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multi-aged chickens - how to integrate

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

New here to having BYC, and immediately fell in love with them. So after buying 10 baby chicks at 2 weeks old, we bought 5 more a few weeks later. Not sure when it's ok to introduce them into the larger pen.

 

My 10 chicks dwindled to 7 due to illnesses (*so sad*) and the remaining flock are currently 11 weeks old and consist of:

1 Ameraucana cockerel

2 Ameraucana hens

2 Silver Laced Wyandottes

1 Black Australorp

1 Buff Leghorn

 

Then I have in a separate pen the 5 smaller babies that are 7 weeks old and consist of:

1 white Silkie hen

1 EE/Ameraucana hen

1 Barred Rock (possibly a cockerel based on his large comb, not sure yet)

1 Rhode Island Red (also possibly a cockerel, but not sure yet)

1 Chocolate Orpington (again, possibly a cockerel, but not sure yet) and I think he/she is only 6 weeks old

 

We brought the EE and the BR into the big pen the other day, and the Ameraucana cockerel bit the EE's neck and pecked at her, and the lowest Ameraucana hen in the pecking order immediately went to pecking on the EE as well.  Not too much attention was paid to the BR, but after a couple of minutes we went ahead and got them out of there...*too afraid*

 

Any advice on when is a good or better age to introduce the 2 groups? 

 

OH! I also have a RIR that is laying already (not sure of her age) that just lost her pen-mate Saturday (a tough decision was made to cull her, as she was ill and miserable).  Her pen is right up next to the large pen so they can see each other now.  How soon can she go in with them.  Do I have to wait until they are all on layer feed like the RIR is?

post #2 of 5

Did you integrate the new group? Are the younger chickens around the same size as the other group? If your older group sees strange, smaller chickens, they'll peck at them.

 

You should wait until you switch them over to layer feed, to answer the other bit.

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 


thanks for your reply, and no I haven't integrated the 2 similar ages yet.  There is still a pretty good size difference, so I figured I needed to wait, so what you're saying is that it's ok once they get to a similar size, which they aren't right now, so i'll just wait and watch.

 

I appreciate it!

post #4 of 5

Conventional wisdom is that you wait until chicks are all the same size before integrating, but I have found that is counterproductive. The younger the chicks are, the more easily they integrate since they're less threatening to larger chickens the smaller they are.

 

It's not only possible, but safe, to introduce younger chicks to larger ones using the panic room system of integration. This involves a safe enclosure for the smalls with entrances that the bigs cannot fit through. Food and water should be placed in the safe pen with the smalls so they aren't competing with the bigs for these things.

 

Usually, you want to give them a week of getting to know one another through the barrier before you permit them to mingle, then just do it for a few minutes at first, increasing their exposure each day for a week until you think they all have the routine down.

 

You can see pictures of my panic room set up in the second article of the four linked below my post. You want to have enough entrances into the panic room that the smaller chicks are trapped or cornered anywhere.

post #5 of 5

It helps if you put the older/larger birds into the smaller ones' space. Doing it the other way around invites much more trouble. You can try swapping pens for a few days. Put the big birds in the small pen and the small birds in the big pen. Then once the smaller birds have gotten used to the big pen with no big birds to push them around, you can introduce the larger birds back in. If your small pen isn't big enough for all the large birds, put as many of them as you can into that smaller pen when you move the smaller birds into the big pen. If you have to move smaller birds into big birds' space, anything you can do to shake up the pecking order in the big birds' area will help the smaller birds integrate faster.

 

If you move the birds at night it helps a lot. Somehow when everyone wakes up together in the same space they get along better and it minimizes pecking-order hassles. There will still be pecking-order hassles, but it often gets worked out faster if the birds are moved at night.

 

I would also pull that cockerel out when you mix the rest of the birds. Keep the cockerel separate for a few days. Then you can try putting him back in a few nights later, after everyone else has worked out the pecking order without him around.

 

Mixing works best if the birds have already been introduced to each other. I do this by letting one set of birds out, where they can see and interact with the other birds through the wire of the pen. Then the next day I let the other set of birds out, again where they can interact with the penned birds. Do this for several days so they can all get to know each other before mixing the groups for real. It will help a lot.

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