We all picture the iconic barnyard scenario when we think of chickens, a lovely coop or barn, with the hens and roosters mingling alongside baby chicks. Unfortunately, however, this isn’t always the case, and more often than not, older chickens and roosters will need to be kept separate from baby chicks.
Do you ever wonder, will roosters and hens kill baby chicks?
As much as I hate to believe it, roosters and hens will kill baby chicks. But there are things you can do to prevent it.
In this article, I will go over the behavior of roosters and hens around baby chicks and ways to avoid any misfortunate accidents.
The Behavior of Roosters and Hens
Any backyard chicken farmer will tell you that the behaviors of roosters and hens can be pretty straightforward.
Roosters are fierce protectors of the flock and often give their lives for the hens. However, they can also be hot-headed, stubborn, and downright aggressive in some cases. Either way, they are most definitely in charge of the ladies.
Chickens follow a social structure known as a pecking order. Each bird in the flock will be in a specific place in the hierarchy. This established way of life is called a pecking order because more dominant hens will peck and pull the feather of those on the lower rung of the ladder to assert their dominance.
Will Roosters Kill Baby Chicks?
While most of us can readily welcome fuzzy baby chicks, roosters don’t always feel the same. They often view any newcomer as an intruder. And because of their instinct to protect the flock, roosters can go after baby chicks and, in many cases, kill them.
This isn’t the case with all roosters, though; within time, most roosters will accept new hens into the flock once they reach a certain age and size.
Will Hens Kill Baby Chicks?
Of course, we know that a mother hen will nurture and protect her young. But this doesn’t always guarantee they are safe from other flock members, and the chance of danger or death is still very real.
Chickens are very territorial and won’t accept newcomers easily. Chickens are generally very gentle with their humans, but not so much when it comes to other chickens. And this is especially true with baby chicks.
Chickens are known to bully newcomers so much that the chick will stop eating and drinking. So if hens don’t kill baby chicks directly, death can result from some severe bullying. They don’t call chickens’ mean girls’ for nothing!
If you have chicks that you hatched yourself or got from your local farming store, it’s always best to keep them away from older hens until they reach the right age. In other words, you need to be the mother hen.
When Can I Introduce Chicks to the Flock?
Ideally, baby chicks should be kept apart from the rest of the flock until they are between 6-8 weeks, and some people even wait until 12 weeks. But this doesn’t mean that babies must be kept in the brooder the entire time.
I have personally invested in what is known as a chicken tractor. A chicken tractor is a movable chicken coop without a floor. It gives the hens access to the bugs and free grass they love. However, while foraging, they are protected from predators, and in this case, older hens and roosters.
Of course, this must also be done in decent weather, as baby chicks can get cold quickly. And it also needs to be done with supervision.
How Do I Introduce Chicks to the Flock?
Unfortunately, adding new chicks or even full-grown hens to a flock isn’t easy, and it can be stressful for the birds and us! Aside from keeping your babies safe from predators, introducing them is just as tricky.
Remember what I said about mean girls? It’s true. They see any new addition to the flock as a threat to their place in the pecking order. While they are flock animals, they need time to adjust to newcomers.
However, with the proper steps, you can have one big happy flock most of the time. You can introduce your girls with patience and care in just a few steps.
- Keep them separated
- Use the “Look But Don’t Touch Method” Method
- Take them in at night
- Slowly acclimate them
- Leave a hiding spot
Keep Them Separated
What I mean by this goes along with the chicken tractor. If you have your young chicks, who are at least eight weeks of age, in a separate pen, this is a great way to introduce them. It keeps them safe while allowing the older flock members to check them out.
They may forage right next to them, but because the pullets are in a separate pen, they are safe from bullying. It’s best to do this in a large area as long as you free-range.
Use The Look But Don’t Touch Method
Whether or not your girls free-range or have their own enclosure, using the ‘Look But Don’t Touch Method” works wonders when introducing new hens.
Using a small dog pen or even a dog carrier allows the flock to get used to the newcomers without touching them. Putting your new girls in the small pen and then placing it inside your hen’s enclosure, or close to the coop if you free-range, gives everyone a chance to get to know each other.
If you don’t have access to a dog crate, sectioning off part of the pen with some chicken wire works well.
Make sure the new pullets have access to food and water in the small pen and shade and give it time. You will notice a lot of curiosity and even some squabbling through the bars of the dog carrier, but this is normal.
Take Them in at Night
For as much fun as they may be having during the day, you want to bring the little ones in at night. They are not ready to spend the night with the older girls until they are fully used to each other.
Slowly Acclimate Them
After your hens and pullets have had about ten days of interaction, without being able to touch each other, you can begin to introduce them fully.
Most of the curiosity is gone at this point, and a face-to-face introduction will go smoother. Leave one side of the dog pen open, so your pullets can slowly go out to join the rest of the flock.
Keep an eye on everyone because the older hens can get nasty quickly.
Leave a Hiding Spot
When you feel ready to let the pullets and hens completely mix, be sure you have some sort of a hiding spot for the smaller ones. A bush they can run under or a board propped up by cinder blocks works well.
This way, they have somewhere to hide when they feel threatened.
We now know that roosters and hens will kill baby chicks, and it’s up to you to prevent it. By being sensible and following the proper steps, your flock should live in harmony.
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