Best way to integrate Momma and chick with main flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by krista74, Oct 8, 2014.

  1. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,576
    165
    158
    Jun 4, 2014
    Victoria, Australia.
    Hi all.

    Just after some integration advice. I have a Momma Hen with a 4 week old chick (yes, one only) who hatched her chick within the main coop but they were moved together to a private outside mini coop a week after hatching. They are behind chicken wire but the other birds can see them when they are out free-ranging.

    Today I thought I might try and let them meet and mingle with the rest of the flock. I threw down some food thinking it might be a good diversion. I was so wrong!

    It was all good for about three minutes. Then the head hen (Fire-Ant) pecked the chick several times. Momma Hens shrieked, and the chick cried out, which alerted the rooster and the rest of the hens that (a) Momma was there and (b) the chick was there too.

    The rooster paid no attention to the chick, but he gave chase to the 'new' hen in the yard, constantly dancing around her and trying to mount her. The chick was crying like mad for it's Momma who was being hounded by the rooster, and then two hens started fronting the Momma Hen as well. They were doing the chest bump thing and flying at her, and then pecking when they could too.

    Momma Hen actually ran away from the baby and hid under a tree. You can't imagine how hard it was to get her back to the coop where baby chick was still waiting for her. Now she is back with the baby, but she is hiding in the nest and is literally quivering constantly.

    It was SUCH a disaster. How do I manage this better next time? I need the mini coop for the next batch of chicks in two weeks time - they all need to learn to get along pronto!

    Help!

    Krista
     
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    33,792
    6,920
    576
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Often the hen and her brood is left with the flock or only separated by wire right in the coop so visual contact is kept intact just to eliminate the re-integration issues.

    Can you partition your coop for hen and chick?
     
  3. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    4,706
    1,330
    356
    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    In the future, leave the mamma hen and chick with the flock. At the time of hatching, the hormones in the mamma chick are high, and she has been full of them during the incubation. She will puff up and growl at anyone. Even my rooster tiptoes around her, haha. Any layer that gets too close to the chicks, gets attacked. The chicks learn quickly to stay with mama between them and the flock, and they all get used to each other.

    At about 4-6 weeks, the hormones begin to drop, and the hen forgets her chicks. If they are in the flock, they have already been accepted, and it is not a big deal. They still need some hide outs, and some roosts, so that they can get away from other birds. They may get an occasional mind your manners thump, but the flock is peaceful. Unfortunately, many people separate the mamma and chicks from the flock, and then try and reintroduce the group at this time. And that is the disaster that you described, and yours is compounded with just having a single chick.

    The whole thing is compounded with space. You need plenty of space if you are adding more chickens. If they are too crowded, that makes the 'get along' problems much worse. If you are continually adding birds, you have to continually cull birds.

    I really don't think you are going to get the flock to accept a single chick at four weeks of age. They will probably kill it. That chick will need to be kept separate for at least another month.

    Mrs K
     
  4. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,576
    165
    158
    Jun 4, 2014
    Victoria, Australia.
    Believe me, if I could, I would! The problem is that the main coop already has two parts sectioned off - one for a Momma with 5 chicks and one for broody with 9 eggs under her. There is simply no more room to section of - the coop is looking like motel accommodation already!

    It appears we have a bit of a population explosion round these parts!

    I am wondering if I should keep the main flock locked in the run late in the afternoon, and let Momma and the chick start free ranging on their own for an hour or two so at least they start to understand where their 'safe place' is and how to get back to it?

    I'm sure they would be ranging past the main run so they could familiarise themselves with the main flock.

    Thanks for your comments!

    Krista
     
  5. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,576
    165
    158
    Jun 4, 2014
    Victoria, Australia.
    Thank you for your thoughts. We do have a fair amount of space here - the main coop is certainly big enough to support a flock of about 20 and I currently have one rooster, 6 laying hens (including two non-laying Mommas and one broody hen), the four week old chick, five week old chicks, and 9 eggs under a broody! So really, I am only trying to integrate the chick with three other hens and the rooster. I really didn't think it would be that hard, since half the flock is still in broody pens! We also have a large run (maybe 20 x 25 metres big) and they have free ranging access to about 2 acres of land.

    So are you suggesting that the week old chicks I have, plus any that hatch in the next batch, be left within the main coop with no fences separating them at all? Would the other hens go after the young chicks? The only issue I have is that the main coop is where the girls lay, so they need to be able to go in ad out - ie, the door needs to be left open. This, in turn, means the cat (AKA: Killer Instinct) could get into the coop! I really don't know what is the best thing to do. She already sits outside the 4 week old chick's cage and watches him.....

