My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

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Hatching baby chicks for beginners – Lesson # 2 – The right coop without a ramp



The day after Hannah Hen’s chicks were hatched, she brought them outside to start teaching them to scratch and peck. After a few false starts and a Harriet Hen-Chick drama, all chicks were safely outside in the run watching and learning from mama hen.

(The blocks of wood at the back of the run are to plug any gaps where a curious chick could get out as per the Harriet Hen-Chick drama above).

The sun was shining and the chicks were cosy and warm and happy outside with their mama.They had learnt to come down the ramp and they had learnt to eat chick crumble and drink water. (This photo was taken just before I put the feeder and waterer in the run.) Mama hen would call them now and again to take a nap under her wings, which they happily did, although I am not sure if she realised some of them were peeping out from behind and pulling at grass when they were meant to be napping.

This peace and happiness continued until it was time for mama to take her chicks to bed.

Mama went up the ramp in the early evening, making her “follow me” clucking sounds as she went. The little chicks all went running after her as fast as their little spindly legs would carry them. Until they got to the ramp. They stopped at the bottom and peeped their little hearts out and looked up at mama. So she came back down the ramp and turned and walked back up, clucking slightly louder each time. Some of the chicks managed to get a little way up the ramp before they either ran off the edge or slipped back down. One or two even managed to get up the ramp and into the coop but each time she came out to get the others, the ones inside came back out and got stuck again at the bottom.

This went on for about ten trips up and down the  ramp by mama hen before she realised that the chicks were not going to follow. So she came back out and settled herself on the grass and called all of her chicks under. Oh dear, what were we to do. She can’t sit outside all night with the chicks. (Well maybe she can but I would prefer them not to do that.)

So she sat there for about fifteen minutes or so and then she decided that she would try another tactic. She got up, calling her chicks as she went up the ramp and into the house and then stayed in there calling to them. They tried and failed the ramp and then they all ran into a corner of the run peeping loudly and running over each other and the bits of wood. Hannah Hen remained in the coop, clucking loudly. I think this is what you call tough love.

So Haitch and I quickly shut the pop hole door with Hannah Hen on the inside of the coop and the five baby chicks outside. Haitch crawled into the run and grabbed each chick, one at a time, and handed them to me. I opened the nesting box lid and popped each loudly peeping chick inside and they ran over to mama. She was extremely upset and each time I put my hand in the coop to deliver one of her chicks, she made a rush at me all puffed out and squawking with her best angry voice.

After all five chicks were delivered inside to mama and they were all quietly settled for the night, I went straight inside and onto TradeMe (New Zealand’s equivalent to Ebay) and looked desperately for a coop without a ramp that we could move them into.

This is what I found and had delivered the next evening (but not before we had to go through this trying ordeal one more time).


So the lesson here is, do not expect your baby chicks to navigate a ramp. No matter how small the ramp is, they just don’t understand the concept. So when your hen goes broody, think ahead and move her to suitable accommodation that has the right nesting area and is suitable for chicks once they have hatched, ie without a ramp. You could always put a broody box in your run. I had planned to do that but hadn’t found the right height broody box for the run and neither Haitch nor I are any good with hammer and nails. (If you are going to be moving your broody and you haven’t done it before, check the internet for information on how and when, as there is a risk that she will abandon the new nest.)

Rosemary, Lavender and Thyme has also written a post on chicks and ramps.

20 thoughts on “Hatching baby chicks for beginners – Lesson # 2 – The right coop without a ramp

  1. What an adventure you are having! It is so nice that we can share information and help each other. I am keeping notes in case I try this. Thanks for the lesson. Patti

  2. Oh my, everyday it’s something new. I also appreciate your blogging each experience….it touches my heart!

  3. How funny! I didn’t know that chicks needed ramp lessons. We do have a rotating Failure to Coop Up for the Night game here. It varies each night as to which of our 4 new girls will fail to join the others, and choose to sleep outside instead. Weird….cuz none of our other flock EVER stays outside of the henhouse. It takes all kinds.

