Adding new hens & rooster to flock

Ann650

Hatching
Dec 9, 2019
2
4
4
Central Indiana
I've read through the threads & suggestions on integrating chickens, but I'm kind of at a loss as to how to make it work in our space. I'd really love some non-judgmental feedback. This isn't a perfect situation, but it's what I've got to deal with.

We have an 8'x8' coop with 4 nesting boxes and a ladder roost. It is attached to a run that's about 10'x15'. (We unfortunately can't free range our flock because they have been attacked repeatedly by hawks) We've had a flock of 12 with no issues, but due to predator loss our 3yo flock is down to 7 hens. Now I have 5 more hens and a rooster (same breed - Red Star - they're about 4 months old) to add to the flock. They've been in a pen in the barn, but not really visible to the older flock. We're due to get some frigid weather tomorrow, and for the rest of the week, and it would be best to move them into the coop. (They've outgrown their pen anyways & the coop also has a heated waterer.) I've looked at it from every angle, but there's no way to divide the coop so they can see but not touch. So...here's what I'm guessing my best plan is: this afternoon put all the older chickens out in the run. Move the new ones in the coop. At dark let the older ones back in. Give them some hanging treats (like a head of lettuce) and extra scratch tomorrow. Pray they act nice. Any suggestions?
 
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aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
Nov 27, 2012
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SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
So...here's what I'm guessing my best plan is: this afternoon put all the older chickens out in the run. Move the new ones in the coop. At dark let the older ones back in. Give them some hanging treats (like a head of lettuce) and extra scratch tomorrow. Pray they act nice. Any suggestions?
Might work...but not likely.
Best plan to be swapping out a waterer in barn.
Option might put the old flock in the barn.
Keep switching them back and forth(Chicken Juggling) to shake the territorialities up.
Tough situation.
The old flock is gonna want to beat the snot out of the new pullets and especially the cockerel.

Just some thoughts.

Here's some tips, ignore the see no touch aspect, 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! @Ann650
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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Ann650

Hatching
Dec 9, 2019
2
4
4
Central Indiana
Thanks for the welcome - I added my location. We're in central Indiana.

I'd read the info you put on multiple threads. Our coop is actually in a corner of our barn. The "pen" the pullets are in is actually an old chicken tractor I'd used to raise meat birds. It's 8'x8' as well, but only 1.5' tall, and they've definitely gotten antsy about not being able to jump/fly. (understandably) We added goats to our homestead this summer, which means the goat pen and all their hay is now taking up a big chunk of space in our little barn. Shuffling everyone back and forth sounds a bit overwhelming, to be honest. There are a lot of changes going on in our home as well, so yeah, I'm a bit frazzled already. This felt like it'd be easy to do over time when I got these chicks, but now...not so much. (I asked for 5 pullets along with my order of meat bird chicks. Somehow I also got cockerel.)
 

Henry&Friends

Songster
May 6, 2018
461
1,056
186
Don’t feel bad for your setup— crap happens. Are the two flocks the same age, or are the original group older/younger? They’re unlikely to act nice, but I have had luck integrating younger groups of pullets (and one rooster) by just policing them. If a bird is getting ganged up on, I take the bird away from the rest and put it down somewhere else. At night, I put each bird up on a perch and stand there for a minute, moving birds when they fight. If you can section off a part of the run for the newcomers, feed them and lock them in for about ten minutes in the morning and then let them out, it gives them time to eat without the old hens chasing them off. My birds free range, so when the established flock leaves the run (they hop the fence) the new birds have free reign over the run, until birds head back in to lay eggs, grab a drink or bite & leave again.
 

AllenK RGV

Chicken Addict
Premium member
Jul 23, 2017
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Deep South Texas Laureles,TX 10A
Current coop for the newbies is a chicken tractor? Does it no longer have wheels to move? A tractor is a good solution to the look but don't touch, also, they all have down lined coats provided they can stay dry I wouldn't stress the elements for them just the frozen water aspect would require monitoring. I would move the tractor right up next to the existing coop and run. I wouldn't stress the small head space battery hens have it much much worse.
 
