Best way to integrate chicks?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by GammaPoppyLilyFlutter, Feb 22, 2011.

  1. GammaPoppyLilyFlutter

    GammaPoppyLilyFlutter Love Comes with Feathers

    Jun 26, 2010
    I have 2 seven-week-old EE pullets that I want to join my older flock of 4 GSL's when the time comes. I'm trying to get them used to each other right now by having the little babies in a fenced area and letting the big chickens come up to look at them and get used to them.
    One of them used to fluff up and test the big girls' place in the pecking order, but she doesn't anymore.

    Today I put the chickens into the pen one at a time (under close supervision) and they only got a couple remaining bits of fuzz tugged off. The chickens that didn't peck got lots of corn to eat as a reward.

    However, I'm still scared for the chicks. They won't be living with the big chickens for a while, but I'm still afraid that they won't be accepted.

    Is there any peck-free way that I can merge the 2 mini-flocks? I know that the reason they peck is because they want to establish the final pecking order, but is there any way I can stop it?
  2. I am waiting to see to responces, because I am going to have to do the same thing with my two mini-flocks. [​IMG]
  3. myloveforchickens

    myloveforchickens In the Brooder

    Feb 21, 2011
    Sandpoint, ID
    When I got my babies together with the older girls, I allowed them together in the yard... with myself always outside. Just in case. There were little fights, nothing huge. The best way to get them used to each other, is to lay scratch on either side of the fences, so they can eat and have the fence between them to protect the babies.

    I keep my chick pens separate until everyone is close to the same size. We finally introduced our two flocks when the babies were about five-months old. And we took the babies into the main coup at nighttime ( the easiest way and the less stressful way for the chickens). They will be accepted in time, just takes a while to allow the older hens to get used to seven new members within their flock. Do you have a rooster by the way?

    Here is a website that really gave some good ideas-
  4. GammaPoppyLilyFlutter

    GammaPoppyLilyFlutter Love Comes with Feathers

    Jun 26, 2010
    No rooster. Just pullets.

    What about integrating full-grown bantams to a flock of standard breeds?
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2011
  5. myloveforchickens

    myloveforchickens In the Brooder

    Feb 21, 2011
    Sandpoint, ID
    I'm not sure about the bantams... I only have standard breeds. Sorry about that. [​IMG]

    Hope my advice works for you and good luck with integrating your new babies. If you need anymore questions, I'll be glade to help out.

    And about the pecking order ( forgot to add it last night's post) - no there is no way to stop it. You just have to let the hens do their own thing. Your the Rooster to them ( since you have none), and they will break apart if you come between them. It works for me since my rooster is long gone................................
  6. GammaPoppyLilyFlutter

    GammaPoppyLilyFlutter Love Comes with Feathers

    Jun 26, 2010
    Quote:All right, thanks [​IMG] I'm just afraid of the babies being hurt
  7. Kathi D

    Kathi D Chirping

    May 19, 2008
    I am worrying in advance about mixing new hens with older ones, too. I don't even have the babies yet, but I'm thinking about ordering 25 day-old chicks that would be blended into my flock of 8 adult hens. Would the fact that the young ones outnumber the older ones help out at all?

    Also, the link above for the helpful information doesn't work--I'd love to read the article!

  8. myloveforchickens

    myloveforchickens In the Brooder

    Feb 21, 2011
    Sandpoint, ID
    Not at all, they'll still fight a little. Just keep an eye on them.

    Been having trouble with computer and posting links. Let me try this instead. I'll copied and past. Please let me know if it works!

    " When planning to introduce new hens to an existing flock, the first thing is to realize that an existing flock regard the sleeping quarters and pen as “theirs”.

    They have established their pecking order and every bird knows its place – in the flock, on the perches and in the nest boxes.

    The second thing to remember is that young birds don’t have fully developed immune systems and can die from disease if introduced to an adult flock at too young an age.

    I don’t introduce young birds to the flock until at least eight weeks (emergencies only) and preferably 12-16 weeks.

    The ideal way to introduce new birds is to move the existing flock and the new birds into new quarters at night, once they’ve been roosting in their old quarters for an hour or two.

    The combination of new sleeping quarters, a new run and new faces means the flock is completely disrupted and the old pecking order broken up, thus avoiding the old established flock attacking (and possibly even killing) the newcomers.

