This thread is very timely as integration is very much up for us at the moment. Here's our situation.
We've got four 8-week old "brooder babies" (2 buffs and 3 EEs, all pullets) who are living in their own smaller coop with a 6 x 6 run.
We've also got three 6-week old "hatchlings" (Olive-Eggers, one girl and two boys) who have been in their own mini-coop with a smaller run area with mom until this past weekend. Our broody hen basically said "Hasta la vista babies" last Saturday. She led them into the mini-coop at dusk then came back out and ran agitatedly back and forth along the fence clucking until I opened the little gate to see what she'd do. She rushed out, gobbled down a bunch of oyster shell, then joined the last of the hens going into the main coop to roost without even a backward glance. Chicks made a lot of noise that first night, but by the next day they were doing just fine and nobody seemed to care that mom was gone.
Both the smaller coop runs are fenced off portions of the main yard, so everyone has been able to see everyone else for a while now.
I'd been thinking that maybe I'd put Hopper, the youngest 6-week-old pullet, in with the other girls and just leave the boys by themselves until we can re-home them (we can't keep roos in our neighborhood). Well, I tried that this morning and the buffs immediately started pecking her, so I put her back with her brothers. Now I'm thinking maybe I should put all three of the hatchlings in with the slightly older pullets. Then they'll all still have their "groups" to start, and by the time the boys have new homes, Hopper should be integrated with the other girls. My plan has always been to let the pullets stay in the smaller coop and run until they're ready to lay so I wouldn't have to switch out the feed for my layers.
Questions I'd love some advice on:
Would it be best to divide the smaller coop run in half with water and food on each side and let the youngsters share a yard without having access to each other for a while? How long?
If I set it up that way, could they start sharing the smaller coop at night (the integrate them in the dark when they're sleeping idea), or would I be better off keeping the mini-coop for the hatchling group until they can share the yard without incident?
I haven't had rooster chicks before--will they bully the girls or help keep some order?
It's getting a bit old having three separate coops to tend, plus I'd like to give the big girls back at least part of their bigger run soon. I just don't want to needlessly traumatize anyone if it's avoidable.