4/19/12, 11:02 AM

    I love your blogs. You put so much into them, they are very interesting. You are such a sweet person & very helpful. You are a joy to know. Thanks so much for sharing. =)

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    1. Wow, Marilyn, thank you so much. It's my pleasure.

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  16. The playpen works! When the 4 Ednas first saw the spring chicks they were curious, but then Red Edna pecked at the chicks - YIKES! Now they see each other through the safety of the playpen - the little girls get to forage and the big girls can't bully them. Thanks for a great blog.

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    1. Thank you for following my blog, viewfindergraphix!

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  17. patricia butler-hayes4/19/12, 1:17 PM

    Thank you for the information you provided about how to add new birds to the flock. I am hoping to add a few more hens to my flocks, both chicken and guinea, and this seems like a nice way to add them.

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  18. Thank you for all the great information about chicken raising,I have tried this "playpen" with my new chicks this year and everything seems to be going well,

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  19. I have done this without even knowing I had! When we took them out I thought they hens might hurt our chicks but they were completely used to eachother! I love the "playpen method"!

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  20. This is great!! We will be integrating soon..Great article.

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    1. Thanks so much and good luck with your integration!

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  21. We just integrated three batches of chicks. No one paid any attention to anyone else. We did move them all to new territory so that no one was invading.

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    1. It's much easier to integrate different groups when they are very young, Sara. Good idea to put them on neutral turf!

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  22. What great ideas you have! I have 8 new chicks that need to become integrated with 4 hens. I've never done this before, so I'm a little nervous. But I will now separate the run into 2 spaces for a week. Thanks!!!

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    1. Good luck with your integration and let me know how it goes!

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  23. Our family is just starting our adventure with backyard chickens. I am so happy to have found your blog, it is so helpful!! Thanks for sharing all your advice!!!

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  24. great post, thanks for sharing

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    1. My pleasure, thanks for stopping in to read it!

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  25. We made an area in the coop under the nesting boxes that is for the little chicks and they can come in/out as they wish, once the big chickens go outside for the day, the little ones venture out also. They all have the same outside area. But as little chicks, I would give them outside time with the big chickens and they just checked each other out without any problems.

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  26. This post is perfect timing! I'm moving my teens out today! I will have a "playpen" set up in the coop.

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    1. Fantastic, I hope it works as well for you as it does for me. :)

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  27. funny! I just built a ducky playpen, and then came inside to find this post! :) Thanks for sharing your ideas!
    I just signed up to follow your blog via email- will probably do through LiveJournal, too. And of course, I follow your FB page. Chicken addicts unite!
    Amy Peare

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  28. Hi! And thank you! I have been trying to integrate one lone chicken into my established flock of two. At first I had two newbies, but unfortunately, the older girls picked on and killed one of them. (I feel so bad about this!)
    Is there any way I can get the three of them together now? I have been bringing the lone chicken out during the day and keeping her in the chicken yard, letting the other two free range. I'm still nervous about putting them all together, for fear that they will hurt the other newbie.

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    1. It is extraordinarly difficult to get a single chicken to integrate into an existing flock of any size. What I would do is get at least two new chicks and try to get them to graft to Solo Girl early on, that way they can form their own group. The chicks aren't going to reject the hen and the hen will appreciate the company. She must be quite lonely. :(

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  29. As usual this is very informative and tho most of it I was aware of from reading all your blogs and posts, I'm sure it will come in handy when I get my 12 new babies in June. It will be a journey for us all:-)

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    1. How exciting for you, Pam! I can't wait to see the pictures!

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  30. Esther Widgren4/21/12, 1:39 PM

    All of my new girls (??) have grown up together so that won't be a problem but good information is always appreciated and filed away for "future use" :-) Thank you.

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    1. Here's hoping there will be opportunity for you to employ this method some day, Esther. :)

      Thanks for stopping by today!

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  31. Thanks for the timely advice. I don't know how much longer Harry will allow Monty, Charlie, & Daphne to be house chickens. I took Daphne up to the new coop to visit & they weren't too welcoming to her.

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    1. I would not expect them to welcome her, Shelly. Chickens loathe change. That's why the process needs to be gradual and from a safe distance.

      Let me know how it goes!

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  32. I LOVE it that you have used many differnt types and areas for the play pens. This way, everybody will be able to use one of the methods, no matter what kind of supplies they have! THanks! Kays Backyard Farm

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    1. Happy to share what has worked for me. Thanks for stopping in today!

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  33. Love the Playpen Method. And very timely!!!

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  34. once again, awesome info!

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  35. love all your info love the tractor, Cheri Kaelin

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  36. Kathy, love your blogs! I made my husband sit down and read through them today. He enjoyed all of the blogs he was able to read, too. Keep sharing....I learn something from every blog you write!

