Okay, so your baby chicks aren’t babies anymore, and the brooder house is bulging, it’s so crowded. Time to house the young chickens with the old. So how do you do that?
This is an important question, because sometimes it goes horribly wrong:
- Young chickens whose response to stress is to pile in corners may smother each other in a new and frightening environment.
- Dominant chickens can bully newcomers to the point where they hide somewhere and refuse to come out to eat or drink.
- Chicken coops and yards can harbor diseases and parasites that the older chickens are resistant to, but the younger ones are not.
So there’s a lot that can go wrong. Let’s talk about making it go right.
Piling and Smothering
Baby chicks respond to stress by diving underneath the mother hen’s feathers. This is instinctual, so even incubator chicks do it. The problem is, if there’s not mother hen, the chicks hide in a dark place, typically the corner of the chicken house, and heap themselves in a big pile. Birds have very weak lungs, so the ones on the bottom smother. Not good!