Getting To Know You
Our new chicks aren't so little anymore. They're a month old now, and most of their feathers have come in. They are getting to that awkward phase for sure:
From left to right are Rachel, Louisa Catherine (the black one pecking at the ground), and Lizzy.
Today was nice and warm, so we took the opportunity to let them have their first day outside. They are in the chicken run, and they were definitely interested in scratching, taking dust baths, and exploring every inch of their interesting new space. This kept them from pecking at each other, which has gotten a little intense over the past few days--when you hear a wrestling match and find Lizzy's feathers in Rachel's mouth, you know it's time for them to move out.
You can't just throw strange chickens into and existing flock, though. That pecking order stuff is for real, and the little ones could actually be in danger from our grown chickens protecting their turf. To get everyone accustomed to each other, Kirk sectioned off a portion of the run with a little extra framing and some chicken wire:
There's a chicken wire wall about three feet high that separates the chicks from the big girls, and Kirk added another length to make a roof just in case anyone gets curious or extra bold and tries to jump out. All we have to do is bend it back and let it flop open towards us to get to the chicks and their food.
Our big hens came rushing over to see what was going on at first, but most grew bored pretty quickly. Dolley, on the other hand, has been patrolling the perimeter and giving a little peck at the chicks whenever they get close to the wire. This doesn't seem evil so much as part of her general curiosity-driven pecking at everything. Sally came out of the henhouse crowing when she laid today, and went straight down the ramp the crow at the babies for a good 15 minutes to show them who rules the roost. She hasn't glanced at them since.
It's not yet warm enough to leave the chicks out in the run overnight, though. They still need it to be about 70-75 degrees, so we gathered them up and put them back in the brooder under the heat lamp for bedtime. The brooder now resides in the garage, though, because these chicks are just too much to keep indoors anymore. They are much rowdier than the others ever were, and they feel more like farm animals and less like pets. We're definitely glad to get them outside.
On warm days we'll put them back in the run to continue letting everyone get used to each other. By June it should be warm enough--and the chicks should be big enough--to fully integrate them into the flock.