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Introducing old birds to a new flock - a sort of inversion

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hello all,


Without going into too much distracted detail, pretty soon the winter months will be upon me here in New England and I will need to have my two egg laying flocks merge. I started with 7 egg layers (which are now 5 months old), and 2 months later opted to get 16 more birds to justify the infrastructure I invested in (so they're now 3 months old). I figure I have another month before I have to start worrying about the merger. 

Most of what I have read, centers around introducing a few new, younger, chicks to a sizable existing flock. In my case, I'm wondering if I shouldn't actually go in reverse: introduce one or two of the older chicks into the larger, newer, flock. My thinking (which might be wrong), is that when the older hen gets uppity, she'll be against 14 younger hens and 2 young roosters. Then continue going in this manner, introducing one older hen to the larger flock at a time. 

Thoughts? How bad of an idea is this? Better ideas are always welcome!

post #2 of 8
I would start by housing them next to each other for a few weeks so everyone can get a good look at each other, the best way to start is to allow mingling in the run or while free ranging, keeping them separate at night until you are comfortable with how they are getting along.

Certainly watch all interaction for a while. It can be fairly easy to put together a temporary pen within your coop where you will put the younger birds for a bit. I don't think you need to go the one on one route, that's usually for when chickens can't seem to accept new members.
Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
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Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
Reply
post #3 of 8

Introducing one bird to a large group is not a good idea, that one bird will be targeted by the whole group....

.....it could be very ugly.

 

You have 7 five month old pullets

and 14 three month old pullet and 2 three month old cockerels?

 

How are they housed now?

Do you free range?

 

 

 

Here's some notes I've taken on integration that I found to be very helpful.......

......take what applies or might help and ignore the rest.

See if any of them, or the links provided at the bottom, might offer some tips that will assist you in your situation:

 

Integration of new chickens into flock.

 

Consider medical quarantine:

BYC Medical Quarantine Article

Poultry Biosecurity

BYC 'medical quarantine' search

 

Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact. Integrating new birds of equal size works best.

 

For smaller chicks I used a large wire dog crate right in the coop for the smallers. I removed the crate door and put up a piece of wire fencing over the opening and bent up one corner just enough for the smallers to fit thru but the biggers could not. Feed and water inside the crate for the smallers. Make sure the smallers know how to get in and out of the crate opening before exposing them to the olders. this worked out great for me, by the time the crate was too small for the them to roost in there(about 3 weeks), they had pretty much integrated themselves to the olders.

 

If you have too many smallers to fit in a crate you can partition off part of the coop with a wire wall and make the same openings for smallers escape.

 

 

The more space, the better. Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

 

Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

 

Places for the new birds to hide out of line of sight and/or up and away from any bully birds.

 

In adjacent runs, spread scratch grains along the dividing mesh, best of mesh is just big enough for birds to stick their head thru, so they get used to eating together.

 

Another option, if possible, is to put all birds in a new coop and run, this takes the territoriality issues away.

 

Read up on integration.....  BYC advanced search>titles only>integration

This is good place to start reading:

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/adding-to-your-flock

Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

Reply

Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

Reply
post #4 of 8

:welcome

 

I think your plan is sound. I'd bring the older birds in in groups of 2 or 3.

 

Then again, I don't as a rule do long, drawn out integrations. Were it my birds, I'd simply try putting them all together and see what happens. I'd pick a day when I was home and could monitor frequently. Lots of space for everyone, maybe some special treats for distraction, and just see how it plays out.

Rachel BB

Stem cell transplant from unrelated donor in Feb 2015. Thank you to all my friends here on BYC for all your support during my treatment and ongoing recovery!

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Rachel BB

Stem cell transplant from unrelated donor in Feb 2015. Thank you to all my friends here on BYC for all your support during my treatment and ongoing recovery!

Reply
post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks all.

 

I don't free range, mostly due to neighbor concerns. 

