Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What is a grow out pen. Do you need one?

It's the time of year when spring chicks are getting big enough to be outside. They are fully feathered and no longer need heat. It's definitely time to get them out of the brooder! Now the big question is: Where do they go from here? Most of us are eager to get them into the coop, but if you already have a full grown established flock in there it might not be such a good idea. Full grown chickens could injure or kill the much smaller chickens. They could keep them from the feed or water or chase them out of the coop and not let them back in. Anything could happen really. It's kinda like letting the grade school kids out to play with the high school class. You'd like for it to work and it usually does, but sometimes it goes bad real fast. 

grow out pen for chickens

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!

grow out pen for chickens


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.
What it isn't: It's not a quarantine pen for sick or new chickens. I know that's tempting because it's right there and all set up, but don't do it. Quarantine needs to be far enough away that the chickens can't come beak to beak with each other through the fence. 

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.

~Lisa
This post can also be seen on BackYard Poultry Magazines website!

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4 comments:

  1. I've created temp housing for our older chicks and worked great! They could see but not touch :) Photos here-
    http://littlehomesteadinboise.blogspot.com/2015/06/chick-to-flock-integration-tips-90s-are.html

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  2. Great idea, Lisa. I've been wondering about a grow out pen (for when I add new chicks next year). I have a large 8"x12" coop right now where my 5 girls live. The way the previous owner of the house set it up, the chickens don't have any way out of the coop, they are just supposed to live in it all the time. It's got plenty of room, but they don't really get any sunshine or forage this way. My husband is fencing in my garden area and we'll cut a hole in the coop building so they can come out every day and get sunshine, fresh air, root around in the compost, munch on my (mature) garden, and stretch their legs. Do you think that I could put the growout pen in that area? It wouldn't be anywhere near the coop, but it would be in the regular foraging area, so maybe that might work out? Thanks in advance!

    Kristi @Stone Family Farmstead

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  3. What a great idea, we.will definitely be using this when we hit warmer weather. Thank you for sharing at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

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  4. I love reading what you are up to! I am in the suburbs, and no chickens, but I would love to have them! (Our county just approved them in certain circumstances). I will need this information if I go for it! Thanks for linking up at country fair blog hop!
    Jan @ Tip Garden

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