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    1. That's so funny, thank you Janice. I'm glad to know this is a family affair for you. :)

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  37. I would have never thought about closing up the next boxes...this is good to know.
    Question....as I am building my chicks coop (they are now about 3 months old - I know we are a little late, life happens, the chicks are enjoying a chicken condo in the garage & spending time in a out side run during the day)...Once we have the building "up" we planned on putting the chicks out, as I am building the inside (with the chicks watchful eye) I will build the roost first then the nest boxes...do you think I should "close" the boxes after they are first built or do you think they will already understand they are not to sleep there?
    I do have temporary roost in their chicken condo now & they all like to sleep on them already. Along with roost in their outside pen, which they sometimes use.

    I am also planning on adding a "play-pen" to the coop, that can be used as a "hospital bed" if needed. I think I say this everytime I comment, but you have such great information & I am so thankful to have stumbled upon your blog & fb page!
    ~Audrey Siebert

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    1. Hi Audrey and thanks for the kind words!

      Since the chickens will have no use for the nest boxes initially, I would close them off. Chickens are creatures of habit and if trained to sleep on roosts, will do so reliably thereafter. If allowed to crash in the nest boxes, eggs will be dirty thereafter. It's fantastic that they already roost in their chicken condo but transitioning to a new coop will be a very stressful event for them and given the choice between the roost and a nice, private box, they may choose the nest boxes.

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    2. Congratulations Audrey! You have won one of two "I ♥ My Backyard Chickens" vinyl window decals tonight! Please send me your mailing address: service@CustomEggCartonLabels.com

      Delete
  38. Hi, I love your blog and Facebook page. I just got chickens this year for the first time ever, they are right at one month old. I have Dominickers, Black Jersey Giants, Golden Comets, Amber links and Tetra Tints. I love having my little flock of 13. I learn so much from your blog.

    Truly
    LeAnna Reed

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    1. Thanks LeAnna and congratulations on your new flock!! Please let me know if I can help with any questions or problems at any time. :)

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  39. I really like the housing projects.
    Your girls are very lucky.

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    1. Thanks so much. I'm sure we enjoy the projects more than they do! LOL

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  40. When the time comes, I am hoping my integration goes smooth. My pens are back to back so I am using the "playpen method". Thanks for all the info and tips, appreciate your post. Sincerely, Vicki Shows

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    1. I hope it goes well for you too, Vicki and thanks very much. :)

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    2. Congratulations Vicki! You have won one of two "I ♥ My Backyard Chickens" vinyl window decals tonight!"

      Please send me your mailing address at: service@CustomEggCartonLabels.com

      Delete
  41. I really like the temp playpen idea, I normally use cages. I will have to keep this in mind. :)

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  42. I do the same thing with my newbies and have always had great success. Great minds think alike! :)

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  43. As always, great information and a wonderful read. Our new 'girls' will be arriving in early July. I am ready now! Thanks!!!

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  44. I hope I am at the right spot for trying to win decal. Also, if I don't win, how much does the decal cost?

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    1. You ARE in the right place, Yvonna. The decals are $2.75 in my Etsy store, which you can find at the top of my Facebook page, just under the large, cover photo. Thanks for asking!

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  45. Great ideas!

    Cheep Cheep Olejnik

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  46. Thanks for all your sage advice! I'll be using your intergration ideas when my young ones are ready. Would love a decal, how do I get one if I don't win?

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    1. Happy to help, thank you! If you don't win, I sell them in my Etsy shop, EggCartonLabelz, which can be found on my Facebook page, right under the large, cover photo. There is a tab entitled "Shop My Etsy."
      Thanks for asking.

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  47. Hey My name is Spencer Knight and I would Love to win the decal and if not iam going to buy one

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  48. Your playpen holding Windy and Madonna looks kind of like ours. We "borrowed" my Square Foot Garden's critter-proof box last year, to use as a playpen for seven chicks, when we had all the chickens out in the backyard. It worked well for us, and now I see it as your recommendation (Great minds...)

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  49. I like the play pen that reminds me of a hoop wagon. And was wondering on the removing the nest boxes . Is that just at night ? I have a couple that seem to do it . I will see if I can brake them of it by closing them at night. Thank you . Lynn Crone

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  50. I have 3 chicks I will need to introduce to the bigger girls in a couple of weeks. They are only 5 weeks apart in age so I am hoping it won't be too much of a big deal!

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  51. I am sure that I rocked my hens' (4)world. I put the chicks (26) in with them this evening. I also cut open the side of the coop to install easy egg accessible nesting boxes, and a couple of more roosts for the population explosion. We shall see what the damage is in the morning.

