The first batch of chicks we hatched in January are now fully feathered and ready to join their parents as part of the main flock. Adding juvenile chickens to an established group of adults is an unpredictable event: the adults and teens may fight as the new pecking order is established, and there are about 11 young roosters joining the adult flock, where LaRue currently reigns supreme.
To try to minimize conflict, the youngsters have been in the outdoor tractor during the day where the adults could see and visit them. The adults really only showed mild curiosity – the teens seemed more intrigued by the bigger chickens. The ducks actually seemed more excited that there were new neighbors, and tried to “talk” to the teens.
Last night at dusk, we transported the teens from the tractor to the coop. The adults were already in, and watched with mild curiosity. At first, the teens just huddled on the floor under the poop boards; after about 15 minutes, they began to queue up on the newly-expanded roost, with the first ones choosing a roost spot near a window.
As we wrapped up the nightly chores, we could hear an adult hen complaining loudly – no doubt about the new roommates. We peeked in and listened at the coop windows, and it seemed generally peaceful inside.
This morning, we opened the pop door on the coop and the adults rushed out (as usual). The teens hung back, a couple peeking out the door. A teen Leghorn hen ran down the ramp and then seemed frightened by the ducks, who came by to say hello (the ducks seemed really happy to see them). The adult chickens know the ducks are friendly, but this was the first time the teens had seen the ducks do their head-bobbing and hissy greeting. The young hen quickly ran back up the ramp to get away from the boisterous ducks.
We ended up shooing the teens out of the coop. Once out, they slowly explored the area around the barn, occasionally being reprimanded by the adult hens, eating grass and scratching the ground. We later found them napping under a thorny bush. This was a big day for them – we expect that they’ll venture out as they become more comfortable, maybe following the adults on their daily treks around the property.
It’s an exciting time here – the second generation of chickens is free ranging and in another few months, the hens should begin laying. Fingers crossed that they figure out how to get back into the coop tonight…or we’ll be getting our exercise trying to round them up. Not fun.