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Painful to watch! Integrating chicks into the flock

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

So I purchased a coop that came with 5 laying hens already in it. 2 RIR's, 2 BR, and an EE. The person who I got it from also had 2 approximately 5-6 week old chicks and 5- 2.5 week old chicks.  We brought them all home and all the babies came inside into a brooder initially. He had the older babies separate from the little ones so I left it that way too.  After a week or so we decided the older babies could go out to the coop, they were fully feathered and too big for the brooder.  My husband made them a "playpen" that we placed into the coop so the babies and hens could look but not touch.  I've read endlessly on here about how to introduce but I couldn't find anything about what to expect during the process, and more specifically besides obvious pecking what is normal and acceptable behavior by the older chickens! I go out multiple times a day to check on everyone and twice I thought we could try a supervised introduction and it was so awful! Now granted I'm totally new to chickens so I was very shocked at just how BRUTAL these hens were to the little guys. Immediately one or two big girls jumped on the babies, pecked at them, and pulled out feathers.  It was so sad! I kind of observed for a few minutes and then both times I just had to rescue them and put them back in their pen.  So just to be clear the babies are 8-9 weeks old now, so yes they are still kind of small and the older girls are about 9 months.  And they've been in the pen out there for almost 2 weeks.  Is this normal behavior and should I just let them do their thing? We were hoping to let them out of the pen this weekend and create a more permanent pen with a small opening for them to hide in when they need to. OR  should I wait it out a few more weeks possibly when I was going to take out the rest of the babies who are currently 6 weeks and introduce them all at once and just totally confuse the big girls? lol I just wanted a coop and some chickens and this was a great deal with some cute chickens, but I wish the babies would've all been the same age at least!

post #2 of 6

Lets analyze the situation..   You have 5 adults and 7 young ones.    How big is the coop???     Can you divide the coop into 2 areas separated by  Chicken wire or screen mesh.  In time when small chickens grow enough to be able to escape easily and quickly, then you integrate.    There are a few different things possible, like separating coop but making it such that the small chickens can roam the whole space,  The larger adult chickens not having access because not able to squeeze under barrier fencing.  Can you picture what I'm saying??  Most likely the easiest  solution may be to keep them separate until little one grow .  I know you wish things were different and all chickens were of same age..   That  is called being in the IDEAL UNIVERSE.     You have to deal with what you have.. 

WISHING YOU BEST AND :welcome

post #3 of 6

You have a very confusing flock. I'm not sure I am even close to understanding it.

 

I can tell you this. When introducing small chicks to adult chickens you have to first let them all become accustomed to one another from the safety of being penned separately. The adults need time to adjust to the small ones being part of their flock and not recent intruders, which according to chicken rules, must be killed or driven out.

 

During this period, the chicks are observing the adults and learning how the social order works. I usually raise my chicks right alongside the adults so that after three weeks, the adults have come to accept the chicks as belonging.

 

At three weeks, the chicks then get to start mingling with the adults through small 5 x 7 inch portals from their safe pen into the main run. After watching them for three weeks, the chicks will understand the adults are dangerous and they need to run away from them. But you have to have lots of room for this so the chicks aren't cornered or trapped against a dead end wall and torn apart.

 

Given plenty of room and perches and stumps to fly up onto, the chicks are faster than the adults and can outrun them and evade being pecked and injured. If your run is too small, this won't work. Carnage will result.

 

Any integration of new chickens must begin with a few weeks of allowing them to be seen but kept safe from the original flock. You need space, space, and more space in order for the new chicks and chickens to run away from any pursuers. And time and patience.

 

By the way, I hope you've had the two age groups of chicks living in view of one another. If you haven't you must begin that process immediately. They need to be integrated with one another also.

post #4 of 6
Part of your problem is the age of the older birds, they are not quite adults themselves so behaviors are still more moody than an older hen. I would advise you to slow down and expect to house them side by side for another month or two before expecting any forward progress.

It's normal for adults to peck or half heartedly chase young ones but not to jump on them and pull feathers. I would work on getting the two young groups together than continue supervised mingling with the older ones.

The more room and hiding places the better. I don't leave my young ones permanently with the older ones until about a month or two into the process.
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
post #5 of 6
WE just got 3 new BO chicks. From the very beginning we have introduced them to our 6 older girls. Our 2 Jersey Giants have taken to mothering the three babies.Because we have let them outside in the small pin in full view the girls have become use to them.When we are home we let the three babies out to roam the yard with the older girls. Yesterday was the first day we left the door to the smaller coup open for them to go in and out. All 9 girls were in the backyard foraging with no problem. The 3 BO are about 3.5 weeks old now and our 6 older girls are 24-30 weeks old.
post #6 of 6

Oh boy, I had that same scenario..except I had 3 age groups of chicks.

 

I integrated the oldest chicks first......then integrated the 2 chicks groups......then integrated the chicks with the main flock.

Took weeks and weeks of chicken juggling.

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
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