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  52. I did this when Nugget recovered her leg problems. Kept her close but confined away from the others. Then when it was time to relocate her back to the group, I changed the entire setup. I moved things all around, so all of them had to learn everything all over again. Kept them to busy to bother with Nugget. The only thing I notice is she is not aggressive at all towards any of the others. The rest take turns establishing the pecking order. Banties although small, don't take no greif from any of the larger birds.....lol
    I Love my Chickens....Ilean Roberts-Hardy

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  53. First, I ran out right away and took out nest boxes. No sleepy in them anymore. Now, the main thing. I ran out right away and set up a corral next to the others. I have a rock pullet I had to remove for conjunctivitis that has been a bear to heal and had worried about having her out too long. I should have done this from the beginning to avoid this, but now I know. Anyways, do you think it would be a good idea to remove boss lady for a day or switch pens to allow smoother entry to flock? Boss has already let her know she is boss, but worry of more injuries. Boy they can be brutal.

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    1. Susan, you shouldn't need to remove Boss from the flock. As long as you re-integrate your sick girl in a slow, methodical method as described above, you shouldn't have any problems. Don't rush it though. You want Boss and your Plymouth Rock to become reacquainted with each other from a safe distance. Boss will still try to push her around a little bit, but just monitor their behavior for a little while to be sure it's normal and not violent behavior. They should do fine.

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  54. Thank you. It'll be a week this weekend, and hubby gets up real early, so I think that would be a good time to let her in there for the night. that way he will be up early to check on her and open up the coop.

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  55. I'm having trouble with the playpen method. I've had it in the run & hen house for a week. I opened it up just enough for the newbie to come & go. Well all 6 of the Flockers are bullies. They wait and ambush anytime one comes out. The flockers are about 13 weeks and the newbies are 7 weeks. There has not been any bloodshed just pecking. Not sure what to do.

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    1. Hi Kim. Sorry your the older kids are making things difficult. The little ones are too young to be integrated into the flock just yet. I would wait until they are just about the same size as What I would suggest if this behavior persists when they're older the big girlz so they can defend themselves if necessary.

      is breaking up the existing pecking order by removing at least one, if not more, of the Sassy Six for a few days to a week. Let them stay in the run while the little ones are permitted outside the playpen. You may have an easier time pinpointing who the ringleader is with the group broken up and by the time they're all reunited, the pecking order will need to be re-established and hopefully, a more peaceful balance struck.

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  56. i currently have 3 buff orpington hens and 1 buff orpington roo they are about 11 wks old and i'm wanting to get more hens around the same age. Do you quarantine them away from your flock for a period of time and then use the play pen method? If so how long would you recommend quarantine the new birds for?

    Thanks love your blog

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    1. Hi Michelle and thanks!
      Yes, you do want to quarrantine them away from your flock for several weeks so that you can pay attention to whether they exhibit any signs of illness. After the quarrantine is up, then use the playpen method to integrate them.

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  57. Hi Kathy. Thanks for this great post. The timing could not be better. We brought home 2 new chickens today. They are the same size as our lead chicken. We're adding to an existing flock of 3. I have set up the playpen (dog exercise pen w/ chicken wire on top) and placed it in the run. The coop is enclosed in the run.

    Here's my question. I cannot place the pen into the coop. The coop is not big enough. I have put it under the lean to of the coop to protect them from the elements. Can I leave them in there at night? The run is very secure. I'm just not sure what to do with them come dark. Help!


    Thanks so much and looking forward to following your blog.


    Paula

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    1. Hi Paula.
      Congratulations on your new flock members. First, I need to let you know that all new members of a flock that come from another farm/yard need to be put in quarrantine for at least two weeks. This allows for time to observe their health. Lots of folks bring home hens that look perfectly fine to them and then find out in a couple of weeks that their original flock members have begun to die as a result of something the newbies brought in with them.

      I wouldn't recommend keeping chickens in the run at night. There are plenty of crafty predators that can get into a run with little difficulty, including digging predators. Is the run completely enclosed with hardware cloth all around, including dug down 12" or as an apron extending out from the walls? If not, it's not secure enough for sleeping in at night.

      I have an unfinished basement and garage that I use for newbies, hopefully you have that luxury as well.

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  58. Hi Kathy. Thank you so much for the quick reply! These 2 chickens came from the same farm as my other 3. Yes, the run is fully enclosed with hardware cloth 3 feet up the bottom and regular wire from there including a fully enclosed top. We buried hardware cloth 2 feet out all along the perimeter. There is also a 7 foot high fence that surrounds it which is there free range area of 50 x 100 ft. I'm not sure where i would put them at night unless I brought them in the House in a dog crate :(. I guess that's a possibility.

