Mixing chicks of different ages
Is 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
- 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.
- Give 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.
- Introduce 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
- 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
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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