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 · ·
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5/5,
  1. aart
    Integrating as young chicks is much much easier than older birds, setting the space up to facilitate might not be so easy but well worth the trouble IMO. Tiny chicks (4-6 weeks old) are not as much of a 'threat' to the adult birds as older chicks (3-4 months old). Making the access 'doors' to the 'safe' chick space is much easier with the size differential of tiny chicks vs adults. Tiny chicks are fast so hard for the adults to 'catch'.

    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 through. 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 its 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 everyones' 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, though 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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    VHoff, breege, farmgirlinok and 23 others like this.

Comments

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  1. deedledumpling1
    Wow, what a great tutorial! It gives me some ideas for later. My hens born Oct 2 have been laying for over a month, but am hoping to extend my flock letting the Broody Hen raise them. Which of course would necessitate them hen and chicks being separated much as you have done.
  2. MsPiggy
    At the far end of the grazing area for our big girls, we have a chicken wire fence that separates the old from the new flock. The newbies have a small covered coop, but during the day both groups spend hours checking each other out through the chicken wire fence. After about 3 weeks, we let them all get together. It works great (of course we raise the chicks in our garage until they are about 8 weeks or so before they get put in the outside baby coop).
  3. ErSwnn
    I built coops inside my coop. the overall is 18'x9'. It's divided by a half wall, the upper portion is wire, the bottom is plywood with a closible pass-thru. This creates two compartments, one about 12 ', the other about 6'. This was done so I could raise meat birds (25 at a time) separate from the pet/egg birds. Open the pass-thru and the girls get more space once the meats are done, I retain my meat bird capabilities. In the larger section are two more coop areas, both about 4' off the floor. One is a brooder/hospital coop, about 3'x2'. The other is a nursery coop, 4'x8'. The nursery is equal in elevation to the roosting area for the adults. The young and adults roost right next to each other separated by wire. Both elevated coops have doors that swing up and latch in place for cleaning and such.

    The young birds are carried every day to the fenced garden...50'x17'. They become used to human contact and handling, exposed to life outdoors while safe....and continue their integration into the flock. At night I carry them back to the nursery coop. Once the chicks are old enough to understand the society they exist within I begin to leave the nursery open at night.

    So far, not a single problem. After 5 years with this method I'd say it works.
      aart likes this.
    1. aart
      At what age do you leave the nursery coop open, @ErSwnn ?
      Multiple coops(or pens or 'areas') within the coop are awfully handy aren't they? I only had room for one, but sure wish I had more.
    2. MsPiggy
      I would love to see a picture of your set up! I don't raise meat birds but would love to, but space is limited.
  4. jsr5
    Thanks for the article will share this with the chicken mamma also known as my wife. Can't beleive how much I am enjoying raising chickens especially the ones we hatch ourselves. I even dove aff the deep wnd when smitten recently by little hobbitses chickens and have 5 batams that I intend to raise pretty much as pets. The rest are my wifes chickens works better that way as if I get too attacked I"ll be unable to harvest any for meat. My chickens will live forever since I wn't be able to kill them and my wife can't either :p
  5. beaglex3
    we had 2 broody hens surrogate-sit on 2 eggs from my son's hen + rooster. they hatched in the nesting box in the coop with 25 other hens. my husband told me i should take them out and brood them in the house with a heat lamp, but i wanted them to be able to stay with their mamas and let nature work her miracle. the mamas kept the chicks in the nesting box for 3 days. i set up a plastic tote on the floor of the coop and moved all 4 of them to that with a separated area with food & water for the chicks. within a week the moms let the chicks out to run around with the entire flock. a couple of the hens tried to check out the babies, but the moms went into full tiger mom mode. now, 1 month later the babies are just a part of the flock and none of the rest of the hens give them any trouble. (i will insert here that it seems like the moms are getting bullied more by the rest of the flock, so i have to make sure they get food and scratch treats bcuz the others peck and chase them if they try to join in the feast. :-(
      VHoff likes this.
    1. aart
      Right, same here...but this article is not about broody chicks ;)
  6. sue25
    Very good artical. A good idea for less stress on the flock.
  7. gsim
    Fine post and pix. I built a large coop, 8' X 16'. Divided it with chicken wire, 40% - 60% with removable screen door. Ditto for my 1900 sq ft run. So they are side by side, day and night, but cannot mingle. I simply wait until they are thru with the grower-finisher feed and take down the access doors. Never have had a single problem, and been doing this since my 2nd bunch of newbies in 2011. They are so used to seeing, smelling, hearing each other it is as if they were always all together. If they have adequate space, and lots of room to roost, they will be peaceful for the most part. Squabbling over treats is normal, but very short duration.
      Susan Dye likes this.
  8. MappaM
    This is great. I have chicks coming in June. Will be building a new coop and separating inside for the new ones once they can go without the heater. This article have me lots of ideas.
  9. MappaM
    This is great. I have chicks coming in June. Will be building a new coop and separating inside for the new ones once they can go without the heater. This article have me lots of ideas.
  10. LittleBitofSun
    I'm wondering how you feed them? Chicks shouldn't be eating layer feed until POL. I didn't see anything about this addressed in the article.
    1. aart
      I have always used a 20% 'all flock' feed and provide Oyster Shell in a separate container for the laying birds. I do grind up the crumbles in a blender for the chicks for the first week or so.
  11. BlueHenDel
    Very interesting article with great ideas!