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    1. I would still quarrantine them. There's no telling what diseases or conditions they could have. Even if all of your original flock members are well and were well when they arrived, that doesn't mean that the newbies could not be carrying some new sickness. It's just not worth the risk.

      As for the run: yours sounds like Fort Knox and if you're comfortable and feel that nothing could possibly work their way in there, it's your call. But personally, I'd rather bring mine inside than worry that a raccoon, who could tear through that 'regular wire' with no problem at all. Just something to think about.

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  59. This is the perfect post for us now-we have a few hens picking on one of our buff orpingtons. They've lived peacefully for weeks now but all of a sudden some of the older ladies decided they hated her. We put her in a separate pen with her buddy and will determine who the culprits are and separate them as well.

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  60. Hi-- I am hoping this thread is still live.... we have two new buff orps, 9 weeks, currently in a dog crate in our chicken run and separated from our 20 week old leghorn and Rhode Island Red by a chicken wire partition. I'm considering letting the two elders out to range today, but I'm wondering if it's okay to let the little ones have full run of the coop and run during the time the big girls are out, or will the big ones see that as a provocation, even if the new ones are back behind the partition when they return? Does anyone know? Thank you!!

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  61. Great Blog !! Glad I found you.

    I have 9 Buff Orpingtons that I raised from chicks. I originally bought 5 extras and raised them to the point where they could be kept outside in a coop and gave them to my niece...who has enjoyed them immensly but is now moving to a place where she cannot keep them. Soooo....I am getting them back and will be looking forward to introducing them within the week. I plan on bringing their existing coop to our property and setting it up right across from my chicken's outside run. I plane to free range my girls and then after a week or so allow the newbies out into the yard with them...eventually transitioning them into the coop with my flock. Do you think 1 week is enough to allow them to get familiar with each other...and what should I be on the lookout for at first? Thanks for your help.

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    1. One week should be time enough, but if not, just corral the little ones back up and give them more time. You'll know pretty quickly whether everyone is ready for the transition. Just open the door for the littles to wander out at their leisure and observe the interactions.

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    2. Cynthia Cook9/11/12, 8:47 PM

      The girls (and guy) spent their first day "together." We sectioned off a part of the yard and used the outside enclosure as one of the dividing walls. So they are seperate but can see each other. My girls got very excited at the first look at the newbies but soon calmed down and went on about their business. Since we were working on modifying our shed to accomodate the newbies we were outside with them and so decided to let the girls free range. All was well until we were gathering them up and corraling them into their outside run. As I approached the outside access door I watched ass two hens were going at it through the fence. Necks stretched and both trying their best to get a peck in. I let it go on for a bit but then broke it up as I didnt want any blood to be drawn. Should I have let them go at it? Also...One of my other girls was sizing up the rooster at the ssame time. She was calm but he had his hackles up...neither tried to strike the other. I figured it was to be expected. I wasnt brave enough to leave them both access to the outside enclosure since we were leaving (I divided the enclosure with chicken wire so they are separated) and I put up a few boards on the inside of the coop so they can still hear but not have access to hurt each other. We'll see how tomorrow goes. Should I do anything different? Oh...and just a note...they are all the same age...they were actually raised in the same box for the first six weeks. Too bad they dont have long memories. :-)

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  62. I did this when I integrated a group of young maturing cockerels into my established flock(which included 2 cockerels). After seeing each other for 2 weeks I did a bachelor day out with all roos together w/o the girls. It worked and everyone is getting along well with the girls included, though I do have a pair that seem to get in crowing wars throughout the day but nothing really physical besides normal flock behaviors.

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  63. I have 12 girls who are all the same age.  In September, one of them prolapsed.  I got her separated quickly and she moved into a dog carrier in the basement. To make a long story short, she recovered eventually, and has begun laying.  But I have been unable to get her re-integrated to the flock.  She has her own 'suite' within the coop at night. During the day she is in a separate fenced in area, while the others are in the run.  They can see each other, but separated by a distance of 10 ft or so. Whenever I try to add her in, she begins chest butting anyone who is close.  Yesterday there was blood on several and I took her back to her area. Very frustrating!  I am thinking I may have to build her her own coop! What am I doing wrong?

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  64. TheChickenChick11/20/12, 11:37 PM

    I would suggest putting her in an open wire dog crate type set-up right next to the others in the run so that they are essentially interacting with each other but contact isn't possible. They need to be able to see and hear each other to re-familiarize themselves with each other. I'd try this for a week and then, if there is room in the run, move her dog cage into the run. After a few days, open the door to her crate and see how things go. If it still doesn't work, I would try mixing up the pecking order further by removing two of the other chickens for a day or so and then try the playpen method with all of them near each other for a few days.

