This going to be long winded so I apologize in advance. But we are having a hard time integrating 2 younger chickens in with our original flock. So if you'll bare with me......here's the story.......
We are new to chickens this year. Got our first 5 chicks April 2nd (2 days old). Then on July 7th we got 2 more (2 days old). So they are about 3 months apart in age. Due to sizes they were housed separately. When the little ones got bigger we put their pen next to the big girls in their little coop (tractor supply purchase)....all in the garage. We were working on building their deluxe accommodations outside. As we got nearer to coop completion outside, we would open both the pen and little coop in the garage and let them intermingle.....which went fine. We were waiting for the little ones to be about the same size before putting them together as I read that that was what we should do.....plus they were eating different food.....grower vs layer.
Anyway, we got the big girls outside to their new palace and put the little ones in the small coop in the garage. Then we started putting them out in their run together........outside palace has an attached 8' x 16' run. Well, things have not gone well. The little ones are being bullied and picked on. They appeared very stressed, getting chased into corners, not allowed in the big coop, look to us for help whenever we were in sight. We did this for a few hours per day one weekend....separating them back in to their own coops at night. Well, on Sunday evening when I separated them, one of the little ones had a little blood on her head. So we stopped doing that for a it and thought maybe they needed to be a little bigger yet.
Then we decided to put one of the older ones in the little coop with the younger ones. We chose one that doesn't seem to mind them. And that went fine. And we tried shutting them in the roosting/nesting area over night after dark. That went fine also. Then we added another chicken one night, again shutting them in the small area overnight. That went fine but then during the day, the older one chased the little ones and kept them away from food and water. We did the overnight thing a few times and all went well and then separated them during the day.
But as we try to put them together in the run, they get very bullied. I know they have to work out their pecking order but I don't want an injured (or dead) chicken. Nor do I want them miserable/terrified. But what I'm seeing from a couple of the older birds seems aggressive to me. Not just chasing and pecking but really grabbing (biting?) hard at the little ones. No blood yet this time around but I'm afraid there will be if I leave them together.
I don't have enough room in the big coop to partition them off. To make matters worse, it's November in Wisconsin so it's gong to be quite cold soon. So while I could figure out a way to partition the run, I'm not sure how feasible this is as winter approaches.
Do I wait until spring when the weather will be more accommodating? Any different ideas? Bite the bullet and risk a blood bath?
Any thoughts are welcome.