Adding New Pullets To My Flock.......

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by gltrap54, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. gltrap54

    gltrap54 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've recently lost two of my 6 Golden Comet hens that will be 3 yo in March. :( They both had the same symptoms (sitting with their heads drawn in). I posted in emergencies etc, trying to determine what happened to both hens, but got little response..... Oh well........... I've put the other 4 on antibiotics & wormed them in hopes they don't get whatever the other two had......

    My question: I'll probably buy 3-4 pullet chicks in the spring & need to know how & when to integrate them with my older hens once they're feathered out.........
     
  2. farmtotable

    farmtotable Chillin' With My Peeps

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    For me personally, I've found the best way to integrate a flock of pullets with an existing flock is to do it at night, and in large numbers. I've had the best luck (no bullying, fighting, etc.) with 8 pullets. Not sure what's magical about that number! I've also integrated flocks of 4, and 2, but did notice some bullying at first. I think what works best about having more pullets is that they form their own "sub-flock" that functions as part of the larger flock for a few months, then after a bit they all mingle with each other. On migration day, I bring the new birds out one at a time to the darkened coop while the other chickens are sleeping. Then I make sure to watch them all carefully for an hour or so the next morning when I let them out at dawn.

    I feel I have to point out, though, my flock free ranges over about 3/4 acre, and are only enclosed at night. Not sure if things would be different in an enclosed pen scenario.... but still, I think the more you can introduce at once, the better. (I tend to think of it like high school girls... they seem to do better in large herds :)

    My condolences on your loss, by the way. Losing them is always hard, especially if you don't know why. Unfortunately the symptoms you describe could be due to a wide range of illnessess, pests, etc... and it's not like they can just tell you what's wrong!
     
  3. gltrap54

    gltrap54 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks farmtotable for taking the time to offer some insightful input! I realize this forum is approaching 170,000 members, worldwide & it's difficult for the truly knowledgeable members to respond to everyone's issues.... Guess I'm just bummed about losing two of my girls without getting any real feel for what's going on with my flock. I've gotten some very good info here in the past & I do appreciate that.....

    I live on 6A here in NE Kansas where my hens free range some daily. I'm retired, so I can keep an eye on them while they're out. I'm located in the foothills above the Kansas River, in dense timber where predators abound, so I have to be careful about leaving them unattended........

    I'll try your "night-time integration" method when my new pullets are introduced to my other hens. I've had to reset one of my current hen's pecking order due to her bullying, but it accomplished very little, because now she's the one being bullied! I don't want a roo in the flock, but that may be the only solution to the bullying. I'm concerned about young pullets being attacked by this older hen....
     
  4. farmtotable

    farmtotable Chillin' With My Peeps

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    As harsh as it sounds, I don't do anything to disrupt the pecking order. I believe that it's their nature, and trying to forcibly change it is quite stressful for them. I've never had a problem with excessive bullying, but if I did I would choose to rehome the bullied chicken. (I've also adopted some bullied chickens from my neighbors into my flock without a problem and had them integrate just fine).

    If you can, I think you should add a rooster to your flock, particularly if they range. Roosters are excellent protection from predators, as their job is to literally guard the flock, and sound the alarm so everyone can hide. Since keeping roosters, my losses to predators are almost nil. The other advantage to having roosters is that you can maintain a closed flock, should you choose to go that route.
     
  5. gltrap54

    gltrap54 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've neglected to have a roo (ie, in this flock) for a couple of reasons. I only wanted enough hens to provide eggs for my wife & I & our kids/grand kids & not get in to the chick business...... 6 hens seemed like a good number so I bought day old Golden Comet pullets in 2011. We've lived here for 35+ years & our children always seemed to bring their "class projects" home with them. Those projects being chicks their class had incubated!!! Never failed, ol "Peepers" would turn out to be a big, mean red roo!! So, I've had roos in the past & about any other type of fowl you can imagine....... LOL

    My cranky neighbor probably wouldn't like his crowing, although I live in the county & I'm perfectly legal having chickens.......

    But you make some strong argument for having a roo & it makes me think I should consider it.....
     
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    You will really need to keep your chicks away from your older girls until they are 4-5 months old. Which is perhaps what you planned but you said that you would wait until they were feathered. And chicks are fully feathered much earlier than that, and are still too small to be placed with laying hens or any older hen.

    In my experience, as hens get older, they also get crabbier, but even so, ANY full grown hen will attack ANY chick that is smaller than she is, and they will often kill the baby. Pullets need to be darn near full size before introduction, then at night is a good time, and if you introduce more than you have it does work better, as there is more to pick on, and older girls do get tired chasing so many, that the game is over before someone gets seriously injured.

    As to your hens that died, I do know many people will report very old hens, and perhaps if the climate is very easy on them, it makes a difference, but I have had chickens for 7 years now, and I have found that once they get to be about 3 years old..... they just start to die from what I think is old age. Often the other hens will start being very mean to them, as if they can sense death coming.

    Mrs K
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2013
  7. farmtotable

    farmtotable Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I learned the hard way that hens will attack tiny fuzzy chicks (but we were able to save her, yay!) but I have never had a hen attack a feathered out chick, even though they were only 1-2 months old. In fact, I have a broody hen raising her two 1 month old chicks right now, and the other hens have completely left the chicks alone. Again, though, I free range my flock and it is rather large (about 50 birds right now). Maybe the dynamic in a smaller flock would be different, or if they were enclosed? I can only tell people what worked for me! :)
     
  8. gltrap54

    gltrap54 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks ladies!

    Well gosh............ The fact my current hens are approaching 3 years old, in combination with losing the two recently, has inspired me to start thinking about buying more pullet chicks in the spring. While I'm set up to start chicks (caged, in my heated shop), I wouldn't want them there for the amount of time Mrs K has described (4-5 months). To me, that would require a separate coop/run or dividing the existing one....... Again, not really options for me..... By the same token, I'd sure hate to put them in with my older hens only to have them injured or killed.... Perhaps I should consider buying a few young hens? One of my remaining hens is a mean ol' bitty that beats up on one of the others & I'm sure she'd be a problem with any new pullets... Guess I could wait for my remaining hens to die off before taking on more pullets, but as mentioned, that could be several years down the road......
     
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    If you have a broody hen, and she is a good one, she will protect the chicks from the flock. I pray every spring for a broody hen, as that is the best way to introduce chicks to a flock. But the original poster does not have broody hens, and chicks locked up with hens, will take a beaten, often to the point of death.

    MrsK
     
  10. gratzalk

    gratzalk Out Of The Brooder

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    I just read some posts regarding putting pullets with adult chicks, and while it seems that the "pecking order" issue is the main issue, I was more wondering about the feeding issue. The pullets are still on pullet food while the adults are obviously on adult food. What is the suggestion there? I have the adults in the coop and the pullets in a cage next to the coop, but when I open up the coop in the morning for them to free range, I also open up the pullets' cage. I have a fence around it that is kind of slotted where the smaller kids can get in and out and hopefully the adults will stay away from their food. It's working pretty well so far, however, now the pullets are going into the coop and roosting or checking it out and the hens and both in and out. There doesn't seem to be any fighting (so far) but, like I said, I'm wondering about the food issue if I were to put them all in the coop. Any thoughts would help. Thanks.
     

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