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  65. TheChickenChick12/18/12, 11:21 PM

    My pleasure. :)

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  66. I sort of have been doing this without even knowing it.  I took your advice about keeping new chickens apart from existing chickens for at least 2 weeks.  My girls (now 1 thanks to a persistant Hawk) have always slept inside on a board over the washer and dryer.  I am planning on building a coop soon, and with the new country girl I brought home I need to since she does not let me pick her up.  I built another run for her by enclosing the bottom of my daughter's Trampoline with chicken wire.  I placed a cat carrier surrounded by straw inside a large dog airline carrier in the run as her coop.  She goes in each night by herself and I go in and close the doors to keep her safe. Night time preditors have not been my problem but hawks are a big problem for city backyard keepers here.  I have let my hen Maizy have supervised freerange down by our new hen Annalise and they are curious, and friendly to each other.  If is stops raining today I wanted to try and allow Maizy to go into Annalise's run, since I can pick her up to get her out if I need to, and I do not fit as easily into Maizy's covered run.  Wish me luck!! 

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  67. Oh, I almost forgot, I love the Chicken Tractor your hubby made!!  I can definitely make one of those for my girls!  Thanks for sharing!

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  68. Thanks for sharing! I really like the tractor your husband built.

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  69. I put this on your FB but thought it should be put here instead. My biggest concern is the young rooster. I am introducing 5 new girls to my flock of 2 hens and one rooster. I have put the two girls in the run with the young ones apart from the rooster to see how it goes and they run after and peck the smaller ones. This is the pecking order establishment I suppose, right? I was scared to add the rooster because when I tried a few days after I got them he held one down and began to peck it hard. I am afraid he may hurt them. the age difference is 5 months just began laying and roughly 8 to 9 weeks old. Is it too soon to put them together? And if not should I just let the rooster in as well?

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  70. You always provide me with wonderful lessons every time I visit :-)

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  71. I've been raising chickens for about 10 years. Just a small flock, for the enjoyment of watching them and the bonus of a few eggs. I LOVE reading all your information about chickens and seeing your pictures. You always seem to teach me something new!

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  72. TheChickenChick5/3/13, 11:30 PM

    Thanks Kathy!

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  73. Perfect timing! I just moved my 8 week old peeps to the big girl coop. First night! I hope they r ok. At nite I have them in a small rabbit cage within the coop. During the day I let them in the run after the big girls go out to free range. I'm hoping in about a week or two to let them out to free range, keeping my fingers crosed it will work out. Odes this sound like a good plan. Any suggestions?
    Thanks! Much appreciated!

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  74. TheChickenChick5/5/13, 7:21 PM

    They'll be fine as long as the temps are reasonable at night, Judy.

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  75. What is that area to the right in the last picture? Is that a shade area for them to go for safety/shade? We are trying to prveent our girls from using our deck as a there own personal space, so are looking at building them there own..we like having them out to free range..

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  76. Peggy Sue Wilkens Herbert6/7/13, 7:56 AM

    Hello, We have 4 chickens that are almost 2 years old and 4 chicks that are 11 weeks old. The chicks are in the old coop with run and the older chickens are free range and interact with the chicks when they walk up to the run...My question is at what age should I let the young chicks out of the little coop w/ run and intergrate them with the older chickens?

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  77. TheChickenChick6/7/13, 10:10 PM

    When the younger birds are nearly as big as the others they can defend themselves and I would feel confident that they could be integrated into the main flock safely.

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  78. Peggy Sue Wilkens Herbert6/8/13, 2:43 PM

    Thank you :)

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  79. Deborah Paterson6/10/13, 9:01 AM

    I have two 11 1/2 week EE girls in my coop. I have 7 assorted (3 smaller breeds 1 EE & 2 silkies with the rest bigger:Astralorp, Golden & Silver laced Wyandotts & a Buff ORP) in a nice big brooder with plenty of room for growth. No new babies due until mid September. I have a large wire dog kennel in the run for play time. They all try to squeeze through the bars (the smaller one's have been successful. I'm afraid someone is gong to get hung up and hurt their wings. The babies hate being gathered up to go out and to come back in, I feel like I am stressing them out. They love it outside and have attacked garden worms with zeal. I'm a newbie. Everyone is doing so well I don't wan't to mess up the merging. Any ideas?

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  80. TheChickenChick6/10/13, 9:32 PM

    How old are the younger birds, Deborah? How long have they been in the kennel in the run?

