New Pullet Care Sheet
Congratulations! You've just purchased some wonderful new ladies to add to your flock. Now what?
If you have no adult birds at home:
When you first bring your new birds home, it's crucial to 'home' them to your coop, weather permitting*. This means that you will want to lock them INSIDE the coop for the first 48-72 hours. This will teach them where to roost at night. After this two to three day period, they can be released into the run. If you intend on allowing them supervised free range time, you can start letting them out of the run as soon as a few weeks after bringing them home. If you are planning on unsupervised free range, it's wise to wait until they are at least 16 weeks and are nearing physical maturity.
It's also extremely important to ensure they are getting the correct feed. Juveniles require a non-medicated grower crumble (18-22% protein) from 8 weeks until laying age, around 18 to 20 weeks. Be absolutely certain they are NOT getting a layer crumble or pellet, as this will severely harm their kidneys because of the excess calcium. Yes, you can feed them table scraps such as fruits and veggies, as long as they are limited to no more than 10-20% of the diet.
*If it is too hot to lock them in the coop, you can let them out into the run, but be prepared to gather them up by hand at dusk for a few days until they learn.
If you have adult birds at home:
Whenever introducing young birds to an older flock, you want a seperation period of 2-4 weeks. This means seperating a part of your coop and/or run that will be adequate for the number of birds you have purchased for a couple weeks. It doesn't need to be a huge area - for up to four or six pullets, a large or extra-large dog crate works very well. The main idea of the seperation period is that the two flocks will be able to see each other but can't physically interact. After several weeks, you are ready to remove the cages or barriers. Do this at night for the first time - darkness helps reduce aggression and waking up together will make the process go more easily. Be sure watch their behavior carefully the first day or two.
The same day you let them out for the first time, make sure to remove all layer feed from the enclosure. Eating this will harm the pullets. Instead, replace it with grower crumble. Supplement the feed with oyster shell for the older hens, to ensure correct egg shell production. After the pullets reach 18-20 weeks, you can return the layer feed and will no longer need to supplement with oyster shell. You can continue feeding table scraps to all of your birds, including the young ones, during this period.