Integrating the Chicks

by - December 27, 2017

A week and a half ago we introduced Betty White and Vader to our flock and started what is formally known as "integration". I've read many posts on integrating new chickens into a flock, and I've basically followed none of the advice because it's freezing outside and we can't wait around for all the girls to get the warm fuzzies towards each other. It's taken us the full week to figure out what the chicks need and where they need it. At this stage, it's been obvious that they need access to food and water close if not adjacent to a secure spot where the big hens can't peck them. We've removed the fencing separating them from the flock, and there has been no cannibalism. We built them an A-frame so they could hide in the run and tucked the edge of a water dish under the side and gave them their own bowl of chick mash. They quickly grew very attached to their A-frame and never wanted to venture out from it, which made bedtime confusing. Betty would cry because she knew she should be in a warm coop, but Vader would hunker down in the A-frame, and I'd have to chase them both up the ladder and into the coop at dusk. 

Chicks on a real ladder.
For a solid week I've been putting them to bed. This morning we cut 1/3 of the length off their A-frame so that it fits in the coop and gives them a snuggly place to hide. If they are going flock to it even in below-freezing weather, I'd rather it be in the coop. Except for their very first morning, they've opted to stay in the coop unless one of us takes them out into the run or yard. They are terrified of the big hens, but it could also be because they haven't yet figured out the ladder. They are still small, so hopefully they will grow into a little more courage and a few more skills. Betty is showing signs of standing up to the big birds, walking up to Ruby with her neck stretched out long and her head high, but she also had a panic attack this morning and ran around in a circle yelling for no apparent reason. 

Another coop issue was that Vader was only drinking from a watering dish in the run, even though there were two options in the coop... and she wouldn't leave the coop. Twice yesterday I took her to her water dish and she drank like she hadn't drank all day. She wasn't bright enough to figure out the nozzle waterer, and wasn't bright enough to figure out the measuring cup of water. So I've now hung her Vader-approved dish in the coop. This should also help keep the water from freezing during this cold snap.

I inspect the chicks regularly for signs of pecking and abuse, but this morning rather than finding a wound I found chicken lice. It's as disgusting as it sounds. I powdered all the girls and the coop with diatomaceous earth. It took awhile and lot of chasing around the yard, but I managed. 

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