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  81. Deborah Paterson6/11/13, 8:33 PM

    Thank you for responding. My Babies are 4 weeks old. They do well for days out in the dog crate in the coop, but I have currently stopped that because the smaller ones popped through the bars. I was afraid in their confusion they might hurt their wings. The two 12 week old EE don't seem to care anything about them. They go on about their bug hunt without concern. Bossy seems to be a care giver as has always looked after Flossie and taught her how to do the things she already mastered. I'm hoping she continues that with the new ones. Should I wrap the crate in 1" chicken wire to keep anyone from getting hung up and leave them out in the run? The top of the crate is covered and I live in Georgia which is nice and warm with no rain due until Sunday

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  82. Deborah Paterson6/11/13, 8:43 PM

    Bossy & Flossie @ 12 weeks. They are my first and the only in my coop and run right now. Bossy (brown) is a care giver and teacher for Flossie. She never leaves her alone or upset.

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  83. Constance Griffin6/14/13, 4:21 PM

    Thanks for that article, as it is one I needed to know. Your chicken tractor looks really nice and my hubby is going to build me one. Isn't great having a hubby who can build things?

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  84. TheChickenChick6/14/13, 8:57 PM

    It is!

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  85. I have two sets of chickens right now. I want to move the 18 weekers into the full size coop. They have been in a smaller coop right next to the large coop for several weeks, so they could see each other, just not touch. Is it better to move them in the day light or at night? I get mixed answers from fellow chicken owners here in town?

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  86. Ashley Tappin-Doussan7/12/13, 5:57 PM

    Hi Kathy, thanks for helping newbies like me...
    I have 2 barred rocks I am trying to integrate into my flock. All new chickens. Existing flock is about 3 months and the BR about 2 months. I don't have the option to do the look but don't touch method that worked for you. I have tried on 3 occations to put them all together in my garden "the run" and everything seems fine until either the silkie rooster or the dominant hen (black sex) attack one of them. What is the difference btwn bullying vs natural pecking order being established? How long do you wait till you intervene?
    Thanks again,
    Ashley Doussan
    Covington, LA

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  87. TheChickenChick7/12/13, 9:10 PM

    Try sectioning off part of your run with chicken wire and keeping the newbies in there. The conflict will never end otherwise.

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  88. TheChickenChick7/13/13, 1:33 AM

    If they free-range, follow the instructions outlined above for opening the door, if they do not free-range, put the younger birds into an enclosure within the run of the older birds for a week or so during the day before opening the door for them to mingle.

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  89. Is it safe to bring home pullets (not all the same types of chickens) from the same breeder/seller and put them all in the coop right away or should you always quarantine different birds before putting them together?

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  90. TheChickenChick7/16/13, 7:23 PM

    Always, always, always quarantine new pullets regardless of the breeder they come from.

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  91. Thank you! I'll start reading up on how to quarantine!

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  92. If I currently have no chickens (I'm starting a flock) and I go buy several different types at one time, but from the same breeder, is there a need to quarantine them?

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  93. TheChickenChick7/19/13, 1:57 PM

    If they are all housed together, quarantine isn't necessary.

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  94. Deborah Paterson7/21/13, 12:43 PM

    I have built a chicken play pen so that is covered for the intro part, but confess confusion on feeding a mix aged flock. I have 16 ranging form 1 week (still in the brooder) to 16 weeks. I read your note about give this mix Chick starter/grower NON-medicated and offering oyster shells on the side so the older girls can have access. I ran into 2 issues. 1) some of my younger girls are bigger than the older girls and can reach the oyster shells. The bag states not to give this to birds under 18 weeks. How do I keep the younger yet bigger birds out of it? They went nuts for the stuff when I tried mounting that feeder. 2) I'm having to hunt for this feed as my usual store said that season has passed and they don't carry it anymore. Yet another (I think) lied to me when they said their off (brand I've never heard of) was non-medicate (I asked 3 times). The first line on the bag states Amprolium followed by - to prevent coccidosis. That sounds medicated to me. Is it?


    On a good note I'm the one with the little Golden Buff red star that was attacked by a fellow 1 day old chick and could not open her eyes. Wahoooo one is wide open today. Hoping the other eye will open in time, but at least she can see now.

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  95. Thanks Kathy. I love your referring to them as the 'Flockers'. We've been calling our established flock something else not quite as as nice, lol. Maybe they will respond better to Flockers also!

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  96. TheChickenChick7/23/13, 11:28 PM

    Liz! :o LOL

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  97. Cindy Sherman Mooney8/5/13, 7:24 PM

    everybody is happy!

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  98. Hi Kathy! I need something cleared up and would be so comforted by your advice! I have A roo and 2 hens that are 14 weeks old. I since then have purchased another roo and another hen that are 6 weeks old. I have been hearing that two roosters can't co exist..is this true? I am doing the play pen method and they have already been quarantined but my new baby rooster is going to be MUCH larger than the 14 week rooster and I am just trying to avoid chaos in the pen! I have read all you have posted since I started owning chickens and it has been such a help! Thanks so much.