    When it does come to introducing the baby to the flock, do I just open the door and let him out? Distract everyone with food? Let the hens have a peck and get it out o their systems? I feel at this age he still needs his Momma to look after him, but she seems to be distracted dodging the rooster and being chased by the girls. As soon as she could see the door to where her chick was she ran back to him, but it took 10 minutes and he was peeping the whole time. So sad.

    Krista

    Any ideas?

    Krista
     
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    4,706
    1,330
    356
    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    oh, text sooo confusing....... do you mean 5 (one week old chicks) or 5 week old chicks?

    If you have 5 week old chicks, they would be very close to the same size as the 4 wk old chick - put that batch together. But I think (if I am reading this right, you have a broody hen with 5 -1week-old chicks) That you have separate from the flock now.

    So are you suggesting that the week old chicks I have, plus any that hatch in the next batch, be left within the main coop with no fences separating them at all? Yes, just leave them with the flock. The only dangerous time is about 20 hours where some eggs have not hatched yet, and some chicks dry off and explore. The exploring ones can be attacked by the layers while the mamma hen is trying to get the other eggs to hatch. Once the mamma has decided she is done with hatching eggs, she will leave that nest, and create a new nest on the floor of the coop. From that point on, she will furiously defend her chicks. If you watch, you will see that the mamma hen will come out of the coop with a skirt of chicks around her, she will stay to the outside of the flock, and her chicks will stay very close to her or on the far side of her away from the layers. Any layer that pecks at her chicks will get a severe thump in return. The layers get used to the chicks and there is no integration problem. At this time, the broody hen is VERY high in the pecking order.

    do I just open the door and let him out? NOOOOOOO, you really cannot add that chick to the flock until that single chick is nearly full size. A single strange chick is the worst integration one can make. The whole flock knows this bird does not belong, and it is littler so everyone can peck and peck and peck. This chick will get all the beatings. Sometimes, if you have a bunch of chicks and you have hideouts and escape routes, you can add much smaller birds to an established flock, but a single bird will get trapped and take a vicious beating, maybe killed.

    Now another problem, while I have had two hens hatch out eggs within hours of each other, and they shared the duties of raising them, I think there is a real possibility that the hen with chicks now, will be very aggressive toward the new chicks when they come, worse than the layers. This could be a mess the equivalent of two hormone enriched roosters. Hormones are powerful, and all about survival of the fittest, and making sure that "your" chicks get the food.


    Ok, take this advice or not, up to you........ but this is what I think I would try. I would try putting the two broody hens together with their chicks (the ones that currently have chicks, 1wk olds and the 5 wk olds) in as big as space as you can manage, as close to the laying flock as possible, so that the laying flock can see but not touch any of the chicks. The thing is, is the little chicks will catch the 5 week old chick in size faster than anything else you have. I think the broody hen with the one week old chick will easily protect those chicks from the older chick and broody hen. Keep them together as long as possible. There may be squabbles, but they should settle down and become a mini flock.

    In the mean time put the broody hen that is setting on eggs in with the layers. Make sure that the nest is small enough that others cannot lay eggs for her, check every so often to just keep her current eggs under her, mark them with a pen and let them hatch out with the layers. Lock the layers out for 12 hours while she hatches if possible, or separate her for just that day. She will handle that integration for you.

    Then in about 6 week from the last hatching, I would have multiple feeders and waterers, pallets propped against a wall, multiple roosts, and other hideouts in the run and I would combine the whole works all at once at night, letting them out to free range first thing in the morning, and cross your fingers. Sheer numbers will keep anything from getting killed, (should be 8 head) cold weather makes chickens more tolerant of other chickens cause heat is heat, and by spring things should be settled down.

    Good luck, Mrs K
     
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    4,706
    1,330
    356
    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I reread you post........ is there a cat, as in meow, not as in a catty acting hen in this problem too?
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2014
  8. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

    8,657
    3,316
    441
    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    It does seem to be a feline added to the mix...
     
  9. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

    8,657
    3,316
    441
    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    This. All of this. Mrs. K gives great advice!
     
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    33,792
    6,920
    576
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I'd cage the cat to gain some chicken space.....and it sounds like you may need to build more coop/run space if you can't control your chicken math ;-)
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by