Our mixed group of 16 chicks went outside for the first time and enjoyed themselves immensely. The adult chickens and ducks were very curious about the scurrying fluffballs, and came closer to get a better look.
Outside, the chicks were contained in a folding wire exercise pen that had been carefully modified with an additional layer of plastic netting from the ground to about two feet up. We learned from a previous outing that small animals, like baby rabbits, will run right through the gaps in the wire. Yikes! In that case, the rabbits were recaptured without incident, but we really wanted to avoid that kind of excitement again. We also clipped shade cloth on top to ensure the chicks could always get out of the direct sun. Secure (for day use) and comfortable.
When the chicks first went out, they didn’t seem to know what to do, but it didn’t take them long to start eating grass and running around with found objects in their beaks. That always sparks a game of chase – everyone else wants that prize, too…even if it’s only a fragment of something inedible.
The chicks seemed as curious about the adults as the adults were about the chicks. They spent long minutes staring through the exercise pen wire at each other. Even our flock rooster spent a few minutes eyeballing the chicks. The broody ducks were especially interested. The broody instinct is so strong that the girls were probably trying to figure out how to lure a few chicks away and raise them, themselves.
To ensure the chicks can “chew” up the greens they’re eating, we provide them with chick grit – crushed granite the size of sand grains. The greens are a nutritious supplement to their diet and it entertains them, to boot. It’s also good for the chicks to get some fresh air and sunshine (some people even report that it makes them grow faster!).
As they grow and spend more time outside, the chicks will become familiar to the adult chickens and ducks, making future integration easier. Fortunately, that won’t happen for a couple more months…and integration (or “how mean can chickens be to each other?”) is so much fun, it merits its own post. More to come.