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  99. TheChickenChick9/1/13, 12:40 AM

    Hi Catie. I woudn't say that two roosters never can get along, but the odds are not good, particularly if they did not grow up together. They are territorial and it doesn't ordinarily work to add an older rooster to a yard that already has a rooster.

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  100. Jennifer McLaughlin Doane9/30/13, 2:43 PM

    When you close off the nest boxes when you introduce the newbies, where do the hens who are already laying, lay?

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  101. I have an old dog crate in my chicken coop, and have done it the same way.. Works every time! I brought a bigger girl into a flock of about a month old babies.. She was in the crate because she had a broken leg, and was new.. They are perfect together now! I love your fb page, and website!!! Always great information!! Thanks so much for all you share :)

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  102. Kristina Nicole Richardson9/30/13, 9:13 PM

    I have 3, 3wk old chicks this is awsome info to know. We actually set up a corner just for them separated by chicken wire so they can see and be seen by the older chickens. They have a piece of 2x4 stacked in an H pattern two on bottom one across so they have a practice roost that they get on at night. Plus their own feeder and waterer. Thanks for the info!!

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  103. Kathy Tedford9/30/13, 10:54 PM

    My mamma orpington hatched 3 of her eggs then kicked the other eggs out of her nest. She really wants to take the chicks out to forage. I have her in a separated from everyone for now. should I move her box into the main run and build her a run of her own? Will she protect them babies from the others? I'm more nervous than she is. Oh and by the way I gave her rejected eggs to another setting hen that I have.

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  104. Hi Kathy! I was looking at the picture of the cool chicken tractor your husband built. Can you tell me what the black hoops are? PVC? I will be attempting to convert a 6' x 4' garden bed into a chicken run... wondering what the best way to enclose it will be. It doesn't have to be ultra-strong because it will be for daytime only, but it needs covered in case hawks are around. Any advice from you (or your husband) on the materials that might work would be great. Thanks! Laura

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  105. Hi Kathy, not sure if my previous comment went thru... (feel free to delete this if it's a repeat!) Just wondering what the black hoops are that your husband used for this cool chicken tractor? PVC? I am looking to convert a 4' x 6' garden bed into a chicken run, and am trying to figure out the best materials. The wood for the bed is around 1.5" thick x 8" high, so it seems like I could attach something to it for enclosure relatively easily. Any advice would be much appreciated! It's for daytime only so doesn't have to be ultra-strong. Thanks so much!

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  106. TheChickenChick10/2/13, 11:16 PM

    Every broody is different. Do what you're comfortable with. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/08/caring-for-broody-hens-facilitating-egg.html

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  107. TheChickenChick10/2/13, 11:20 PM

    They are irrigation piping- the type used to install lawn sprinklers.

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  108. just fully joined my new birds to the rest of the flock today. so far so good. we will have to hope the night and morning go as well

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  109. Day Brighteners Farm10/19/13, 8:37 PM

    Thanks Kathy, this is wonderful. We're getting two new silkies in a few days, and the new coop should be finished at that time. I believe your pen in the coop method should work for us. We, as well as one of your other fans, also have two pekin ducks (messy characters they are). Should be interesting.

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  110. TheChickenChick10/19/13, 8:41 PM

    Good news!

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  111. Andrea holyfield11/8/13, 7:43 PM

    My friend brought over a lost chicken. We have kept separate and let them get used to each other without the physical contact. My question is the new chicken HATES to be in the run.. She paces all day. I let her out when I am home to roam the yard and take dust baths, but as soon as it is time to go back in she just paces and paces??

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  112. My friend gave me a lost chicken to bring into my flock. We have separated them so they can interact without physical contact. However, the new chicken hates being in the run. I let her out when I am home to roam and get her dirt baths but when it is time to go back in she just paces and paces until it is time to roost at night.

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  113. Dawn E. Sarver1/4/14, 10:58 AM

    I know this works really well! i used this method 3 times in 2013 merging in 3 different groups of youngsters,. i did something similar prior but the "chicks were to old..(close to 18 wks) now i move them just as soon as they are completly feathered and can handel local temps, and it takes just about a week and they integrate ssssoooo smoothly! great method!

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  114. Thanks for the great tips....and the picutre of your tractor. Going to see about building one or two for around here.

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  115. Kathryn Wetzel1/4/14, 12:31 PM

    Great information!!!!!!

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  116. Linda @ Fingers in the Dirt1/4/14, 3:38 PM

    Great instructions and options. We will be adding two peeps to our city flock this next spring. Now we have time to plan our play pen.

