The chicks are now in the coop. Moving them was akin to watching a keystone cops movie—anyone who has tried to catch chickens knows precisely what I mean. The cage I built is nice because it gives the chickens plenty of space to run. However, getting the chickens out of there when it’s time for them to go is another story. I’ve found over the years that using the end of the brooder insert to corral them does help significantly. Even so, you’ve got to be really fast to grab the chicken, yet really gentle to avoid hurting them.
All the chicks did calm down once I had them in my hand. Picking them up regularly as they grew did help significantly. I’m not entirely sure why they make such a big deal out of being picked up, but having them settle right down is nice. I got them over to the coop one at a time.
Of course, one chick always has to make my life interesting. She deftly flew out of the top of the coop when I tried to get her. So, I had a chick running around the garage examining absolutely everything. I was prepared and closed the garage door. The chick is now frantically running about and the garage door noise didn’t help matters. In this case, I used a landing net, the rubber type, used for fishing. It has a long reach and the rubber net lets me catch the chick without hurting her. I’ve used the net a number of times to catch chickens and never hurt any of them.
The chicks ran into a corner when I put them inside the coop. They looked straight into the corner, probably figuring that if they couldn’t see the big hens, the big hens couldn’t see them. My new approach of placing a hen with a tendency to be broody in with the chicks worked well. She didn’t precisely defend them all the time, but she kept the other hens, especially Violet, from getting too bossy. Both Hyacinth and Daisy took turns watching over the chicks—mothering them sometimes, teaching them at others. Unlike my first experience adding chicks to the coop, this experience is going exceptionally well.
Saturday will mark the one week point for the chicks. I’ll keep the chicks and hens shut up together for two weeks so that they can get used to each other and establish a pecking order. So far I haven’t seen a single instance where a chick has been pecked to the point of bleeding or even lost any feathers. This morning I went in to see several of the chicks trying out the lower nest boxes (they still can’t fly to the upper nest boxes). Even though it will be August or September before they start laying, I like the idea of them getting the feel of things sooner than later.
As a point of interest, the hens will definitely teach the chicks how to behave in the coop. I have changed the feeding schedule so that the chicks are sure to get their fill each day. I also stand in the coop during the first feeding of the day and keep the hens and chicks separated. Otherwise, the chicks have learned that the hens eat first and they eat second. They’re also learning to leave the hens alone when they’re sitting in the nest box. Like all young things, the chicks have a lot to learn and I’m sure now that the hens will teach them (rather than hurt them).
Every time I embark on a new project, I learn something interesting. So far, this chick raising experience has taught me the need to introduce the chicks to the coop earlier, to provide them with a surrogate mother, and to ensure I pick them up as often as is possible. Of course, I’ve known of the need to be fast with a fishing net for quite some time now. Let me know your thoughts about introducing new chicks to a coop using this method at [email protected].