Backyard Flock Expansion

First things first:  I am not a chicken-expert.  I’m just a girl who loves her backyard chickens 🙂

Hens in a row.

Hens in a row.

I leave the expert advice to the experts.  Ya know, the girls at The Chicken Chick  and Fresh Eggs Daily.  Whenever I’ve got chicken troubles, I usually end up there.  And of course, there’s always the fine folks at Backyard Chickens.com.

Since we are rounding out our first full year of chicken-keeping here at the P Patch, there are many things we haven’t encountered yet.   Like flock expansion.  With three egg-lovers in our house, (and another one on the way), AND the mysterious phenomenon that the more fresh eggs you have, the more you need;  it’s easy to see that the math isn’t adding up and we need more hens! Chix-Ruffle Butts

We decided to take the leap and expand our flock this spring, even though both DH and I were a bit intimidated on the logistics of how to do so.  I have read too many accounts of flock expansion being a pain-in-the-arse, but I decided with careful planning and a few modifications to our chicken set-up, we’d be OK.  What did DH think?  He didn’t.  He just lets me do all the research and carries out my crazy plans.  What a guy, eh?  😉

Chix-Molly

Molly Hen. She’s so pretty 🙂

So, here’s my plan:

  • Obtain some ridiculously cute Blue Cochins and ridiculously ugly Turkens at 3 days old and raise them up a bit.  We set up a nursery inside for two weeks and Sweet Toddler though this was the COOLEST!
  • After two weeks, move then hens out to the garage and after a few more weeks, begin to turn the heat lamp off more and more often.  At about a month old, on sunny days, we’d allow the chicks to hang in our already established chicken tractor.  Chix-Melinda Note:  If you have a cranky hen like I do, this will really piss her off!  Continue to bring the chicks back in for the night.
  • DH makes modifications to our coop.  We got really lucky with the way we designed it.  With a few light modifications, it splits in half perfectly, and one half hosts the big girls and their nesting boxes, the other half hosts the babies and their protected outdoor access.  You’ll see what I mean once we get to the photos.
  • The dividing wall has a large portion of wire, so the big girls can “look, but not touch” the little girls.
  • Move the babies out into the coop once fully feathered and weather seems decent enough.  For us, that was at 5 weeks old.  They were out into the coop full time, and some nights at first were a chilly 33 degrees.  They did superb.  I was worried sick, of course.  But they were feathered, ready, and outgrowing their nursery, so albeit the chill, I’m sure they were more happy in their new home.
  • Allow the babies daily access to enclosed area under the coop and adjacent run. (Chicken Tractor).  Big girls roam the chook yard as usual.  In a few more weeks, the tables will turn.  Big girls will get penned some days while babies roam the yard for the day.  Hey, it’s only fair…

You see my pattern here?  We are using a high visibility, “look but don’t touch” method for integrating the new flock mates.  At first, Mean Hen, a.k.a. Melinda, would. not. shut.up!!!!  I have only ever heard the hens sing their respective egg songs, but this new sound from Mean Hen was crazy madness.  And it went on for 12 days…  It was what I’m guessing her predator call sounds like, or her distress signal.  It’s loud, obnoxious, and well-loved by our neighbors, I’m sure 🙂  I never saw any pecking through the wire from her, just some stalking and shouting.  She would hang in the coop more often than usual if the babies were in there.  She’d take exxxxxxtra long to lay her egg, and she would put her egg-song on blast, right through the divider, at the babies.  Yep.  We hear ya, Melinda.  Now, if you would kindly, STFU…   She eventually got over it.

Fast forward to now.  The babies are 7 weeks, and have been out in the shared coop for 2 weeks.  They LOVE running amok in their new digs, and have finally learned to come up into the coop at night, though are still refusing to roost despite my best attempts at helping them.  *I secretly feel that this batch of chicks are especially stupid, and I swear it’s because they did not come from a cool hippie farmer this time.  (However, these hatchery chicks did come from a cool hippie feed store, so I get points for that, right?).  Alas, that is another post for another day…

If you’re still with me after all of this (fascinating) chicken babble, here’s some photos to help you along with your P Patch Coop Modification visual:

The hen house and all of it's glory.

The hen house and all of it’s glory.

 

Notice the divider down the center of the coop.  That did not exist before the “coop mod. ”  See the babies on the left in the tractor?  Aren’t they precious?  🙂

Chix-Coop6

Chix-Coop4

The Little Girls’ half

Here is a close up of the divider.  The hatch leads to the underneath part of the coop that is enclosed.  It’s earthy, covered and dry.  Very necessary in our little corner of the world.  Note the angled roost in the corner.  That’s been replaced with a larger straight one.  That old roost was left over fro when the Big Girls were babies.

Chix-Coop5 There’s the ladder!  (Nope, I don’t make them jump) 🙂

Chix-Coop2

The Big Girls’ half

Chix-Coop1

The left coop door stays shut at all times, keeping the babies safe.

Chix-Babies and Meredith The babies are getting snuggled in, as Meredith checks things out, but could care less.  Melinda should take note…

Chix-Curtains I added this curtain to the Big Girls’ nesting box, because Mean Hen was having trouble laying with the babies in sight.  There was a whole lotta shouting, and not a whole lotta layin.’  All the girls seem to really like the curtain.

Chix-Nesting Box

Behind the scenes.

So, I’d say Phase One is a complete success.  Things have mellowed, the babies are adjusting, and it won’t be long before we can remove this ridiculous divider!  I plan to keep them separate until the babies reach 12 weeks, because at that point they will be large enough to fairly compete when it comes time to re-establish the pecking order.

Notes on My New Breeds:

The Turken chicken, (not a cross between a turkey and a chicken as what was once believed), is also called “Naked Neck.”

Chix-Turken As you can see in this crappy photo, the neck is bare and will not feather out.  They have been bred as such for ease of plucking,  though I do not plan to do so.  They are reputed to be excellent layers, are very cold hardy despite their lack of plumage, and are supposed to be one of the most gentle breeds.  So far, I’ve got to be honest, I’m not impressed.  Hopefully, things will change soon.  I find them to be flighty, in an easily startled way.  They will do anything to get away from me, and I’m not used to that kind of receptioin from my gals.  Perhaps their attitudes will change with age.  They are still young.  their bare neck isn’t the prettiest, and I worry about it getting pecked.  I must also admit that these poor Turkens are being  unfairly compared to the wonderfully sweet  and beautiful Blue Cochins.  I’m new to this breed also, and I am enamored with these little dears.  If I would have known how beautiful, docile, and lovely these hens are, I would have gotten more of them.  I can’t wait to see what all of these little ladies shape up to be 🙂  Kinda like my kid…

Watch the blog for an Expansion Update, and a new blog post on our DIY tube feeders, made from PVC pipes.

So, am I doing it right?  What experiences can you share from your flock expansion?  Let’s chicken chat in the comments below! 

Are you familiar with Turkens?  What do you think of them?  Are they as great as the chicken expert at the feed store says they are?  Weigh in.

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3 Comments

  1. Awww, your hen house is awesome!
    I can’t wait to have chickens and other stuff again.Laughing at these chicks being stupider than the hippie ones….hehe

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