Moving Your Pullets to your Coop

Moving your pullets to your coop generally goes without incident but sometimes can go horribly wrong. During our worst move we lost about 17 newly moved pullets in about 12 hours. They were attacked and killed by the adults hens in the coop.

Over the years we've had a number of bad moves so we've created a checklist:

  • Move your pullets at eight weeks of age. No more. No less. If they are too old or too young they can be attacked and killed by your adult birds.
  • Look for rat holes in your coop. Some small predators that won't go after your adult birds may kill your pullets.
  • Make sure the bedding in the coop is fairly dry. If it's wet and/or your coop has an ammonia smell you should do a full coop cleaning before you move your pullets. A dirty coop is full of bacteria your adult birds can handle but could make your pullets sick.
  • Close off as many nesting boxes as you can. Scared pullets love to hide and will pile into any confined place they can find. We pulled a good number of suffocated pullets out of lower nesting boxes before we learned this.
  • Look for places that a pullet can squeeze into, but an adult bird can't, and close them off. We've seen pullets squeeze into some fairly tight places. These includes feed bins and water fonts that are just a few inches away from the wall. Either move them closer or move them farther away.
  • Make sure your pullets can reach the food and water.
  • If you watering method in your brooder is different from the one in your coop you should put the brooder waterer into the coop for a few days.
  • Make sure the food in your coop is comparable to the food your were feeding to your pullets. If you feed your adults birds pellets or shorties you should put some crumble into the coop for a while.
  • If you have a bright coop it's best to darken it for a few days. Your adult birds will peck your pullets. The darker it is the less they will peck and the less blood will be noticed if they do get pecked heavily.
  • If you're using laying lights turn them off or use a red light (which helps hide visible blood).
  • If any of your pullets do get injured remove them immediately until they heal. Once the adult birds see blood they will kill the pullet very quickly.
  • Adult birds may keep the pullets away from the food and water. You may want to consider an extra feeder or waterer if you see this happening.
  • If you used medicated chick starter in your brooder make sure none of it ends up in the coop. Medicated feed yields medicated eggs and I was told by the local AG office that you would need to discard all eggs for a goodly number of weeks if this happens (I don't recall the number).

Banding

It's a good idea to band your birds. It can help you identify breeds and hatcheries that are the best (or worst). For example we learned which batches of birds had the biggest problems with harsh winters or weren't as predator savvy as other batches and breeds. The band on the left not the one we used in the video but I think we'll try these next. They look easier to put on than the ones we showed.

Catching Your Birds

I remember the first brood I ever moved. It took me three hours to catch and move 25 birds. Now it takes me a few minutes but it took a few years of practice. I find the best way to catch a chicken is to squat down, spread your arms out and make motion and sounds with your fingers. Chickens will get confused and look back and forth between both hands and when they are looking at your left hand grab them with your right. It works pretty well with pullets and after a little practice you'll be a pro.

Handling Your Pullets

Some old-time farmers I've met throw their birds around or dump them out of boxes or carry many in one hand (each by a foot). I don't agree with this type of handling. Maybe if you're dealing with thousands of birds this may be necessary to get through the day but I've seen this type of handling severely stress out the birds.

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