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 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).
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 run with chicken wire.
In addition to outdoor space, you need to provide a secure place for the chicks to sleep. Click here to see how I built a spare coop for $2 that we can easily bring into the run when needed.
Instead of a second temporary coop, you can also section off part of the main coop for the babies. Unless your coop has two entrances, you will need to take them from their coop to their section of the run each morning & then put them back at night. Don’t forget the food & water for the babies, they will still need chick starter food until they are about 16-18 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.
When the chicks are big enough 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.
If free ranging goes alright, take down the partition in the run so during the day, the flocks will be together. 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 starter/growing feed. See the bag for manufacturer’s age instructions, but generally a young chicken needs to be on starter/growing feed until about 16-18 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 on 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.
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.