In the continuing saga of the developing chicks (see A Chick Update (Part 4) you last saw the chicks exploring a world without walls. Of course, they felt instantly overwhelmed by all the new space at their disposal. When the full grown chickens appeared on the scene, the chicks were quite beside themselves. Such is the world of chicks. Everything is new and frightening. I keep emphasizing that chicks are suspicious of everything because people seem surprised at some of their reactions.
The chicks are having more of the full grown chickens visit with them (I started out with a Buff Orpington named Hyacinth). In fact, I’m letting the chickens sit with the chicks in their cage, one at a time. I keep looking for ways of easing this whole issue of establishing a pecking order.
Of course, establishing a pecking order brings me to another topic. Up until now, the amount of fighting between the chicks has been minimal, probably because they’re too small to care and because they were grouping together to keep warm and fight off the hoards of perceived enemies. This week I started seeing a little more fighting amongst the chicks. They’re starting to establish a pecking order between themselves. My need to help them through this transition is becoming more important.
Breeds come into play at this point. The Buff Orpingtons are called gentle giants for a reason. First, you can already see that there is a small size difference between the buffs and their fellow chicks. The size different will increase. The Buff Orpingtons (which can come in at about 9 pounds processed weight) will never get as big as a meat chicken (which can easily exceed 12 pounds processed weight), but they will get a little larger than most of the hens in the coop (with an average processed weight of 6 pounds). They also tend to lay relatively large eggs, assuming you can keep them from getting broody. In the fight for dominance though, they just don’t seem to get the idea. The three buffs will end up at the bottom of the pecking order. Then again, in the coop I’ve noticed that even though the buffs are at the bottom of the pecking order (basically because they don’t care), no one really messes with them much either.
In watching the chicks, it’s starting to look like the Barred Plymouth Rock chicks will be the most aggressive. They aren’t completely overwhelming the three Americaunas, but they do seem intent on having their way at the food dish and the watering pan. I’ll have to see how things work out. At this point, I haven’t introduced the chicks to the queen of the coop, a Black Australorp named Violet. She’s loud, she’s bossy, she keeps the other hens in line. I’ll definitely save her visit until last.
I’m still trying to decide on that magic moment to move the chicks from the cage to the coop. I’ll want to do it soon, before they get too big. They’ll stay in a cage in the coop for about a week and then I’ll try letting them out. I’m thinking that if I introduce them to the coop when they’re younger, perhaps the other hens will be easier on them. Let me know your thoughts on raising chickens at [email protected].