By Contributing Writer, Stacy Benjamin, 5RFarm
Raising chickens is a heartwarming experience, that is until the first time you add new members to your flock and you realize they really are tiny dinosaurs! The pecking order is one of the most brutal parts of the flock dynamic, so you’ll want to take steps to minimize the stress to your new chickens and to yourself when you decide to increase your flock. I’ve learned several things in my ten plus years of chicken keeping that help make the process go as smoothly as it can, and I’m going to share these tips and our set up with you.
Before discussing the logistics of flock integration, I want to take a moment to talk about predators and flock safety. When your chicks have grown too big for the brooder, you will likely be moving them to an intermediate location before they are ready to join the flock in the coop. Even though this may be temporary housing for your chicks / young pullets, now is not the time to skimp on safety measures. Chicken wire should never be used for a nighttime enclosure for your youngest and most vulnerable flock members. I’ve heard all too many stories of heartbreak due to predators ripping chicken wire enclosures apart at night with very sad consequences; raccoons are especially known for this. So it’s very important that you use the same safe building practices for the temporary housing for your young birds as you would when building a permanent coop.
Proper nutrition is important too. At about 8 weeks of age, I transition the pullets to grower feed. I use Scratch and Peck Feeds Naturally Free Organic Grower. Since this is a whole grain feed, they also get Cluckin’ Good Grower Grit so that they can grind up their food in their gizzard. I sprinkle the grit on their feed every day, and I also offer a small dish of free choice grit. At this age the pullets are learning about all kinds of treats as they spend their days on the green grass and get introduced to nutritious treats such as grubs and black oil sunflower seeds. It’s always helpful to have your pullets trained to come to you when you call them for treats, so be sure to spend the time training them at this age before they get the full freedom of the chicken yard. The rest of the flock will get grower feed as well until everyone is of laying age, and then I’ll switch everyone over to layer feed at about 5 months of age.
More About Stacy Benjamin
Stacy lives on 4.5 acres in St. Helens, Oregon with her husband, 3 dozen chickens, and 9 Narragansett turkeys. Stacy started her chicken keeping adventures in 2010 with her first flock of 3 backyard chickens, which quickly became 5 chickens, and within a few years she moved to the country to indulge her desire for even more chickens. 5R Farm is named for Stacy’s first 5 chickens – Rhoda, Raquel, Rosie, Ruby, and Ramona – who inspired her move to the country.
Stacy is also an avid gardener who enjoys preserving her garden harvest and tending to her honeybees, as well as making handmade soaps and other natural products for her hobby soap business.