Getting baby chicks can be such an exciting time! You want to believe your older girls will accept the babies and be good “mother hens”, but this is not the case. Your older flock is likely to not share your excitement about these new little pests eating their food and stealing their treats. You need to ease the flock into accepting the chicks by giving them plenty of time to get used to the idea. It’s important to keep the chicks safe because an adult chicken can easily kill a baby.
You should NOT try to introduce a single chick to your flock of older chickens. You need to at least provide the new chick with one friendly face to run to. If you only have one chick, she will become a target for bullies and the more she is bullied, the more others are likely to join in. If you have just a single chick, I would recommend you wait to start to introduce her until she is nearly full grown (around 14-15 weeks). You can read more about introducing a single adult hen here
Wait until chicks are at a minimum 4 weeks old to begin introductions, but 6 weeks would be better. The younger the chicks, the longer you are going to want to draw out the introduction period. Ideally, by the time you mix the flocks permanently, the chicks will be bigger and fully feathered out (around 10-12 weeks).
Introductions Step 1
The chicks will need an outdoor space next to the older flock, but separated by wire. The idea is to let everyone see & smell each other, but they can not touch each other. You can do this by dividing off part of your chicken area with wire. If you set up the chick space in your run, remember they will need a secure place to sleep. Click here to see how I built a spare coop for $2 that we could easily bring into the run when needed.
Instead of a second temporary coop, you can also section off part of your main coop for the babies. Now that we have a very large chicken barn, we just set up a wire rabbit exercise run inside of the chicken barn. The wire run is 87 inches by 41 inches. It has plenty of space for growing chickens and has a wire roof to prevent the older girls from jumping in. The grow out chicks can live here until they are ready to join the flock. Don’t forget the food & water for the babies, they will still need chick starter food until they are about 16 weeks old.
Let them live side by side but separated like this for at least two weeks, or until the younger chicks are at least 10 weeks old. If you moved the chicks to the transition space at 4 weeks, they will have to live there for 6 weeks.
Introductions Step 2
When the chicks are 10 weeks old, it’s time to join the main flock! Start by letting everyone out to free range together. Free ranging gives the little ones room to run away from a bully and it is also more neutral ground so the older chickens might not feel so defensive about sharing it.
Introductions Step 3
If free ranging goes alright for a couple days, take down the partition during the day. Continue to keep the chicks separated at night. At this point, you are going to need to switch the entire flock over to the chick’s grower feed. See the bag for manufacturer’s age instructions, but generally a young chicken needs to be on starter/grower feed until about 16 weeks in age (when they get ready to lay their first egg). Feeding chicks layer feed is not good because their kidneys can’t process all the calcium. So until the chicks are at laying age, everyone needs to be eating chick feed. It won’t hurt your big girls to be on chick feed, but they will need extra calcium for egg production. Providing a bowl of crushed oyster shells near the feed dish is a great supplement.
Introductions Step 4
After a week or so of daytime interacting it is time to fully mix the flocks! Remove the chick’s coop or take down the coop partition and keep your fingers crossed. You will need to be on hand the first couple nights to make sure all the chicks find their way into the main coop & roosts at night, but hopefully they will just follow the older chickens in.
Keep an eye on things for the next week and try to let them out as early as possible in the morning. If any of the chickens are injured or bleeding remove them immediately. Keep the injured bird in isolation until she is healed.
Tuesday 6th of September 2022
So glad to find this post. But I still have an issue you might be able to help me with: I have 1 chick, 7 weeks old. We kept the mother hen and chick in a seperate brooder and run, leading into the field where the other (6) chickens roam, until 10 days ago. The flock had plenty of time to see and smell the chick (and mother hen, which they wouldn’t see during the broody period). 2 weeks ago the mother hen showed signs of despair of wanting to roam free again and she kind of started ignoring the chick, not communicating with it anymore. I let her out with the others but the chick was now lonely and confused why it’s only buddy, the mum, wouldn’t be there anymore. So we let the chick roam too, which the other chickens seem to accept. The chick gets though pecked and bullied when it enters a ‘smaller space’, a corner or the run, it then starts squeaking and trying frantically to run away and that’s when the big chickens start chasing it. The problem is the night, when the mother goes in the coop together with the flock. The chick follows her (desperately staying close to the mother all the time as it’s very scared of the bigger chickens) and will settle in the coop with the mother until the top hen comes in and pecks the mother and chick. So I keep on seperating the mother and chick in their own coop for the night. The mother doesn’t seem to be happy though to still ‘having’ to look after her chick and the idea of letting the chick settle/ roost on its own is sad too. What would you recommend to do? Thank you so much!
