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How To Integrate Your Chicken Flock The Easy Way

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  1. StarLover21
    Advice on how to integrate your chicken flock

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    Integrating your flock can be very difficult is some cases. It’s not as easy as just sticking your chickens together- in most cases. A few times, some docile breeds such as cochins or opringtons will simply adjust, but most chickens require a lot more work. In this article we will discuss the best ways to integrate your flock.

    Pecking Order

    It is common knowledge that there is a pecking order amongst all chicken flocks, starting from just flocks of chickens as few as two. If there is a rooster in your flock, he will practically always be at the top of the order. This pecking order is the reason that it is sometimes so difficult to integrate chickens. Once your older chickens have a pecking order firmly established, it’s hard for them to change that again, and they feel that they must protect their spot, and push the younger birds to the bottom, once new ones are added.

    Age


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    It’s been widely discussed what age to integrate younger birds with the older. Although there are a wide variety of answers on this topic, I personally would say 18 weeks is a good standard. Extremely aggressive chickens can kill younger chicks, even if they are 8 weeks old, or sometimes even older. In some cases, older chickens can kill the new ones even if they are the same size, which is why you have to be so careful. Although 16-18 weeks is a standard for me, it does vary on the chicken. Some people have had success introducing 8 week old birds with mature hens, or even younger chicks! There are two ways to investigate the age you should start integrating your flock. First, is the aggression of the older hens. If you have very aggressive hens, you may want to wait longer. If your hens are more docile and friendly to other chickens, it may be better to do the integration earlier. We’ll talk about which chickens are most prone to being aggressive, and which are most docile in a while. Second is the breed of your younger chickens. Some chickens get bigger than others- and some quicker than the others. My white leghorn is full grown, but still half the size as my massive red star and rhode island red. However some breeds such as barred rocks, red stars, and black stars, mature very fast and can be integrated sooner. If you have bantams to integrate with standards, you should definitely wait until they are full grown. Once you have lookthe aggression of your older hens, and the maturing rate./size of your younger hens, I hope you can make a reasonable guess as to when you should integrate your hens. However, make not that the ‘age’ I have been talking about here is not the age to start integrating. It’s the age you actually put them together, after using integration techniques. You can start some of those, especially number three, earlier. We’ll talk about those next.

    Top three integration techniques

    And finally, we’re at the good part. Here are the top five integration techniques I have put together.

    1. Cage the bullies. Yes, the bullies, not the younger ones you’re trying to integrate. Keep the bullies in a cage/pen in the pain coop or run, so that they can see the younger ones, and the younger ones can see them. This trick has had great success in many chicken owners! Let the bullies out after a few days and hopefully they’ll all get along. This will give the older hens a chance to get used to the young ones, and they will also be so relieved to be out they might not care who’s in their run!
    2. Place them on the roost at night. Warning: This technique is not for the more persistent bullies, although it has worked for many people. Just place your chickens on the roost at night, once it’s dark. That way when the hens wake up, they’ll already be there, and there won’t be a dramatic ‘adding’ of the pullets.
    3. Give them separate areas where they can see each other. You can start doing this as soon as they are old enough to go outside, although it is not necessary (however it is good to start young). This is one of the best, easiest ways to integrate chickens. You can simply fence off one section of the run or coop, and allow them to see each other, but not reach each other, for several weeks. Once you release them together, they may be so used to each other they might not even pick at all!

    Which breed?

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    Below I will list the most docile and most aggressive breeds. However, don’t take these as solid guidelines. It really does depend on the chicken in many cases. You may want to consider this when getting your first chickens.

    Most Aggressive

    Some more aggressive breeds include:
    Rhode Island Red
    Black Star
    Red Star
    Wyandotte
    Cornish

    Most Docile

    If you are very concerned about integration, you may want to pick some of these breeds as your original hens you acquire.
    Silkie
    Cochin
    Orpington
    Brahama
    Salmon Faverolle (you have to be careful with these, they are very docile, perhaps so docile it could cause a problem in some flocks)

    Also if you have agressive older hens, it may not be a good idea to introduce polish crested hens to your flocks, as their crests are often picked on and they cannot see very well.