    I have a small grow out coop that I put right next to my large permanent coop and run, as well as a larger fenced in area I call "the paddock." Then as the chickies get older, I construct a temporary fence that links to the paddock with the wire pulled back just enough to allow young birds to scoot back into their area. Seems to work out well for me so far.
      tjo804 and Pork Pie Ken like this.
  12. tjo804
    Great article. I am trying my very first incubation this spring. I have brooded a Silkie before and even ordered day olds. I never look forward to introductions! This may just be the stress saver I am looking for. :) Thank you
      Pork Pie Ken and BlueHenDel like this.
  13. 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!
      Pork Pie Ken and BlueHenDel like this.
  14. althea
    Loved the article, now I know how to introduce chicks earlier to the old flock, thanks.
  15. 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!
      BlueHenDel likes this.
    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.
      BlueHenDel likes this.
    2. KarennFallon
      Thank you for correcting me, I miss read that at the end of your article.
      Pork Pie Ken, BlueHenDel and aart like this.
  16. Pork Pie Ken
    Great article, aart :thumbsup
      BlueHenDel likes this.
  17. 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.
      BlueHenDel likes this.
  18. 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!
      BlueHenDel and Gail Laubenthal like this.
  19. sunflour
    Very helpful, I love the link to the thread for questions and help. Thank you for taking your time to share your experience.
      Pork Pie Ken and BlueHenDel like this.
  20. Chicken Girl1
    Great article, thank you for writing!
    1. bonsaiherb
      Enjoyed this well thought out article greatly. As with the others - thanks.
      One commentary ""Like you suggested, I waited until they were near equal in size to the big girls and took the wall down."
      I too, just created a partition in my coop intending 2 things:
      1. At first to keep the youngsters separate until they (Speckled Sussex) could defend themselves better against the older and more aggressive breeds.
      This did NOT happen! They meshed quite nicely.
      2. I do want the Coop divided so I can separate my blood lines and have the Easter Eegger Rooster only mate with the Speckled Sussex, young Ameracauna and Amethyst Gem which will be the young additions to this partition.
      I will also put in the 3 older Ameracauna pullets in with the young Rooster.
      These will be the only eggs from which I might try to raise some future new hens.
      The larger partition will have the EE, OE, Cuckoo Maran's and perhaps another EE Rooster - The EE and OE came from the same grower, but I could raise some CM x EE.

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