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Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
Feb 2, 2009
24,127
12,131
707
Southeast Louisiana
Hi, welcome to the forum. Glad you joined.

It would be nice if you had more room and a different set-up but most of us don't have ideal conditions either. You have to work with what you have. And it doesn't do you any good to talk about what you could have done in the past, point forward is all that matters. And don't feel that you are doomed to failure. Often integration goes much smoother than you visualize, though it can occasionally go bad.

My mature flock does not always want to beat the snot out of my pullets or cockerels. It is possible you may have one or more adults that should be renamed Attila the Hen, one that will relentlessly attack, but not all hens are like that. Practically all will show that they outrank the immature adolescents but generally the younger ones quickly learn to avoid the adults pretty quickly. That is where your issue most likely comes in. They won't have a lot of room to easily avoid the older. If you can come up with a way to increase their space, either in the coop or the run, great. If not, what can you do to improve the quality of the room you do have?

Part of avoiding is for the younger to stay out of the personal space of the older. Not always but often, if a younger one gets in an older hen's personal space it triggers an attack. Sometimes that is a simple peck and the younger runs away. But sometimes that also involved chasing to drive the lesson home. Expect your younger ones to form a separate sub-flock, avoiding the older as much as they can. The other part of avoiding is getting out of line of sight, especially if one of your hens is Attila. Out of sight, out of mind.

You still need to be able to work in there but this is where clutter can come in handy. Give them something they can hide under, behind, or above in the coop and run. That may be something laying on cinder blocks or something leaning against a fence or wall secured so it can't fall and crush a chicken. Some people put tables or extra roosts in the coop or run so they can get above the older hens. When I'm integrating younger chickens it's pretty common to see them on the roost in the morning when the adults are on the coop floor. Or to see the younger ones in the coop when the older are in the run. They are simply avoiding as best they can.

You have another issue where you are because of the time of the year. If a cold wind is blasting through they are going to be in shelter, they hate a cold wind. Mine will go out in a below zero Fahrenheit day as long as it is calm, but not if a wind is blowing. If your run gets covered in snow they are unlikely to go out in that. That shrinks your usable area to the 8x8 coop. A windbreak on the run and rigging up a way to keep snow out can make a huge difference. Or shoveling snow or maybe scattering bedding or putting pallets or wood on top of the snow to give them a place to walk. People can get in trouble when winter takes away the outside space and brings disorder to an established flock, let alone one you are integrating.

I don't know how that cockerel will affect integration. There are a lot of different things that could happen with him. The older hens may attack him, he may harass the older hens by trying to breed them when his hormones hit. He may protect his pullets, he may abuse them by over-mating them. He may make no difference whatsoever, though there is a reasonable chance he will be disruptive in some way.

I don't know what your goals are with respect to that cockerel. The only reason you need a rooster is if you want fertile eggs. Anything else is personal preference. A personal preference can be pretty strong but that is a choice, not a need. I generally suggest you keep as few males as you can and still meet your goals. That's not because you are guaranteed more problems with more males, but that problems are more likely. I personally think 4 months is a good age to eat a cockerel, but not everyone is into eating their chickens. A the least, keep that brooder/tractor handy so you can isolate him if it becomes necessary. It may not, he may be fine. But just be ready.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
Nov 12, 2009
7,307
7,049
536
western South Dakota
As you are adding 5 birds, and red stars tend to be scrappy. I would do what you have planned. Yes there will be some scuffles, but much less than when you add one or two birds.

As Ridgerunner states - often times there will be one or two birds that just are heartless. Move those back where you have the pullets now, you have that pen set up - wait until things calm down, then add them back in.

I think it will work pretty good. Do have clutter in your run, the more the better. I frequently rearrange my clutter, when adding new birds, kind of breaks up the territorial aspect.

Good luck, but I think this will work.

Mrs K
 
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