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.
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.
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!
Some more aggressive breeds include:
Rhode Island Red
If you are very concerned about integration, you may want to pick some of these breeds as your original hens you acquire.
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.
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!
Remember to practice good bio-security and quarantine.
Forum discussions on integrating chickens.