Well my Buff Orpington Chicks have made the transition from garage-dwellers to coop-dwellers. At 8 weeks old and fully feathered I figured it was time. Last weekend, on a brilliantly sunny and warm day, I gave the chicken run a good clean and placed my old rabbit hutch inside. It barely fit and takes up a lot of my big chickens’ space, but they’ll survive, it’s only temporary!
I put the three Orp girls (at least I’m pretty sure they’re girls!) inside the rabbit hutch along with their food, water, the wooden box that used to shelter my bunnies, and a generous amount of straw to snuggle in.
While all this was going on I had the big hens locked up inside their coop and they were none too happy about it! They couldn’t see what I was doing because their window looks out to the yard, not into the run, but they could hear me bashing around and they REALLY wanted to get outside to see what was going on.
Once I had the chicks settled into their new home I let the big girls out to so they could get their first look at the new members of the flock. They peeked out the open pop door and promptly retreated into the safety of the coop when they saw the giant object sitting smack dab in the center of their run. It took a while before they decided it was safe to venture out, and then ever so slowly descended the ramp, single file and in complete silence. I wish I’d brought my camera out to record the moment for posterity, but you’ll have to settle for my written description.
The chicks, meanwhile had made themselves at home inside the hutch (it was familiar to them because they’d been living in it for two weeks in the garage) but when they noticed the big hens stalking down the chicken ramp beside the cage they too fell silent.
The two groups stared at each other for a while, but chickens have a pretty short attention span, so when I chucked some chicken scratch in the run they quickly focussed on gobbling it down, and the regular small hubbub of clucks and peeps resumed.
Feeding together is a group bonding experience for chickens, so although the two groups are separated by wire, they will begin to get used to each other while pursuing their everyday chicken-type activities (feeding, pooping, snoozing, pooping, preening, pooping, etc.).
Soon I will move the Silver Laced Wyandotte chicks out and put them in with the Orp Sisters (sounds kinda like a bluegrass band). Eventually I will begin leaving the rabbit hutch door open so that if the chicks are feeling brave they can venture out into big hen territory, and hopefully one evening they’ll all end up roosting together inside the coop.
I’ve read some horror stories about chicks being bullied terribly or even killed by dominant hens as they establish a pecking order. I am optimistic that I can integrate my flock with little or no bloodshed. Stay tuned…