    If you don’t have the luxury of spare quarters, the next best thing is to have separate but adjacent runs with your old flock confined to one.

    If you’re not resting the ground in the adjoining run, you can put your new birds in here, with some form of temporary quarters and leave them for a week or so before merging the flocks (at night).

    If you do as we do and rest the ground, you need to have quarters with a run attached. You place this in the middle of the run used by the old flock and again leave the two groups to get to know each other for a week or so.

    You should do this even with totally free range birds or they’ll drive the newcomers away.

    The other way of handling totally free range flocks is simply to put the new birds in their own house and position it a reasonable distance from the old flock. However, this is a luxury that requires quite a bit of land – especially as your flock expands.

    A final method is to really disrupt the pecking order by both removing and adding birds in one “fowl” swoop! I prefer not to do this as it can be stressful for the chickens, but in an emergency it does remove the waiting time that other methods need.

    I had to do this the other day as I needed to get a broody hen into a box and get the younger chicks in the box out into the run.

    Fortunately, I was also about to swap out my pair of breeding hens and introduce four other 12-week old birds to the flock.

    I removed a pair of hens (who went in with the breeding cockerel), a young cockerel (who’s going to be fattened for the pot) and the broody hen from the old flock.

    At the same time, I introduced the former pair of breeding hens and all six young birds. This was all done at night (ie very late because there isn’t much darkness up this way).

    Come the morning, all the birds in the “new” flock were kept in until midday to allow the chickens to familiarise themselves with each other.

    When they came out, there was still a bit of pecking going on but after 48 hours they’ve all settled down, with the sub-cockerel quite pleased as he now has a couple of girls of his own.

    Do not introduce mature roosters to a flock with a rooster. Hens will fight briefly to establish pecking order but roosters go for dominance and can seriously injure or kill each other.

    A dominant rooster will often accept immature roosters, but you’ll have to watch them and remove the youngsters if the dominant cockerel decides to attack them. They will have to be removed as they near maturity.

    You can have two or more mature roosters to a flock, but they have to have been introduced as immature birds at the same time.

    There should also be more than 10 hens for two cockerels – the dominant one will be happy with 10 or so, while the beta cockerel will have a couple of hens to himself and try to sneak off with the others when he has the chance.

    With three or more cockerels, aim for around 10 hens per rooster, but you’re better off having separate flocks at this point.

    I keep two cockerels with my non-breeding hens while I get around to building them separate cockerel boxes, while the current breeding cockerel gets his own quarters and run, plus two/three hens. (Orville the gay rooster is the exception – he has the run of the steading and gets put to bed in the hayshed at night.)

    If you’re keeping two cockerels with a flock, it helps if there is a difference in size as the big one will dominate the small one and the small one will be much less likely to challenge the big one. You should always keep an eye on them and if there are constant challenges, take one of them out

    For other methods and views, have a look at:

    Velvet Sparrow’s Chicken Information Page

    Dealing with Aggressive Poultry

    Introducing a young flock to the coop

    Introducing new babies

    I have to say that Velvet Sparrow’s chicken god approach is by far the most interesting – and hilarious – technique. I don’t know if I’m game to try it though as my neighbours already think I’m nuts, so becoming the chicken god may be seen as a step too far!
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Quote:No, you cannot avoid pecking. Just like dogs or wolves in a pack or cattle or horses in a herd, each animal needs to know its place in the social order so they can coexist peacefully. They all do that with some sort of fighting or intimidation. It is kind of ironic that to learn how to live together peacefully, they have to fight. A lot of times it is more intimidation than fighting, but not always.

    As I am sure you know, people integrate chickens into their flocks all the time, usually successfully. But sometimes there are disasters. You cannot always prevent it, but there are some things you can do to improve your odds.

    There are two types of pecking. One type is not meant to kill. It is more of a discipline pecking. Sometimes mother hens peck their chicks. This is not an attempt to kill the chick but to discipline it. If she tells it to do something and it does not pay proper respect to its Mama, she lets it know in no uncertain terms it ought to listen to Mama. Sometimes a chicken lower in the pecking order invades the personal space of a chicken higher in the pecking order. A sharp peck reinforces that it is bad manners to invade a superior’s personal space. The two times I see this most in effect is around the feeders and on the roosts. Usually, if they have room, the one that is being reminded what passes for good manners in chicken etiquette runs away and the incident is over. If they don't have room to move away, then that can escalate into real violence. The more space you can give them to avoid each other, the better. This disciplinary pecking can be quite hard and if they hit the other chicken wrong, they can cause damage, but this is not intended to kill and is not all that risky.

