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Mixing chicks of different ages

Introducing two chicksIs it safe to mix chicks of different ages together?  I came across this conundrum while trying to decide if it was okay to buy some slightly younger chicks to keep our homegrown chick company.  I know that chickens are prone to aggression when presented with a newcomer, and that bigger and stronger chickens can mercilessly pick on those smaller and weaker than themselves.  But there are a few tricks you can use if you need to mix together chicks of different ages:

  • Dilute aggression by adding several younger chicks to a flock of a few older chicks.  This is what we did, putting 16 two-day-old chicks in with our single four-day-old chick.  Our chick pecked at the youngsters a bit the first day, but there were just so many of them that he didn't cause any real trouble.
  • Have them meet on neutral turf.  Territoriality can be part of the problem when introducing new chickens to a flock.  I chose to move our chick out to his new home in the chicken coop at the same time I introduced the new chicks so that the terrain was new to everybody.
  • Chick brood penGive the chickens enough space.  When mixing chicks, place them in a brooder large enough that they have room to run away if they're being bullied.
  • Give them something to do.  Food and water are much more interesting than bullying, so you might be able to bypass trouble just by giving the two sets of chicks something to work on.  Our chicken waterer is just as effective at keeping chicks busy as it is at occupying adult hens.
  • Ecoglow brooderIntroduce new chicks in the evening.  By chance, we happened to get our new chicks just a couple of hours before dusk, and that time really worked in our favor.  Soon, everybody wanted to cuddle up under the brooder and nap, and by morning all the problems seemed to have ironed themselves out.
  • Watch the flock for at least an hour after mixing.  In the worst case scenario, chicken bullying can be deadly if several big chicks beat up on one small chick.  Be prepared to separate the flocks, if necessary.  That said, try to be a bit calmer than I was.  My heart was in my throat every time our older chick pecked at another chick's feet or eyes the first evening, but I later realized that the little chicks weren't being hurt.  You'll be able to tell if the younger chick is in pain because he will squeak, cower, and run away.  If he shrugs it off and just keeps pecking up food beside the "bully", you're being over-protective and need to leave them alone to work out a new pecking order.

Less than 24 hours later, all 17 of our chicks were acting like a flock.  I'm glad to have this trick up my sleeve in case I have other single chicks hatch in need of flockmates.



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