Wednesday 7th of September 2022
Awww poor baby! It is totally normal for mum to "abandon" her chicks around 6-8 weeks. She is done being a mom and ready to join her friends again. I would not keep the baby with the mom anymore as she is just as likely to turn on the chick as the other girls at this point. I actually recently had something sort of similar, we got 5 new chicks this spring which we raised in a brooder, 4 were standard size and 1 was a bantam. The bantam chick was MUCH smaller than her friends, but they were all nice to her. We put them all in a large wire cage inside the coop at 4 weeks. At 7 weeks we started letting the chicks out of their separate area into the larger flock free range area. The 4 bigger chicks did fine, no one seemed to really care about them joining in with free range time or roosting at night. But the little bantam for some reason everyone hated. On day 1 several big chickens ganged up on her and by the time I got to her the little bantam had a huge wound on her head. So we thought we would put all the chicks back in the separate area, but the bigger chicks had a taste of free ranging flock life and were very angry. They turned on their little friend and started picking at her and were generally just acting agitated. I hated to leave the little bantam chick on her own, but she was in danger being with other chickens (even her fellow chicks). So we let the standard size chicks out and kept the bantam in the separate area where she could still see everyone. It made it easier to treat her injury too. After a week she was healed so we tried again - the big chickens immediately went after her and tore open her scabbed over wound. I have NEVER had chickens act this aggressive towards a new chicken in over a decade keeping chickens. So bantam chick went back to her safe area. We left her in there for two weeks this time. So she was 10 weeks old now and all together had been living in this separate area in the coop for 6 weeks. The big girls and her fellow chicks chased her off but didn't try to hurt her. She eventually just started hanging out with the ducks who didn't mind her. After about a week of her hanging out on the edges of flock life and roosting on the ground she got the courage to hop on the roosts at night. She is now 12 weeks old and lives with the flock full time, she is definitely skittish and doesn't let any chicken come too close to her but she isn't being chased off anymore. So moral of the story is you can't make your chickens be nice - even if they are raised as hatchmates or if they are the mother. I would put the chick in the safe separate space by herself for a few more weeks. It's sad, but you need to keep her safe. If at all possible make it so she can be part of the flock in her separate space by seeing/smelling everyone. Making the mother stay in there when she is done mothering is a recipe for injury or death. By 9-10 weeks at the very least she will be mostly grown and can handle some light bullying. Good luck!! Hopefully in another few weeks they will all be a happy flock :)
Tuesday 5th of July 2022
I had 5 eggs in incubator and only 1 hatched. So I put 11 more eggs in incubator and 9 hatched. So now i have 1 very tame hen aged 8 weeks and 9 chicks aged 5 weeks. They have been raised side by side so that they could hear each other but now when I put them out in the run for a while in the sunny weather the 5 week olds attack the 8 week old hen. She is very timid and just tries to get out of their way with no fighting back. Will they ever get on? Obviously i have a soft spot for her and hate the way they are treating her.
Tuesday 5th of July 2022
It can be so hard to see when your birds don't get along. This is a normal part of the pecking order process unfortunately. It can be hard for a single bird to meet up with a bonded flock, but they will eventually accept her into the flock. Just make sure the 8 week old isn't being kept away from the food & water and if anyone draws blood be sure to isolate the injured bird. In a few weeks they should all be getting along like one happy family, hang in there!
Saturday 18th of June 2022
New question. With 4/ 16 week old and 4/ 8 week old. Should I continue with medicated food? Will it be ok for the older girls? Especially with egg laying that should happen soon. What is your advice? Thanks
Wednesday 22nd of June 2022
I would stop the medicated feed now, like you said the older ones are approaching maturity. The little ones should be fine without it. You will want to keep them all on grower/starter feed until the little ones are 16-18 weeks though so they don't overload on calcium in layer feed. Put out a calcium supplement for the older girls (the little ones will ignore it but the older girls will eat it). You can used crushed oyster shells or crushed eggshells for calcium supplements
Thursday 16th of June 2022
Hi Liz, wonderful article. We have a light Sussex hen inside our lounge(!) with 4 chicks that are approaching 2 weeks of age. What age can I put them outside with mum into a hen house? She’s getting up on the side of the box now every now and then. Seems like she might prefer to be outside? Our other flock went out at 10 weeks but these are having mummy rear them so it’s different I presume. Thank you. Emma
Wednesday 22nd of June 2022
If they have a mother hen to protect them, you can put them outside now. Mum will keep them warm, help them find food, and keep them safe from any flockmates that try to hurt them. If you have any major bullies it might be best to put the mum and babies in a little pen inside your coop or run for a week or two just so everyone can get used to the newcomers. Good luck!
Saturday 11th of June 2022
Hi Liz, We just put the 8 chicks together to spend the night. 4 are 15 weeks 2 Plymouth Bardrocks and 2 Ameraunas. The other 4 are 2 days short of 8 weeks. 2 Leghorns and 2 Ameraucanas. We have been letting them free range for the last week. It was going so well that today we removed the little chick pen. Cleaned out the whole coop. Put them back in together and all is well. Yeah! Liz, you were so right about Tyne 8 week being a good time. The younger girls are holding their own. Thank you for your supportive advice!
Tuesday 14th of June 2022
All is well with our flock of 8! Put fresh dirt in the coop and added another perch. It's amazing how well they are getting along. 4 are 16 weeks and 4 are 8 weeks now. We put in two feeders to avoid the obvious problem. And it's working! So just to remind you the 16 week old girls are 2 Plymouth Bards, 2 Ameraucanas and the 8 weekers are 2 Ameraucanas, 2 White Leghorns. Life is easier having them all together. Thanks again for your help.