Adding 12 week olds in with my 18 week olds

Janisrose

In the Brooder
May 4, 2019
6
5
14
Hi - I have 5 18 week old free ranging chickens including a rooster and 3 12 week old hens. I’ve had the 12 week hens for about a month now and I’ve had them separated but able to see each other for almost 4 weeks and I occasionally let them run around as well. The older hens still chase them and peck at them and the little ones chirp a lot, eventually the flock walks away and the 3 are left by themselves.
At what point do I put the younger ones in with the older ones? I tried it once and they seemed so scared that I chickened out and put them back in the dog crate and back in the house.
Does this have to be done in the pitch black dark?
When will the flock accept them so that they all stay together?
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
9,132
11,976
636
western South Dakota
Yes, but it takes time. Every time you pull them back out, they start over. A couple of things to check:
  • do you have enough room. As in measure the run and the coop?
  • do you have hide outs in the run, pallets, roosts, clutter?
  • do you have multiple feed stations, placed so that while eating at one station, they cannot be seen while eating at the other?
Then try this trick, let the older birds out into the yard, and lock them OUT of the coop/run, while locking the little ones IN the coop/run. This allows them to explore the area without being chased and pecked. The older ones will see them in there too.

Then as close to dark as possible, let the older birds back in, the urge to roost will be about as strong as the urge to fight. Do get down to the coop early the next day, or leave the pop up door open. Do this for two or three days. Then leave them together.

There will be dust ups, but as long as they are not bleeding, leave them be. You can use a water gun, to break them up if you need to, but the best is to let them work it out on their terms.

They will remain a sub flock until everyone is laying. Personally I have found very cold weather to help also. They seem more tolerant of a roosting partner when it is cold.

Mrs K
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
97,737
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SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
Great tips from @Mrs. K .

Yes, dimensions and pics of coop(inside and out) and run would help us help you.

Tho you are past the first part, here's some tips about...
Integration Basics:
It's all about territory and resources(space/food/water).
Existing birds will almost always attack new ones to defend their resources.
Understanding chicken behaviors is essential to integrating new birds into your flock.

Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact.

In adjacent runs, spread scratch grains along the dividing mesh, best if mesh is just big enough for birds to stick their head thru, so they get used to eating together.

The more space, the better.
Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no copious blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down and beaten unmercilessly, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

Places for the new birds to hide 'out of line of sight'(but not a dead end trap) and/or up and away from any bully birds. Roosts, pallets or boards leaned up against walls or up on concrete blocks, old chairs tables, branches, logs, stumps out in the run can really help. Lots of diversion and places to 'hide' instead of bare wide open run.

Oh, and....Welcome to BYC! @Janisrose
Where in this world are you located?
Climate, and time of year, is almost always a factor.
Please add your general geographical location to your profile.
It's easy to do, (laptop version shown), then it's always there!
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Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,690
21,357
907
Southeast Louisiana
Yours free range together without any getting hurt so you are way ahead of the game. So far I think you are doing everything right. And thanks for giving the ages of the two groups, that is very helpful. At these ages I don't think it is all about territory and resources, I think it is a lot about age differences, especially since yours free range so here would be less territory/resource issues then. @aart one of those places we seem to have different opinions.

In my experience, more mature chickens outrank less mature chickens and can be pretty strict in enforcing their pecking order rights, especially if the immature chickens invade their personal space. That's why the questions about how much room you have. In feet or meters, how much room do you have in your coop? Do you have a run? If so, how big. And where are you keeping the chicks now in relation to the coop and run if you have a run? Photos might help.

I typically raise one or two brooder-raised broods per year, plus maybe three broody raised broods. My brooder is in the coop and my broody hens raise the chicks with the flock so the chicks essentially grow up with the flock. I have a 12' x 32' main run and an area maybe 45' x 55' inside electric netting. Not free range but a lot of outside room. I have an 8' x 12' coop and two 4' x 8' predator-proof shelters I can use if I need the space at night. This set-up is different from yours in some ways but is what I base my observations on. I do not integrate mature chickens, just chicks of various ages with a flock that typically has one mature rooster and 6 to 8 fully mature hens. Your 18-week-olds are not fully mature yet but they are more mature than the 12 week olds.

I find that my more immature chickens avoid the adults or more mature juveniles. They quickly learn that they are likely to get pecked if they invade their personal space so they avoid them. Each age group tends to form a sub-flock until they mature enough to join the adults. With my pullets that is typically when they start to lay. There is nothing typical about cockerels but your younger group are pullets. This avoiding is during the day. It is also at night. There are always exceptions when dealing with living animals but my immature pullets will not sleep on the main roosts with the adults until they start laying. I don't care where mine sleep as long as it is not in the nests and is a predator-safe area. When they mature enough they move to the main roosts with the adults on their own.

I go through a lot of different scenarios with broody-raised and brooder-raised chicks and with my shelters and this is already really long. So I'll get to general recommendations. Since I don't know size or configuration of your set-up I can't get too specific.

Let your 12-week-olds free range with the older group for at least 4 weeks. If they want to sleep separately at night, let them. Then, after dark, move them to your main coop and lock them in. I hope that coop is big enough. I just put mine on the coop floor and let them sort out where to sleep, even in the dark. Lock their old sleeping space so they cannot go back in there the next night. They may go back into the main coop on their own the next night, mine often do. Or they might go back to the vicinity of their old sleeping place and try to sleep there. When mine do that I just lock them in the main coop each night until they get the message. Mine are typically 12 weeks old when I do this but as long as yours are less than 16 weeks old so they are not yet laying but getting close you should be OK. Be down there at daybreak the next morning to open the pop door so they can avoid the adults if they need to. I generally only need to go down a couple of mornings really early before I'm comfortable they will be OK if i'm a little later but I don't know what your coop looks like or how they will behave.

Does this have to be done in the pitch black dark? I would not try this at all until mine have been ranging together for a while, but some people do. Sometimes this works great, especially if your coop is big and has hiding spaces. Sometimes integration goes a lot smoother than you would ever imagine from reading our posts even if you don't do everything we suggest. But sometimes you wind up with dead chickens. I consider my suggestions over-the-top, way safe. This does not give any guarantees though, a lot will depend on the personality of your individual chickens and your facilities. Just be patent and let them work out as much as they can on their own. At the end you should have one flock hanging together most of the time. But that may take another 3 months.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
97,737
134,093
1,807
SW Michigan
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Last edited:

Janisrose

In the Brooder
May 4, 2019
6
5
14
Thank you for all your replies, so incredibly helpful. My coop sucks, it’s from tractor supply and it’s enough for 8 chickens. I’m turning my shed into a coop with a nice big run and hope to finish by this weekend. Right now the older hens are in the sucky coop and they free range all day. The little ones are in a dog crate cage with a roosting bar and during the day I have a sun shade over it with their food and water and at night I’ve been bringing it in my kitchen, (husband is ready to kill me) then I bring them out in the morning to be with the older hens, the older hens chase them around here and there, maybe eat their food and then take of to all their various hiding places :)
 

Janisrose

In the Brooder
May 4, 2019
6
5
14
That’s why I’m building a new coop, I wouldn’t want them to spend a winter in this flimsy thing either. I got them to give me 150.00 back on it for being a made in China piece of junk, the bottom is aluminum!!!
 

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