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How to integrate your chicken flock the easy way

Describe 'How to integrate your chicken flock the easy way' here

 

 

 

Advice on how to integrate your chicken flock

 

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            Integrating your flock can be very difficult is some cases. It’s not as easy as just sticking your chickens together- in most cases. A few times, some docile breeds such as cochins or opringtons will simply adjust, but most chickens require a lot more work. In this article we will discuss the best ways to integrate your flock.

            Pecking Order

            It is common knowledge that there is a pecking order amongst all chicken flocks, starting from just flocks of chickens as few as two. If there is a rooster in your flock, he will practically always be at the top of the order.  This pecking order is the reason that it is sometimes so difficult to integrate chickens. Once your older chickens have a pecking order firmly established, it’s hard for them to change that again, and they feel that they must protect their spot, and push the younger birds to the bottom, once new ones are added.

Age

 

 

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            It’s been widely discussed what age to integrate younger birds with the older. Although there are a wide variety of answers on this topic, I personally would say 18 weeks is a good standard. Extremely aggressive chickens can kill younger chicks, even if they are 8 weeks old, or sometimes even older. In some cases, older chickens can kill the new ones even if they are the same size, which is why you have to be so careful. Although 16-18 weeks is a standard for me, it does vary on the chicken. Some people have had success introducing 8 week old birds with mature hens, or even younger chicks! There are two ways to investigate the age you should start integrating your flock. First, is the aggression of the older hens. If you have very aggressive hens, you may want to wait longer. If your hens are more docile and friendly to other chickens, it may be better to do the integration earlier. We’ll talk about which chickens are most prone to being aggressive, and which are most docile in a while.  Second is the breed of your younger chickens. Some chickens get bigger than others- and some quicker than the others. My white leghorn is full grown, but still half the size as my massive red star and rhode island red. However some breeds such as barred rocks, red stars, and black stars, mature very fast and can be integrated sooner. If you have bantams to integrate with standards, you should definitely wait until they are full grown. Once you have lookthe aggression of your older hens, and the maturing rate./size of your younger hens, I hope you can make a reasonable guess as to when you should integrate your hens. However, make not that the ‘age’ I have been talking about here is not the age to start integrating. It’s the age you actually put them together, after using integration techniques. You can start some of those, especially number three, earlier. We’ll talk about those next.

           

Top three integration techniques

 

            And finally, we’re at the good part. Here are the top five integration techniques I have put together.

1. Cage the bullies. Yes, the bullies, not the younger ones you’re trying to integrate. Keep the bullies in a cage/pen in the pain coop or run, so that they can see the younger ones, and the younger ones can see them. This trick has had great success in many chicken owners! Let the bullies out after a few days and hopefully they’ll all get along. This will give the older hens a chance to get used to the young ones, and they will also be so relieved to be out they might not care who’s in their run!

2. Place them on the roost at night. Warning: This technique is not for the more persistent bullies, although it has worked for many people. Just place your chickens on the roost at night, once it’s dark. That way when the hens wake up, they’ll already be there, and there won’t be a dramatic ‘adding’ of the pullets.

3. Give them separate areas where they can see each other. You can start doing this as soon as they are old enough to go outside, although it is not necessary (however it is good to start young). This is one of the best, easiest ways to integrate chickens. You can simply fence off one section of the run or coop, and allow them to see each other, but not reach each other, for several weeks. Once you release them together, they may be so used to each other they might not even pick at all!

 

Which breed?

 

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Below I will list the most docile and most aggressive breeds. However, don’t take these as solid guidelines. It really does depend on the chicken in many cases. You may want to consider this when getting your first chickens.

 

Most Aggressive

 

Some more aggressive breeds include:

Rhode Island Red

Black Star

Red Star

Wyandotte

Cornish

 

Most Docile

 

If you are very concerned about integration, you may want to pick some of these breeds as your original hens you acquire.

Silkie

Cochin

Orpington

Brahama

Salmon Faverolle (you have to be careful with these, they are very docile, perhaps so docile it could cause a problem in some flocks)

 

Also if you have agressive older hens, it may not be a good idea to introduce polish crested hens to your flocks, as their crests are often picked on and they cannot see very well.

 

Other practices to use when integrating your chickens

 

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There are several other things you can do to make sure your integration goes smoothly. One of these is to have two of everything. This makes a tremendous difference! Two water’s, two feeders (older hens will often chase younger ones from the food), two roosts, etc. This way there will be one for the babies and the older ones. Another thing you can try when first integrating is that if you have a coop for sleeping only, then somehow divide it in half for the night. This way, if you lock them up at night, they won’t be stuck in a small space in the morning, with nowhere to run. Another thing that follows this through is have plenty of room. Make sure you have lots of room for the young hens to run from bullying! Also make sure you have plenty of room in the coop. Have hiding places too. An overturned bucket, a propped up board, can all make excellent hiding places! Consider adding some of these when integrating. While integrating make sure your chickens don't get bored. This could cause them to pick on the younger hens for fun. Hang up cabbages, have apples on a stick, maybe even put out a flock block for them. It's alwasys helpful for them to have something else to pick at.

Now some people may be wondering how much picking is too much. The basic standard is: when they draw blood. If this happens, separate your chickens longer, retry some of the techniques, or use a different one. You may have integrated your chickens too young. Or, if you have tried everything to no avail, you may want to look into pinless peepers, a type of blinder that stops hens from picking. You can order them here: http://www.eggcartons.com/Pinless-Peepers/productinfo/PINLESS-P/ they make it so the hen so that she cannot see right in front of themselves- therefore not being able to aim at a younger pullet.

 

Also, take not that occasionally hens may pick feathers not because they are being aggressive, but because the lack protein. Make sure you don’t confuse the two.

 

I hope this article has been helpful to you, and you have great sucess integrating!

 

 

 

Comments (5)

I have had great success twice with the third method. I have a small raised coop in the run and I can fence around it to create a seperate area for young ones to grow up around the older girls, then I take the fencing down when thay are old enough, but they still sleep seperately. Then after about a month or so I put the younger ones in the big coop after the older ones go to bed. It takes 4-5 nights of this before the younger ones get the idea that they are supposed to go there.(and I closed up the small coop after about 2-3 days) The only pecking I had was when they were finding their place onthe roost at night. But even that didn't take long. I love this way!
I have the opportunity to add some new hens- I will try these methods!
Thanks so much for this article! I am going to try the roost idea, not sure how well it will work though...
I'm in the middle of trying technique #3 and it's going really well so far. I want to second the tip about making sure they are not bored. Even with being separated, one of my hens was really upset at the sight of the peeps. All it took was a little sunflower seed or other treat to distract her every morning and she got over it quickly.
I am getting two 1 yr old hens. Buff Brahma and a orpington/rir mix. I am getting them the same time. right now I have two coops side by side, should I keep them in separate coops? and separate the run with something? would the older ones be able to jump a small barrier? Can I put my 4 week chicks out into the coop and run at that age?
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