I have 5 adult hens and 1 rooster (he was supposed to be a pullet...), 3 three-month-old pullets and 5 one-month-old pullets. I hadn't intended to introduce the 3-month-olds to the adults for another month but the month-old chicks were an impulse purchase and I didn't time them well - they needed to move to the outdoor kennel (a large, enclosed space under our deck, overlooking the back garden, barn, coop, etc.) so I began letting the 3-month-olds range in the large back garden during the day so the 1-month-olds could have their first taste of the outdoors, gravel underfoot, bugs to catch, etc., during the day. They'd been raised in a large dog crate so I moved it, with the top and door reattached, into the big kennel so I could secure them in there at night and the older pullets could return to the kennel at night since I'm waiting 'til they're at least 4 months old to put them in the coop with the adults.
Also, my Black Australorp - named Chupacabra (by the man of the family...) went determinedly broody a while back so we let her set on 5 eggs - one from each of the hens - and 4 hatched. They are now just over 3 weeks old. Chupacabra is one of our two hens very good at flying to the top of any fence, and some of the fences along our chicken yard are no-climb fencing which the chicks can pass through without trouble, so the second day she brought her babies into the chicken yard she left the chicken yard and had them free ranging in the back garden. The first thing that amazed me was that Chupacabra allowed the 3-month-old pullets to scratch within just a few feet of her babies.
Then the man of the family decided on his own that it was time to let the adults free-range through the back yard, too and cut the gate in their fence we'd talked about doing. Before I knew it I had our rooster, 5 adult hens, one with her 4 baby chicks following her everywhere, and the 3-month old pullets all ranging happily together. That didn't entirely surprise me since that was how I'd planned to introduce them all to each other eventually (free-ranging together) before moving the new pullets into the coop, but Chupacabra's willingness to allow the three strange pullets near her babies amazed me - she's warned the adult hens to keep their distance if they've shown any interest (Reba, my RIR, pecked one of the chicks - HER own chick actually, from her egg - and it flew up into her face and then landed on her back - Reba decided to leave it alone after that) but strange, nearly-grown pullets didn't bother her.
But the piece of the situation that has really amazed me is that my step-daughter didn't secure the door to the dog crate the first night the month-old chicks and 3 month-old chicks were spending the night in the kennel under our deck, and when I got home all 8 pullets, the groups 2 months apart in age, were wandering around peacefully together with no sign that there had been any conflict at all. They all tend to hang out with their own group, but the little ones were unharmed and the older pullets apparently not feeling any inclination to peck or bother the younger chicks at all.
I've read so much about not mixing chicks of different ages, even just a few days difference in age much less 2 months, and not to mix new pulletss with a flock until they are fully grown. as large as the adults and no longer making sounds like chicks. Everybody has been getting along so well my husband wanted to throw open the kennel door and let the month-olds range with the adults, too, but I drew the line at that.
So now I'm wondering: Is conflict integrating new members to a flock, and hostility to chicks, possible but not all that common? Or have I just been unusually lucky?
This is Chupacabra and family the first day she took her babies free-ranging.
Edited by CailinRua - 6/8/16 at 1:44pm