    Some flocks have chickens that go way beyond this. They seem to go on search and destroy missions, seeking out chickens lower in the pecking order to kill them. It is usually a hen, but it is possible it could be a rooster. I'd venture that most flocks do not have chickens like this, but they do exist. They will go after young chicks with a broody (Most broodies will defend their chicks from this type of chicken, but some don't) or any younger, weaker chicken. So the personality of your chickens plays a big part on how well the integration will go. I can't tell you what the personalities of your hens are. Until you put the younger ones with them, you will not know.

    Sometimes when one chicken cannot easily intimidate the other, they will fight. Usually, they will determine pretty quickly which one wins and it is over, but sometimes one gets hurt. I find that size has little to do with it. Some may be bigger but the smaller is probably quicker, which can give it an advantage. It is not all that unusual for a bantam rooster to be dominant over a full grown rooster. It is the spirit and desire in the chicken that counts a lot more than the size. This is with chickens that have about the same maturity level.

    If there is a difference in maturity, the more mature chicken will dominate, at least up until they reach a certain adult maturity level. The younger ones instinctively know that the more mature ones are a risk, or they learn this very quickly. They learn the best thing to do is to avoid the older ones. You'll see the younger ones crowding as far away from the other on the roost as they can get, sometimes even choosing to sleep in the nest boxes if the roosts are too rough. That is where more than the absolute minimum roost space comes in handy. If I leave mine locked in the coop and run when I have young ones, the young ones will spend most of the day perched on the roosts where the older ones are less likely to bother them. They are fully integrated and I can leave them locked in the coop all day without them killing each other, but the young ones do try to stay out of the way.

    Some things that I think will help your odds. House them as you are, where they can see each other but not get to each other. Throwing scratch or something on the ground where they eat next to each other is a good idea.

    When you integrate them, provide as much space as possible. Give then room to avoid each other to avoid conflicts.

    I find it beneficial, when they first integrate, to allow them to run together during the day but let them have different sleeping quarters. Sometimes it is really hard for the younger to avoid the older on the roosts. They usually return to where they are used to sleeping. I suspect you have a small coop for the two and a larger one for the four. For a while, leave the smaller coop available for roosting. They may immediately go in with the big girls, but they may decide to wait until they mature some more. Eventually, they should move in with the big girls on their own.

    Set up separate eating and drinking stations as far apart as reasonable. A favorite intimidation tactic is for the older ones to not allow the younger to eat or drink. Even a third eating station is not unreasonable. Make it as hard on the bullies as you can.

    I'm not a big fan of putting them together after it is dark. Let me say it may help. I really don't know. I think they have to determine a pecking order so they know how to act with each other. If they wake up with strange new chickens, how do they know which ones can go eat first or be first out the pop door? Some integrations go pretty smoothly and some are pretty rough. Again, let me say I don't know if it helps or not, but I suspect the biggest advantage of letting them wake up together is that the initial pecking order stuff is handled before the human is around to interfere. When I integrate younger chickens with my flock, I make sure that pop door is open before they are fully awake so the younger ones can escape, say for about the first week.

    My situation is different to yours. I free range mine so they have all kinds of room to avoid each other. I have a rooster that usually does not involve himself with pecking order issues, but he will break up serious fights. He also protects all member of his flock. Not all roosters do that. I do consider myself lucky in that respect. I know this does not have anything to do with your situation, but I'll make this post a little longer by telling a cute story. On different occasions, I've had a broody get separated from some of her chicks, going out a gate and turning back along the fence before all the chicks follow her out. So you wind up with a broody on one side of the fence and several of the chicks on the other side. They have no concept of gate. I've seen the rooster go set with the separated chicks until Mama works it out.

    I wish you luck on your integration. I can't guarantee you anything on how your integration goes, I just hope it goes well.
  10. GammaPoppyLilyFlutter

    GammaPoppyLilyFlutter Love Comes with Feathers

    Jun 26, 2010
    Thank you so much! [​IMG]

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