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Chicken question for experienced chicken folks

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  • Chicken question for experienced chicken folks

    I got into chickens a year ago because my husband wanted eggs and, after raising chicks in kindergarten, my son wanted chicks. I knew damn well I would be the one taking care of them.

    So after a lot of research we got black Australorps. And they sent along a Golden Comet.

    Wow, I love chickens! But my pet was that Golden Comet. What a sweetheart.

    She was killed last fall by a dog.

    So for our anniversary in October my husband got me 26 new Golden Comet Chicks.

    Fast forward to now: I think they are socially handicapped. We moved them to a sectioned-off part of the coop with a heat lamp so they are socialized to the rest of the Australorp flock. But they have been in all winter- the 'lorps wouldn't go out either.

    But we have been having spring like weather (high 40s to 70s) and they WILL NOT go out. All the 'lorps run out as soon as I open the door. Only 4 of the Golden Comets will follow and damn, they can't find their way back in. I am out with a flashlight every night trying to find them to pick them up and carry them back in.

    Is it going to get better or should I just process them for meat? My chickens are supposed to be "free range" but these can't seem to go out and if I make them they can't find their way back in. I know they were raised inside all winter but they just don't seem to get the outside thing.

    I'm a newbie to chickens so any advice is appreciated. Thanks!
    Rhythm the perfect OTTB;Spock the will-be perfect OTTB;Mia the Arab/appendix COTH giveaway

  • #2
    Flock integration is hard. We don't cull our old birds, but keep them for the length of their natural lives, so we have to add a few hens here and there in order to continue getting eggs. The three Rhode Island reds we added in 2008 are just now starting to act like part of the flock, and the 3 americaunas of 2009 had to be lifted in and out of the coop for the first two years. I'd say that if you have the patience to show them the way and baby them along for a year or two, they'll get with the program eventually. Our oldest birds are about nine years old now, and we're finally starting to see a little social leveling—they're getting too old to bully the one, two, and three year old birds and suddenly everyone is hanging out together. The Americaunas still sleep in the outside portion of the enclosed coop, though—they're afraid to go in with the older birds, even after living with us for two years.

    Good luck!
    My ears hear a symphony of two mules, trains, and rain. The best is always yet to come, that's what they explained to me. —Bob Dylan

    Fenway Bartholomule ♥ Arrietty G. Teaspoon Brays Of Our Lives


    • #3
      Well the Golden Comet is considered a production bird, so therefore it is purpose bred to tolerate confinement, and that also lends to being provided food (instead of foraging) and having a more "domestic" attitude, less predator wary too. Wereas, you can see, older breeds (non hybrid) are like "give me freedom"!! and the ability to kind of take care of themselves.

      They may never integrate with the Australorp in a sense of flocking up, but will probably co-habitate. Most breeds tend to flock together. I just watched a video of someone's flock and the Silkies stayed in a group, the Wyandottes another, and two other birds (Barred/White Plymouths?) stayed seperate. Everyone was getting along, but they definitely had the "birds of a feather" thing going on.

      I can also recommend backyardchickens.com They have a forum with really nice people.
      I LOVE my Chickens!


      • #4
        Really they are still babies. Try to give them a treat to get them out and then to get them back in. They just need to get the routine down. And in time they will.
        Our silkies are August babies and they are still clueless. But they really are starting to like it outside. But we have to pick them up at the end of the day and put them in their coop.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks for the advice for far!

          My husband communtes to work "in the big city" and we have more orders for eggs than we can fill every week. These havn't started laying yet. But recently we have started getting reqests for meat birds.

          l really just want layers but these birds, who INSIDE seem to be completely integrated with the 'Lorps, have no intention of going OUTSIDE. I'm still trying.

          I will never get chicks in October again. I swear if we had raised them outside in the Spring I don't think I would have this problem.
          Rhythm the perfect OTTB;Spock the will-be perfect OTTB;Mia the Arab/appendix COTH giveaway


          • #6
            Maybe fence a small yard for them, and begin luring them outside with special treats. I don't free range mine, and mine are a mixed flock of older Buff Orps, Australorps and Delawares, who get along very well in their 40 x 60 paddock that we converted to a chicken pasture.

            My guess is that your Goldens are not natural foragers, and you'll need to scoot the whole flock outdoors and teach them (by maybe putting all the hens in an outdoor enclosure) to be chickens.

            Good luck! My hens (11) aren't producing enough to keep up with my customers either. I just don't want more right now.
            Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


            • #7
              You will not like the Comets for meat. They are too old anyway for more than a stew hen. Our business is pastured poultry meat and eggs mostly.

              I have no experience with production birds...I typically avoid them like the plague because they do lack normal instincts. You could probably list them on Craigslist and sell them if nothing else but don't waste your time slaughtering them. In the future I'd recommend good old fashioned chickens like Rocks, Wyandottes, RI Reds, etc...for true free range layer programs.

              There is a training method that I have tried where I basically push/chase the chickens out of the coop. I put scratch feed outside the coop in the grass (our coops are movable fenced with electric poultry netting). I also set the water outside the coop and put the feed in a range feeder outside. That forces the chickens to go outside to meet their basic needs for food and water and encourages them to leave the coop. I've closed up the hatch before also to stop them from just running back inside.

              When I train a new batch of pullets or broilers (yes they do need to be trained to go out), I generally move them from the brooder and put them into that sort of situation with their mobile coop. Even the old fashioned breeds and the newer pasture broiler strains need to learn to go outside and forage. I've had some luck mixing in older chickens occasionally to show them what to do also but it sounds like you've done that.

              In a natural flock setting they'd learn from their mothers but the way we raise them in large batches and brooders, they never learn that...so they have to be taught.

              For broilers (meat chickens) look into a breed called "Freedom Rangers." The are the same birds as are used in France's Label Rouge program and I feel, to date, are the best pasture broilers I've tried. I did try a batch from S & G Poultry also and they were not bad but truly were quite slow to get the pasture idea as well but they did OK. Both are good eating birds and taste way better than the Cornish Cross broilers that you mostly find.

              If you want any sources for the broilers, send me a Pm and I'll hook you up with the hatcheries I have worked with.

              Colder weather does not really encourage chickens to go out much also so as it warms up definitely get them out of the coop if you have to pick them up and put them outside. It's a PITA but it will help a lot. Chickens are remarkably slow to learn but once their natural instincts kick in (assuming they have not had them bred out of them like the production birds) than they do quite well. Mine were out all winter foraging.