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Age to introduce chicks to existing hens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Moosemom4, May 1, 2017.

  1. Moosemom4

    Moosemom4 New Egg

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    Apr 4, 2017
    Good morning. I am a first time chicken mom. I have been researching when to introduce chicks to my 2 hens. I'm unfortunately more confused then when I started. I've heard anywhere from 6 weeks old to wait until their comparable size to my existing hens. Is there a definitive answer? Want to do whats best for all my girls.
     
  2. Chicken Girl1

    Chicken Girl1 Stuck back in the 40s Premium Member

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    Yes, there are so many different times people advise introducing their flocks. I personally always did it when they were 12 weeks old, but this year I'm trying to do it sooner and it is working better (so far) then any other year I've integrated. I believe it is really up to you, what are you more comfortable with? I read this article and it helped me a lot so maybe you would like to read it as well :)
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/integrating-new-birds-at-4-weeks-old
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    No, there is no definitive answer. We keep them in so many different conditions, each chicken has its own personality, and we manage the process so differently that there is no one answer that works for all of us.

    To me the main consideration is how much room do they have? The quality of that room is important too. A lot of the problems occur when the younger chickens do not have enough room to get away or stay away from the older chickens. It’s possible you could get a hen that goes out of her way to be brutal to young chicks, but I seldom see that. If you have one of those, it can be a real challenge.

    About any hen will peck a chick that invades her personal space. Not all do that but a lot do. If the chick runs away all is fine, but if it cannot get away the hen can go ballistic. Pretty soon the chicks learn to just stay away from the adults. So they need enough room to do that or a safe haven similar to what Aart used in that article. I don’t know how much room Aart has in that run but the chicks have room to separate themselves from the adults. If the adults are in the run the chicks can stay in the coop. And they have room to run.

    I do it a little differently. I also brood in the coop in a mesh brooder so the chicks grow up with the flock. But at 5 weeks I just open the brooder door and walk away. No safe haven. I have more room in the coop and more room outside than Aart so this works for me. We just have different circumstances. I’ve never lost a chick to an adult flock member doing this.

    If your room is fairly tight you may need to wait until they are a lot older. If you happen to have a hen that is a brute at heart, this can get challenging.

    Some things that help this process other than space include housing the chicks and chickens across wire mesh for a while before you try to let them mingle. A week may be enough but the more the better. Having separate feeding and watering stations allows them to eat and drink without challenging the adults. To improve the quality of the room you do have a safe haven can really help. Providing places that the chicks can get out of line of sight of the adults is beneficial. Don’t create traps where the chicks can’t get away, but things like leaning a piece of plywood or similar against a fence works well (make sure the wind can’t blow it over). Something free standing in the run can help. Places the chicks can hide under or get up on are good. Unless you have a lot of room, don’t just leave it open spaces.

    Until they mature enough to force their way into the pecking order the immature birds will probably be afraid of the adults. That’s normal. For my pullets this is usually about the time they start to lay. That’s based on maturity, not size. Until they mature sufficiently don’t be surprised if you see two separate flocks out there. Eventually they will merge into one flock, once they mature enough.

    People integrate all the time, even in relatively tight spaces. Usually it’s not as bad as you come to believe reading these posts. But it can get pretty dramatic at times. A lot of that depends on the personality of your individual hens. These suggestions are not guarantees that there will be no drama, but they can greatly improve your odds of pretty mild drama. Good luck!
     
  4. Moosemom4

    Moosemom4 New Egg

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    Apr 4, 2017
    Thank you so much for the information. Very helpful :)
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    Coop partition is a 4' section of 6x16 coop with a separate(from main 8x50 run) 8x8 run.
    So they learn how to navigate the ramp to run and back before I even open the tiny doors.

    Once I take down the wall, both runs are accessible to all birds...which makes for a nice diversion for everyone.
    I put some 'safe havens'...tiny chunnels and low mesh 'creep' platforms.... in the main run too for the chicks.
    As well as multiple roosts in run.

    Lots of space to run and places to 'hide'.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2017

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