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  117. Ferne McAllister1/4/14, 3:42 PM

    @ Catie - Hope your roos are getting along. I currently have 4 roosters and 6 hens and so far everybody seems to be getting along.

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  118. TheChickenChick1/5/14, 1:03 AM

    Thanks Linda. Let me know how it goes!

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  119. TheChickenChick1/5/14, 1:10 AM

    My pleasure. Happy tractor construction to you! :)

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  120. Vickie Redmond1/5/14, 6:45 PM

    I have a question my 6 month old tiny Buff has gone broody the chicken house they are in is 4 feet off the ground. I have 6 boxes in there and the others are now using them to leave her alone. But should I bring her in or just leave her alone? I'm sure they will be plenty warm so that is not an issue it they're safety I'm concerned about. Please answer me at my email if you have any advice.

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  121. TheChickenChick1/7/14, 12:28 AM

    It's really a judgment call. Read this and see if it helps: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/08/caring-for-broody-hens-facilitating-egg.html

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  122. We have 8 17 week old chicks that we just (2 days ago) introduced to our flock of 6 month old Red Stars. They have all been raised in the same coop but separated by hardware cloth for the last 3 months. The two Red Stars at the top of the pecking order are ruthless with the newbies. No blood yet, but lots of bullying. Should I let them work it out or should I intervene?

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  123. Kit Bridgette1/15/14, 3:12 PM

    Thank you. Informative!

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  124. TheChickenChick1/16/14, 8:30 PM

    Give the newbies places to duck and hide, but as long as no blood is drawn, let them work it out.

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  125. I am new to keeping chickens and would appreciate your help. I am picking up 8/ 5 week old Isa Browns from one breeder and two Silkies who are 10 weeks old at the same time. Is it alright to coop train them all together?

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  126. TheChickenChick1/17/14, 11:12 PM

    It depends. If they are being raised together, it'd be fine, but if not, I wouldn't.

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  127. I have a question that may sound stupid. Do you cover the ground side, if so chicken wire, mesh cloth or what?
    thanks

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  128. Hi Kathy, I have 2 EE that are getting pecked at by 2-4 other birds. Some feather loss. I plan to segregate the bullies. Should I segregate one bully at a time or can I do all 4 together? I have 10 hens total. Thanks

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  129. Crystal Chapman2/18/14, 1:10 PM

    I want to add one chicken (from our neighbor's flock) to my one lone hen. Is it still necessary for the long quarantine period?

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  130. TheChickenChick2/18/14, 10:41 PM

    Absolutely necessary.

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  131. Rebecca Wilson3/3/14, 6:09 PM

    Hi Kathy, curious about how you keep newbies out of the nest box yet keep the nest boxes available for older girls? This summer I'll be integrating girls that will be 10 months apart so I was wondering about how to teach the new girls that next boxes are only for egg laying. Thanks for all you do!

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  132. Caitlyn Ralston3/4/14, 8:29 PM

    I would absolutely LOVE to win this! I'm finishing my chicken first aid kit and this is one of the last things on my list! Thanks for the opportunity!

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  133. Nicki L. Tisor Ellis3/4/14, 8:31 PM

    I love this site. I have really enjoyed it in the little time I have been familiar with it

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  134. I will be adding..such helpful info..thank you :)

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  135. Kim Fasser3/4/14, 8:33 PM

    Thank you for your educational posts...the great photos help!! :)

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  136. Shelby Murdock3/4/14, 8:33 PM

    This will be good for the chicks I should be getting end of the month. Will need to integrate them with minimal drama!
    Would love some Vetericyn!

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    Thank you for yet another fantastic giveaway opportunity! Love reading your blogs

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  138. Teri Robinson3/4/14, 8:38 PM

    Great advice. :)

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    Love to win vetericyn and I have been a subscriber!!!

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  140. Kim Collins Hunt3/4/14, 8:41 PM

    Great info. I have a few weeks before I have to do this, but these ideas will help.

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  141. Now I understand why women are frequently compared to hens. Lol

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  142. Annmarie Mones3/4/14, 9:11 PM

    I love the playpen!

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  143. Roberta Johnston3/4/14, 9:18 PM

    Always a great site with helpful information!

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  144. Love your 🐓🍳blog. Thank you for wonderful information

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  145. Linda Kirby3/4/14, 9:27 PM

    Please enter me for the Vetericyn!

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  146. Hope I win!

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  147. Would love to win this

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  148. Wendy Montreuil3/4/14, 9:43 PM

    Another great article! Thanks for the wonderful giveaway too!

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  149. Would love to win this.

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    would love to win this. My supply is getting low and I have a boy with frost bite on his feet

    ReplyDelete