adding smaller birds to flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by rogermagno, Sep 25, 2013.

  1. rogermagno

    rogermagno New Egg

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    Sep 1, 2013
    Good day to you all,

    About 2 months ago I purchased 2 (red sex link and barred rock)pullets from a gentleman in brooklyn that informed me his hens were about 5 months old. Due to my ignorance I did not notice that birds were sick and infested with lice and mites. Sickness spread through my existing 3 (2 Rhode island reds and one silver laced wyandotte) birds and I have been following advice from these forums to deal with that issue. Things are now under control without the use of medications but I'm facing a new issue. The 2 newer birds are a bit smaller than the original 3 I raised from chicks and they seems to have gang related violence issues. the 2 smaller ones are now healthy enough to add to flock but they are getting a severe whooping every time I try to integrate. I did not know chickens were capable of such violent behavior and would really appreciate some advice. Thank you all and have a beautiful day.

    the two smaller ladies
    [​IMG]

    The gang of three

    [​IMG]

    The coop and run in the background, with younger gang of three
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    You have a common problem which people overcome all the time. One way chickens have learned to live together in a flock is that the weaker runs away from the stronger or just avoids them to start with. They need room to run away or avoid. I may mention “space” or “room” a few times.

    You have all females so you have two basic things going on. Chickens in a flock learn to recognize other flock members. Some may attack chickens that are not part of their flock, sort of protect my territory type of thing. This does not happen all the time you try to integrate new chickens but it happens often enough you need to be aware of the potential for problems. A good way to help mitigate this is to house the chickens side by side with only wire between them for a week or more. This way they get used to each other being around. This does not always work but it usually does.

    The other thing is the pecking order. A mature chicken will always outrank an immature chicken in the pecking order. It’s not really a matter of size but of maturity. What often happens is when two chickens meet that are unsure of their rank in the pecking order, one pecks or tries to intimidate the other. If one runs away, the issue is settled and peace is restored in the flock. There may be some chasing involved to really sink that message home. That’s where space comes in. They need room to run away and get away. If the weaker does not have enough room to get away, the stronger sees it as a challenge to her position and can get really brutal, even if the other one is not fighting back. Sometimes the mob mentality can take over and it can get really rough.

    If they have room, the younger chickens will usually form their own flock, avoiding the older birds if they can at all. When they mature enough they will eventually merge with the older girls, but that can take some time. It usually happens soon after they start to lay, but occasionally you get a brute for an older hen and it can take longer.

    I normally integrate my brooder raised chickens at 8 weeks, but I have lots of room for them to run a way and avoid. I don’t have brutes for hens that go out of their way to attack the chicks and the chicks have their own sleeping quarters for a while. I find mine are most brutal on the roosts as they settle down to sleep at night. I also have a mature rooster in the flock which I find tends to make integration easier. A good mature rooster should keep peace in his flock.

    Your circumstances are different than mine. I really can’t tell by that photo but I suspect your coop and run may be small. You might be better off waiting until those pullets get a little older, though a pretty common recommendation is to let them work it out as long as no blood is drawn. They will eventually work it out but if blood is drawn they can switch to cannibal mode pretty quickly.

    People with your space and set-up do this type of thing a lot, usually successfully. But the tighter your space is the rougher it can be. Good luck!
     
  3. dandrews1971

    dandrews1971 Chillin' With My Peeps

    is this the first time they have met when you put them together?
    Id have them in a seperate pen that the others can see & observe them for a week or 2. Then after thats over, slip them into the coop at night when theyre roosting/ asleep.
     
  4. whittychick

    whittychick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I just added 6 new babies to my 2 older hens and rooster tonight! The 6 babies have been in a separate coop for about 2 months next to the bigger coop. They have been eyeing each other for awhile now. I hung some big heads of broccoli for them to keep busy with and put a couple of hiding places in the corners for the babies just in case. I'm praying all goes well tomorrow!! Fingers crossed!
     
  5. whittychick

    whittychick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    8 weeks huh? I was too scared so I waited until they were 12 weeks! My older hens are about 7 months now...I hope this transition goes well!
     
  6. rogermagno

    rogermagno New Egg

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    Sep 1, 2013
    Let me begin by thanking you all for your input. I have tried introducing them into chicken run about 3 times and they always end up getting cornered and things get too ugly so I have to remove them back into their dog kennel. It seems that one of them just keeps attacking because they get cornered and the others get into the mob mentality. I let the chickens free range in my yard a few hours every day and there are confrontations but the smaller chickens just run away, the problem has always been when introducing to confined area of run and coop. I will figure out how to put them in the run with a wired /mesh enclosure because my current dog kennel is the type you use for traveling. Hopefully this will allow them to get over this issue. I will let you all know how it goes in a week or two. If you have any recommendations on what type of cage I can build or buy to put into the run and what I can use for hiding places please feel free to share your wisdom.

    PS, I tried hanging a bit of cabbage leaves when introducing them but they were more interested in fighting
     
  7. ozzyman778

    ozzyman778 Out Of The Brooder

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    I succesfully have the bantam polish in my profile pic integrated into my flock of 12 large breeds. The challenges were not only her size but she is polish so the other girls seem attracted to pecking her "helmet". She still tends to run and hide in the coop from time to time and roosts in her favorite nest box rather than with the other girls. Besides that it took about a full week before she was one of the group and not getting constantly picked on and chased around.

    I did have to lower my feeder tray down a few inches after I noticed the poor girl on her tippy toes neck stretched over to feed :)

    I also let my flock free range for several hours while I let the polish have free range of the run to get accustomed to the area. Over the week integration the flock did a lot of free ranging in my backyard which had ample space for hiding and getting away from fights, I think this helped the most of anything I did. I also only broke up fights that were severe and just let the pecking order sort itself out.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2013
  8. whittychick

    whittychick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Put my chicks in the with big girls last night! They did ok and this am the chicks were all huddled in the corner! The big girls weren't attacking and hardly pecking them! Why they stayed in the corner is beyond me?! Hope tomorrow is better!
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    They are simply staying out of the big chickens way. Avoiding them. My young ones usually fly up to the roosts when the older chickens are on the coop floor to avoid them though sometimes some hide under the nests, which are fairly close to the coop floor.
     
  10. jailbirdjulie

    jailbirdjulie Out Of The Brooder

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    I have no idea what to tell you! I have 3 gold sex link chicks that are about 10 weeks old. I just put in the coop with my hens tonight! I have had them in a dog cage in the run the chickens are in for about two weeks but they haven't been out in the run much with the hens. It's going to be really cold here tonight so I caught the chicks and put them in the coop with the hens so they would be warmer. I will be able to let them out of the run before I go to work in the morning. It will still be dark. They have plenty of room to run around and get away from the hens. The one that picks on them the most is my silkie and they are almost as big as she is. Luckily she is broody right now. My cochin has been chasing them a little bit and my RIR chases them away from the food but other than that they aren't too interested in the chicks. I think having them in the dog cage for a couple weeks where they could see each other probably helped the situation. I switched out the hens food for grower food until I the chicks are old enough for layer food. I need to get some oyster shell for the hens until they go back on the layer food. Good luck with your chicks and hens!
     

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