So what are your options? You could put them in the coop but separate them from the adults for awhile. Large dog crates work pretty well for this. Or you could put them in a grow out pen instead. A grow out pen is pretty much what the name implies: a fenced in coop and home for the chicks to grow up a bit before they move in with the adults. I've been using a grow out pen for 4 years now and I love it. Ideally it will be placed close enough to the chicken coop that when everyone is free ranging the adults can come right up to the pen and check them out. It's a great idea for them to get to know each other a little with some fencing in between.
So what do you need for a grow out pen? For ours we got a small dog house and put fencing around it leaving several feet on 3 sides of it for them to have a run. The husband bolted down the roof so predators couldn't open it and reach inside. He made a ramp door and outfitted it with a latch. He also put it up on blocks so it wouldn't be sitting on the wet ground when it rains. We chose to put deer netting above ours because hawks are our main predators during the day here. We occasionally have the 4 footed variety of predator, but generally the dogs do a great job of keeping them away so roofing wasn't a high priority. Then simply fill the coop with bedding and add feed bowls and water and you're set. The chicks will love having more space to run around and they'll quickly learn to dig for bugs in the dirt. They're so cute to watch when they first move outside!
That is what a grow out pen is, but that's not all. It does have other uses when you don't have chicks.
- Hospital pen. A injured hen can be put there for a while to recover. It makes it easier for her to integrate back into the flock if she can see her friends while she gets better.
- Time out pen. For when the pecking order gets a little rough and the meanest hen needs a few days to mellow out.
- Breeding pen. This is a good way to keep the hens away from other roosters when you're trying to selectively breed them
- Broody pen. A great place to move mama before the chicks hatch so you don't have to worry about the little guys.
- Holding pen for roosters. It's really odd but roosters will attack each other when they have access to the girls, but pen them in together without the hens and they calm down a lot. It makes it convenient to have them in one pen if you're going to butcher, sell or give them away also.
A grow out pen can bit a bit of an expense to set up, but I've found that it's definitely worth the time and money.
This post can also be seen on BackYard Poultry Magazines website!
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