    • I hope I don’t have that same issue. I have such good chickens at the moment who always put themselves to bed and I just expected that the chicks when they grew up, would follow suit but maybe not. Oh well, we shall have to see.

  4. Oh Lordy! Nothing is easy. What, pray tell, do wild chickens do with their babies? Obviously they can’t fly up on a branch to roost with Mamma o’nite. I suspect this means Hannah’s toying with the idea of sleeping on the ground with them is what would be the only sensible solution in nature. Which could explain how a clutch of 6 eggs gets reduced to 1 or 2 chicks by the end.

    Couldn’t you have adapted a longer (therefore less steep) and maybe wider ramp out of sheets of plywood covered with old carpet until the chicks were big/strong enough for their standard ramp? Buying a new coop/run seems a pretty drastic step.

    Anyway, you’ve (once again) come to Hannah’s rescue whether she understands it or not. You are a hero.

    • I often wonder about the chicks in the wild and think that maybe Hannah would be a lot better off with her chicks in the bush because she wouldn’t have to deal with ramps or people losing her chick on day one but then I think of stoats and hawks and minor birds and I think that maybe she is better where she is. 🙂

      And yes, I did think of plywood and old carpet but this was Sunday evening and I had to leave the next day for work at 6:30 and wouldn’t be home until 6pm and to be honest, Haitch wasn’t really interested in finding a solution so I panicked and got the new coop. But I don’t mind. I can always sell one of them but I think I will keep them all for now (all 3). It allows me to increase my brood.

  5. Great decision! My chicks are a lot older, but they still are not getting the ramp thing. Tonight I turned the light on in the coop to make it look all warm and inviting and left the ramp down to see if they will go up after it gets dark…I’m going out now to check on them, but I have a feeling they will all be cuddled up somewhere in a corner of the run. It’s not supposed to get too cold tonight so I might just leave them…and think about them all night long…No, I can’t do that…Oh, well… ; )

    • LOL. Would love to hear it they went on our not. Maybe you could try Laura’s ramp negotiating idea above with ply and old carpet.

      • Just as I expected they were all huddled up in the corner. I tried putting a couple of them on the ramp, but they just sat where I put them. They really get kind of docile when it gets dark. I ended up gently putting them all to bed by hand.

        The carpet may be a good idea…I’ve also heard of painting the ramp with some sand added for traction. I’ll let you know what I do and how it works…I need to do a blog post about this. 🙂

      • Oh dear 🙂 I can’t wait to see your post and to hear how you resolved this, (if you ever do of course).

  6. Thanks for the comments. It has definitely been am adventure right from when Hannah Hen stepped foot on our property and decided she was going to stay. And the chick hatching and raising experience, one I will keep doing each time I have a broody. It has been such a wonderful time (says she confidently when the chicks are only 10days old.)

    The whole ramp thing is quite an issue. I have read poultry forums where they said ramps and chicks don’t mix but I thought I knew better and that my ramp was small enough, but once again, I was proven wrong. 🙂

  7. Thanks for sharing your experience! Since we raised our chicks without a mama hen, I didn’t realize how complex it could be with one. I would’ve thought it would be easier, not having to worry about keeping them the right temperature, etc. but I guess not! Are you keeping them separate from the other hens? It looks like it. That in itself seems like a good enough reason to have an additional coop.

    • Actually I still think it is easier with a mama hen but then I haven’t raised any by hand. I’m at work full time so need the mama hen to do all the work for me. Once I got the accommodation sorted it was all simple and up to the mama. 🙂
      And yes, I do have them separate. The older 2 girls were in a smaller coop so having 2 bigger ones is great. I can always sell the smaller coop but will keep it as it doesn’t hurt to have more.

  8. We’ve been away from the computer for the last couple of weeks and I’ve so enjoyed catching up with your little brood today! The chicks are so adorable and Hannah seems to be a wonderful mother. Are your other two girls interested in what seems to be going on in the other coop?

    • Very interested. They spend a lot of time just hanging outside the chicks coop. Very funny actually. I was wondering if that was normal behaviour. I thought I would do a post on this one day soon.

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