We let our first set of
chicks grow up in the same coop as our laying hens because I figured
they’d pick up some foraging tricks from these matriarchs. I quickly learned my
For the first month or
so, the chicks barely interacted with the adults. They were fed
in their gated off corner of the coop and were able to slip through
holes in the pasture fence to forage wherever they wished — which
generally meant far away from those big, scary hens. But when the
time came to kick the first brood out of their protected corner so that
our broody hen could raise brood three, trouble started.
The old girls were and are
territorial of any food introduced into the pasture, so if I try to
feed both flocks together, the hens chase the tweens away even after
they’ve gorged and can’t eat another bite. I ended up having to
feed the tweens in the supposedly resting pasture 4 because the smaller
chickens can slide under the gate and get to this protected paddock
while the old girls are left to cool their heels in pasture 3.
The main problem with
this arrangement is that both pasture 3 and pasture 4 are now
overgrazed, but I can’t rotate or I’ll have to find a new way to get
the youngsters a bite to eat. I’m a purist and am offended by
even the slightest foul fowl smell — I figure you’re doing something
wrong if you can see or smell chicken poop in your coop or pasture, and
I can now do both.
The other problem is that the
overcrowded coop no longer seems to be a conducive spot for
laying. I thought our old girls had just reached “menopause”
until I found this stash of two dozen eggs hidden in the weeds. I
guess there’s just too much activity in the coop to lay eggs.
I’ve solved the problem
for broods 2 and 3 by the simple method of giving each young flock its
own space — half or all of a coop and a whole pasture apiece.
Two pastures per flock would be better so that I could rotate back and
forth, but that might be pushing our ability to get pastures
built. Luckily, we can divide each coop in half and have the
equivalent of four coops at our command — just the right amount of
sections for a permanent flock and any number of broods since the
broilers go in our bellies after three months and their space can be
easy as filling a bucket once a month.