But yes, to recap:

 

7 hens of 5 mos. age

14 hens of 3 mos

 

(I've segregated the roosters to handle crowing issues for the time being until they're old enough for the no-crow collars).

 

My thinking with the older hens into the younger brood is precisely because a larger hen among more numerous smaller ones makes the "alpha" pecking come at a higher risk: act too much like a jerk, and you're in unfavorable numbers. 

Aart I'll read through your linked articles, thanks for those. 

One thing I do know now, is who the peck leader is among my older hens. 

Cheers!

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

A bit of an update...

 

I did the "close proximity, but isolated, runs" for about a week. 


Then, I took the whole ordeal in a very strange manner. I actually brought in my two roosters first. They were both "close" to the size of the mature birds. The males were surprisingly tame. They didn't initiate any hostilities, and were quite mellow in general upon being dropped into the coop. 

Then the lead hen decided she was hot stuff.

She took an aggressive peck on the slightly larger rooster. He went from mellow, to understandably irate. At which point, he proceeded to inform her who the new boss was. For about 30 minutes. Until she fled the coop and ran outside. Another hen had a similar experience with the subordinate rooster. 

With their pride taken down a few pegs, the mature flock decided to yield to the younger roosters. I let them stay together for a few nights. 

Then, I did an exchange. All of the mature birds went into the secondary coop I built up, and the younger birds went into the "permanent coop" that the mature birds had been living in. After a few days of letting the younger birds acclimate, I brought in 2 of the mature birds. When they got uppity, and started beating on a younger hen a bit too much, one of the roosters came in and schooled the offender. This, in turn, satisfied my expectation: The roosters are defenders of their flock. The mature birds were not yet a real part of the family, so if they did something to "the family" they would be dealt with, appropriately. 

Every 3 days, I added 2 more of the mature birds, until they were all integrated. 

I do have to say, there seems to be a kind of divided community in the end. While there is peace in the coop, the young flock still keep close together as do the mature birds. They don't mingle much.

post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by FormulaXFD View Post
 

A bit of an update...

 

I did the "close proximity, but isolated, runs" for about a week. 


Then, I took the whole ordeal in a very strange manner. I actually brought in my two roosters first. They were both "close" to the size of the mature birds. The males were surprisingly tame. They didn't initiate any hostilities, and were quite mellow in general upon being dropped into the coop. 

Then the lead hen decided she was hot stuff.

She took an aggressive peck on the slightly larger rooster. He went from mellow, to understandably irate. At which point, he proceeded to inform her who the new boss was. For about 30 minutes. Until she fled the coop and ran outside. Another hen had a similar experience with the subordinate rooster. 

With their pride taken down a few pegs, the mature flock decided to yield to the younger roosters. I let them stay together for a few nights. 

Then, I did an exchange. All of the mature birds went into the secondary coop I built up, and the younger birds went into the "permanent coop" that the mature birds had been living in. After a few days of letting the younger birds acclimate, I brought in 2 of the mature birds. When they got uppity, and started beating on a younger hen a bit too much, one of the roosters came in and schooled the offender. This, in turn, satisfied my expectation: The roosters are defenders of their flock. The mature birds were not yet a real part of the family, so if they did something to "the family" they would be dealt with, appropriately. 

Every 3 days, I added 2 more of the mature birds, until they were all integrated. 

I do have to say, there seems to be a kind of divided community in the end. While there is peace in the coop, the young flock still keep close together as do the mature birds. They don't mingle much.

Interesting, thanks for updating.

'Sub-flocks', segregated by age and/or seniority, are not unusual, they may merge more over time especially after they are all laying.

Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

Reply

Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

Reply
post #8 of 8
Roosters can be a good equaliser, they protect low ranking hens, will take in strange hens and protect them and they are great at breaking up hen fights, so good call.

Think of chickens like a grade school, 3rd graders stay with 3rd graders and 6th graders stay with 6th graders with a few intermingling when they get older.
Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
Reply
Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
Reply
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