Integrating new birds at 4 weeks old.

Easiest integrations EVER! But takes planning and facility setup.
By aart, Mar 17, 2017 | Updated: Mar 17, 2017 | | |
Rating:
5/5,
  1. aart
    If you have any questions, please ask them in this thread:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1159151/integrating-chicks-into-flock-at-4-weeks-old
    as I don't get notifications for article comments.

    In 2016 I integrated the chicks at about 4 weeks old.
    Chicks went into the coop at 1 week with their heater, separated from the main flock by a wood and mesh temporary wall. I had added the doors and put the wall up before taking chicks out to coop and found a couple of my slimmer hens could get thru, glad I inadvertently 'tested' the door sizes. Found I had to narrow the tiny door openings to about 3 1/2" to exclude those skinny hens from getting thru.
    They had their own feed, water, roost, and run in the 'coop partition' as I call it.
    Door installation for lower part of temporary partition wall.
    Smaller doors are about 4" high.
    Larger center door is 5x7" but I had to add a piece of wood(not shown here) to make that opening only 3 1/2" wide.
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    I use a heating pad for brooder heat, some call it the MHP(mama heating pad), I call it the Pseudo Brooder 'Plate'.
    Pad legs sit on groove on upside down wire crate tray wet on bricks to keep it above the shavings.
    Pull tray out every few days to scrape poops off.
    I put feed and water on a tote lid for the first week or so, then they go on bricks.
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    And add some straw around the heater if ambient temps fall low.
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    During a 3 week interval the chicks learned about ramps and explored the great outdoors.
    I lined the run with some chicken wire to keep them from escaping thru the 14ga 2x4 welded wire, not a good idea as it created some openings big enough to get a chick head thru but not get it back out. Lost one, think it got stuck and panicked breaking it's neck.
    Replaced the chicken wire with 1/2" hardware cloth 2 feet high. Also lined the main run with HC to accommodate the chicks containment as well as to hold in the deep litter I began to use later in the summer.
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    Getting chicks back into the coop at night is a common problem, chasing and catching them is a PITA so I rigged up the 'chick corral' with some 1x2x24 fencing, Attached at one end to the run wall, then a hinged 'door'. Open the door, 'chase' them around the wall and into the 'trap', close the door and pick them up. Worked pretty good, reduced everyone's stress level and saved significant evening chore time.
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    At 4 weeks I opened the three tiny doors in the wood part of the wall and 'taught' them how to go in and out. I used a barrier at first to make sure they could get back thru the doors without having to chase them all over the main coop, might have anal overkill but it's what I did. I grabbed a couple chicks and stuffed them thru the doors, then walked around and 'scared' them back thru the doors. Repeated this a few times and pretty soon they were all checking it out and going back forth with ease. I left this barrier up for a day or so.
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    Next step was shut the main pop door to exclude all the adult birds out in the run and took the barrier down so the chicks could explore the main coop by themselves for an hour or so. Then I happened into the coop and only one of the hens was in the coop, one of the most docile(Henny), so I shut the main pop door keeping Henny in and tall the other bigs out and opened the chick doors. They came tumbling into the main coop and checked out Henny, she gave them a few pecks but mostly ignored them. So I opened the main pop door and watched the fun begin.
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    There were a few pecks of course, some of the bigs pestered the littles more than others, but overall it was much less dramatic than usual.
    I think the chicks were less of a 'threat' than when I used to wait until the chicks were larger...and a smaller, faster target to hit, haha!
    I put up a temporary roost in the main coop for them to get used to, a place to 'hide' and later use to sleep until point of lay prompts them to integrate into the main pecking order.
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    At 6 weeks I took down the wall completely.
    They all got along pretty darn well, tho chicks definitely remain the 'subflock' until point of lay. It was nice to get the integration over sooner rather than later and because I had way more chicks this year it was a very good move to integrate younger,
    it's pretty crowded out there, but they were already used to each other.
    There are roosts and other places to 'hide' or 'get away' from any aggression.
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    It definitely reduced the stress and fighting that happens when integrating new chicks at the commonly cited (by me as well) 'at least 8 weeks or when they are of the same size'.

    If you have any questions, please ask them in this thread:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1159151/integrating-chicks-into-flock-at-4-weeks-old
    as I don't get notifications for article comments.

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  1. igorsMistress
    This is a very well thought out article with great ideas. I'm going to put some of them into use to help integrate my chicks, thanks!
  2. althea
    Loved the article, now I know how to introduce chicks earlier to the old flock, thanks.
  3. KarennFallon
    I am so impressed with the all the work that went into this coop design! The walkways and the different pens all inside. Mine is just an 8x10x8 plywood coop left from some previous renter and we had to do some work to get it useable. Anyway, I've used some of you methods modified to fit my situation with great success. My run is long enough (24x8) that I was able to put up a temp wire wall and some temp housing for my 10 new checks. Like you suggested, I waited until they were near equal in size to the big girls and took the wall down and not a problem. Amazing. I kept their temp housing out in the run for about a week so they could hide and until the big girls allowed them into the main coop. I have no pop door, they come and go as they please year round. Once I saw them trying out the perches, the temp housing came out. I like your use of the outside perch too, going to put one in for my girls as well. Thank you so much for the great ideas, they made things go so much better for me and my first time with new chicks. Yesterday, I was thrilled to see our first egg!!!! WooHoo!
    1. aart
      Thanks! Glad it helped out.

      Actually tho, this "Like you suggested, I waited until they were near equal in size to the big girls and took the wall down and not a problem." is incorrect.

      I let the chicks mingle at 4 weeks, then took the wall down at 6 weeks, while still much smaller than the adults.
    2. KarennFallon
      Thank you for correcting me, I miss read that at the end of your article.
      aart likes this.
  4. Pork Pie Ken
    Great article, aart :thumbsup
  5. Gail Laubenthal
    Your explanation of chick integration was very helpful. My 40+ chicks will be joining my small flock of layers in the next few weeks. Due to coop size issues I had to wait longer to do this, but with a new 21'x12' coop almost finished, I am wondering if I should introduce these young ones to their new coop before I let the older girls move in. My chicks were born between March 8 and April 18 so they are older. They have been in 2 separate very larger brooder coops, so even bringing this group of 40 together will be a challenge. I have never raised this many chicks before...don't know if I will ever do it again.
  6. KarennFallon
    Thank you, your info has given me hope that I didn't make a terrible mistake when I got 10 new chicks to add to my 3 grown layers and 1 rooster. My coop is 8x8 and not set up so that I could do a setup similar to yours. These newbies are 6 wks now and they need to be out of totes in my dining room! I am almost done making a temp coop of two medium sized wire dog crates now wood covered and an enclosed run inside my 8 x 24 ft regular run. I'm hoping that the full sized chickens and the 6 weekers will be able to grow familiar and I will be able to remove the barriers in a couple of weeks. Getting them into the regular coop may be a challenge, but thank you so much!
      Gail Laubenthal likes this.
  7. sunflour
    Very helpful, I love the link to the thread for questions and help. Thank you for taking your time to share your experience.
  8. Chicken Girl1
    Great article, thank you for writing!

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