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Adding an older pullet to the flock?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by organicmama, Jun 2, 2008.

  1. organicmama

    organicmama Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 8, 2008
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    We currently have five 9-10 week olds (breeds in sig). We'd really like one more and there's an opportunity to buy a 3-4 month old pullet. Most posts I've read are about adding younger chicks to flocks. What about adding a slightly older bird? Any tips or tricks there or is this best avoided? We could also possibly get another 9 week old to add but it's not the breed we were hoping for. Would we be better off adding one that's the same age? Or do we really need to go the chick route (which would be tricky because we already dismantled the brooder)? Thanks. [​IMG]
     
  2. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

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    Aww. Anything can be done.

    The deal is with social structure in the flock. Each bird has it's place among the flock, so when newcomers show up there has to a be a re-shuffle for position. It's the Chicken Way.
    They've never heard of our New Age niceties like, "I'm Okay, You're Okay," Everybody Is Unique," and so on. To them it's more like, "Get in your place, and be quick about it!"

    And unlike people who (supposedly) work out their differences in a civilized manner, this social ordering/re-ordering is accomplished in only one way:
    with a sparring match.

    Normally it isn't really harmful, although it can be quite blustery and vocal. Once it's over and the dust settles, each bird goes on to his/her place in the flock.
    Next day, everyone is settled in and working alongside one another.

    With that said, here's a few thoughts:

    1. Yard them near each other, separated by a fence, for several days.
    This way they can grow accustomed to one another. There will still be sparring, but this tends to make it more of a formality.

    2. Bring them together at night
    Do this after the 3 days or so of separate yarding. This is one of those "old tricks," often repeated. Normally, it includes witholding food on the last half of the prior day and then feeding everybody in the coop in the morning (feeding time is bonding time [​IMG] ).

    It is no guarantee that all will be well, though. Fact is, they will still probably square off when the sun rises and the feeding frenzy is over. They're chickens, after all, not gravel headed slugs.
    But again, their competivie ardor is normally diminished by these steps.

    3. Stay close when you integrate them
    Sometimes the newcomer just isnt integratable, and will be forced into dead last spot in the social hierarchy. Then the others may pester it mercilessly, often to the point of death.
    Stick around when you bring them together - intervene if it turns bloody.

    4. Don't expect miracles.
    As said in #3, occasionally it doesn't work out. And there is no timetable for the integration - you can't stand there with a stop watch and dictate to them. It's incumbent on you to
    pay attention until it's all over, even if it takes a few days.

    The biggest problem is when you bring a relative few newcomers into a larger, established flock. It's best of you can reverse that and have more newbies than resident birds.

    In your case, with just a small flock, stick close to the outlined steps and you should have a (fairly) smooth transition.
     
  3. organicmama

    organicmama Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for taking the time to write that all out, David! I appreciate all the great info.

    On question - is there any truth to my thinking that adding an older pullet would give the newbie a better chance vs. a younger one because she'll be a little bigger than the original girls?
     
  4. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

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    Thanks for taking the time to write that all out, David! I appreciate all the great info.

    Nuttin to it, kiddo - my pleasure.

    One question - is there any truth to my thinking that adding an older pullet would give the newbie a better chance vs. a younger one because she'll be a little bigger than the original girls?

    Your asking if an older, larger pullet will have less trouble from the gang because of her size?
    Well, I'm no expert on this stuff, but I''d say yes and no.

    Often enough there isn't that much trouble to begin with. They don't always go for each other's throats, as we fear. In fact, that is not the norm. Sure they fight, but usually it's the males that degrade into death match battles. Even then, that's not normal - remember this stuff isn't about killing each other, but laying out the social order.

    But having a size advantage may be in her favor. We've all known the small, firebrand bird that dominates larger birds. These are proof that size isn't allways the guarantee we hope for.
    But all other things being equal, it couldnt hurt.

    One other thing - try to offer some nice hidey spots to duck into if things get a little to strenuous at first intro. Just some boards, piled tepee fashion or against a wall, will do.​
     
  5. kees

    kees Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 5, 2008
    I just added a hen to my established flock of Silkies. She was cautious, not a bantam as they are. All of them kept their distance. They're still cautious but seem to be eating, drinking and getting along.
     
  6. ruth

    ruth Life is a Journey

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    Woodville, MS
    I am constantly adding newly hatched chicks or ducklings to my barnyard mix and have never had a problem with fighting or pecking one another. Someone recently dropped off 5 "Easter" chicks, now two months old, that they no longer wanted. Again, no problems mixing them in. While the existing birds aren't cuddling up to them and a few of my two month old RIRs (which are much larger than these drop offs) always seem to be chasing them away from their own personal space, there hasn't been a problem.

    I find that each batch of chicks keeps to itself. They are integrated with the flock as a whole but separate when it comes time to sleep together.

    I believe the difference and why I've never had a pecking/fighting problem is that my chickens free range. I mean free range in the true definition. Open farm, no fences. They are all locked in coop together at night and now that it's hot and humid they all seem to be hanging out there during heat of day.

    I do put tiny babies in a hutch inside the coop till they are about three weeks old then they get to "free range" around the coop and fenced run areas till they are about 6 weeks old. Then they too get to free range around farm.

    Like someone posted, feeding time, especially in the evenings when they all return tired and ready to eat and go to roost, is a good time to let any newcomers out.

    However, from everything I've read on this site, chickens confined to a small run and coop will literally kill each other over territory and personal space. Fortunately I've never experienced that. I even have a pullet that hatched with a deformed leg and she kind of scoots around floor most of the time and not only has no ever picked on her, several of her fellow hatchlings can be seen going to sit calmly by her, one at a time, as if to keep her company.
     

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