    Other practices to use when integrating your chickens

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    There are several other things you can do to make sure your integration goes smoothly. One of these is to have two of everything. This makes a tremendous difference! Two water’s, two feeders (older hens will often chase younger ones from the food), two roosts, etc. This way there will be one for the babies and the older ones. Another thing you can try when first integrating is that if you have a coop for sleeping only, then somehow divide it in half for the night. This way, if you lock them up at night, they won’t be stuck in a small space in the morning, with nowhere to run. Another thing that follows this through is have plenty of room. Make sure you have lots of room for the young hens to run from bullying! Also make sure you have plenty of room in the coop. Have hiding places too. An overturned bucket, a propped up board, can all make excellent hiding places! Consider adding some of these when integrating. While integrating make sure your chickens don't get bored. This could cause them to pick on the younger hens for fun. Hang up cabbages, have apples on a stick, maybe even put out a flock block for them. It's alwasys helpful for them to have something else to pick at.
    Now some people may be wondering how much picking is too much. The basic standard is: when they draw blood. If this happens, separate your chickens longer, retry some of the techniques, or use a different one. You may have integrated your chickens too young. Or, if you have tried everything to no avail, you may want to look into pinless peepers, a type of blinder that stops hens from picking. You can order them here: http://amzn.to/2sEPm86 they make it so the hen so that she cannot see right in front of themselves- therefore not being able to aim at a younger pullet.

    Also, take not that occasionally hens may pick feathers not because they are being aggressive, but because the lack protein. Make sure you don’t confuse the two.

    I hope this article has been helpful to you, and you have great success integrating!

    -Admin add:
    Remember to practice good bio-security and quarantine.
    Forum discussions on integrating chickens.

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Comments

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  1. Flaisure
    I really worried about putting my 15 and 16 week old chickens with my older ones. I have their little coop in the older chicks run. But the older ones are constantly trying to get them. I feel like if I moved them out of their little coop it's going to turn into a blood bath. I've had them right next to each other (or in the run area) for about 7 weeks. I do have a bantam naked neck that I'm worried about? Any ideas?
  2. Flaisure
    I really worried about putting my 15 and 16 week old chickens with my older ones. I have there little coop in the older chicks run. But the older ones are constantly trying to get them. I feel like if I moved them out of their little coop it's going to turn into a blood bath. I've had them right next to each other (or in the run area) for about 7 weeks. I do have a bantam naked neck that I'm worried about? Any ideas?
  3. 2MorrowsDream
    I enjoyed reading the article on How to Integrate Your Flock the Easy Way. I have 2 young (about 3 months old) EE that I wanted to introduce into my main flock of Ameraucanas. I have a fairly large coop and I put in a partition so they could see each other but not mingle. My Ameraucanas are about 4 months old...
    After 2 weeks, I let everyone out to free range for the day. At roosting time, I let the Ameraucanas in first, and then tbe EE. I made sure they was plenty of food. The next morning I expected to see 2 dead chicks, but all were alive. There was no evidence of pecking (no missing feathers or blood).
    That was 3 days ago and they seem to have accepted the newcomers.
    Thank you for the great advice!
      Stan kirby likes this.
  4. suelon99
    I have 3 areas for my flocks on our farm; chicks to age 8wks in a stock tank w lights, or longer, if weather not warm enough. Juvenile coop until about 4mos and then adult coop. The chicks in the juvie coop are kept locked 1-2wks so every one can scope each other out, then I open the gate for short periods of time daily with my supervision, gradually increasing the time until it is open all day long. By then they are in and out of the adult coop as they are comfortable; when they do not return to juvie at night, they are ready to stay put w adults. Only minor skirmishes at night occas. but have 6 foot x 5ft graduated rails for roost so they usually do well.
    This is 3rd year and works well.
      Stan kirby likes this.
  5. coop410silkies
    This sounds like the voice of experience, and it makes sense to me. Some of the techniques I've tried I've found to be good advice; I certainly agree with the choices of aggressive and passive birds. When I raise babies destined for a flock, I always mix a bunch of the flock litter in with the chick litter - so when the chicks get integrated, they will have the same micro flora as their new flock. Not only does it spare everyone the physiological stresses that come with mixing birds, but (I think) the flock seems to sense that the newcomers are "theirs." A broodie that raises the chicks can sometimes facilitate integration, but not always. If she associates with a rooster of some clout, (some of mine do, and the rooster invariably adopts the chicks), the rooster can help a lot with integration. As so well put, it really does depend on the nature of the flock and the individuals being integrated. Great article.
  6. gsim
    I have an 8' x 16' walk-in coop, and a 1900 sq ft run. Have divided both 60-40 with smaller portion for the younger ones. As soon as they have feathers, they go into their half of the coop.
    I built access ports which remain open outside until newbies are to be integrated. Then I put up the barriers. They see and hear each other for weeks and weeks before I let them mingle. Never a problem. I keep a door hanging on two nails in the coop and I install it when I have newbies to integrate. When they are allowed to mingle, I take down the door and hang it up on the back wall above the nests until the next time.
    I only let them mingle after they are approximately the same size. Never experienced a problem other than a bit of squabbling over treats now and then. That is a constant tho, and not just with newbies mixing with older gals.
    I do maintain both feed troughs all of the time. One is on older girls side, other is on newbies side. So there are two feed troughs, each 3 ft long, in use at all times. I only have one watering place outside, in the shade.
  7. BethLeopard
    Just wondering if anyone can tell me their favorite type of chicken to raise and why.
    1. Amy Jo
      They are ugly, but my favorite breed is the naked neck turkins. They are a cold hard, dual purpose bird, meaning good layers and good eating. I had a 7 lb. Turkin rooster dressed and cleaned. They are not agressive but they can ward off Hawks and other predators just by their size. Guess I'm a softer for the unloved.
    2. oregonkat
      I love the big breeds. Brahmas, huge and gentle for the most part, and Black Copper Marans which are my favorite. The roosters have always been wonderful and the hens are passive and sweet. Of course, dark brown eggs with superior taste (imho) are the best blessing of this breed.
      Stan kirby likes this.
  8. UtePassChickens
    i had my baby chickens (& 3 turkeys) move into coop at about 5 weeks, but I kept a fence between them and the older chickens for about 2.5weeks. Figured they would get used to seeing and hearing each other. Then i removed the divider and they have been just fine. The older chickens stay together in a group and the younger ones all stay together as well. What really surprised me, is that as soon afterwards the Turkeys began sleeping outside on a large roost I have for them and now all the little chickens sleep outside with the turkeys on the roost! figured as soon as temps drop they will go back to the coop????
  9. 8CityChicks
    Some additions to the article:
    1. I also apply the "rule of 2" to the number of new birds I add at a time so those being bullied have a friend. They really need that & i've always seen a strong bond between each pair brought in together.
    2. Initial separation & introducing to the common roost at night are essential. I go a step further & have a lower (and longer) roost for the new birds to make it harder for the old ones to peck them - seems to work well, and it keeps the new ones "in their place" in the pecking order. Dispersed food & Water are also a must as the old birds want to deny the new ones access to "their food & water".
    3. i've brought in 5 pairs now & have NEVER had one bloodied, though have endured a lot of squawking from pecks (always, so far, more drama than actual injury). I do have a large pen with plenty of "hides" for new & old birds. I've noticed they like to get off the ground during the day & have used concrete blocks & landscape timbers to make perches. Using the full length of the timber allows room for both new & old simultaneous perching. "Old & new perching" seems to be tolerated by the old birds with room to spread out. My flock has ranged between 8 & 10 birds, all different breeds with different personalities.
    4.I handle all my birds at least twice / day & enjoy watching the learning experiences of the new ones. They quickly mimic what they see & & quickly learn the pen routines, feeding times, free-range times, roost times, etc & especially how to get attention.
    5. The docile / aggressive tendencies are VERY bird-specific. My most aggressive are the RIR, Brahmas, & silver wyandotte. Most docile of my 10 are the BO, Australorp, barred rock, & columbian wyandotte.
      Stan kirby likes this.
  10. Miniflock
    I have 2 month old black sex-links and 3 week old Amauracanas. I currently have the 3 wk. olds 'fenced off' in the coop (still with a heat lamp because it's been chilly). How long should I wait before removing the chicken wire barrier?
      Stan kirby and Bonnie sue like this.
    1. 8CityChicks
      My new birds are always around 18-20 weeks & I find 3-5 days to be enough time.
      Stan kirby likes this.

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