Best way?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by raisinemright, Nov 8, 2013.

  1. raisinemright

    raisinemright Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Next spring my family is thinking of adding to our flock. What is the best way to introduce he new birds to ours?
     
  2. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    They will need to be raised separately until they are roughly the same size as the older birds (13 or so weeks). If you can put them in an area where they can see each other, but not attack each other, this will help get them used to each other. After a couple of weeks of doing that, you can put them together at night. There will still be skirmishes as they reestablish the pecking order, but it will work itself out in a few weeks.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Are you thinking of getting partially grown chickens, day old just hatched chicks, or use and incubator and hatch your own? People do it many different ways quite successfully but there are some differences. What’s best for me might not be what is best for you. We are all unique and with unique circumstances and goals.

    If you are getting live chicks anywhere other than a major well-established hatchery, you might want to read up on quarantine. I’m not concerned about diseases coming in from a major hatchery. If they didn’t have their biosecurity procedures well under control they would have been out of business long ago.

    Your individual set-up and how much room you have will be very important in how you manage integration. One way chickens have learned to live in a flock is that in case of conflict, the weaker runs away from the stronger or just avoids them to start with. If they don’t have sufficient room to run away or avoid, it can get dangerous. In general, the more room you have the easier it is.

    I’ve seen a broody hen wean her chicks at 3 weeks. They were OK making their own way in the flock. I generally integrate at 8 weeks. I haven’t lost any yet doing that so I’m obviously being too conservative and cautious, but I’m OK with that. Especially if space is kind of tight, it might be better to wait until they are practically grown. There is no one magic age that covers us all.

    There are a few different things to consider. Regardless of age or age difference, chickens learn who is in their flock. They can be aggressive in protecting their flock from strangers. This doesn’t happen all the time but it happens often enough to be a concern. A real good strategy is to house the chickens next to each other where they can see each other but can’t get to each other to fight. This helps them accept the others as having a right to exist.

    Even if they accept that the others have a right to exist, they still have to sort out the pecking order. What often happens when two chickens share the same personal space but don’t know which one is higher-ranking in the pecking order, one pecks or tries to intimidate the other. If one runs away, they’ve sorted the pecking order between them. There may be some chasing and a few repeat performances but it normally goes pretty peacefully as long as one runs away. If one doesn’t run away there is usually a skirmish. They fight. It usually doesn’t take long for one to realize they are better off running away instead of sticking around, but if they don’t have space to run away or it they are so evenly matched no one can win, it can get real messy or even deadly.

    An added complication is that a more mature chicken always outranks an immature chicken. In chicken society, it is perfectly acceptable for a mature chicken to protect its pecking order rights by pecking an immature chicken that invades its personal pace. Some hens are quite aggressive in seeking out weaker chickens, but not all are. If you have enough room, you’ll see the younger ones forming their own flock and avoiding the adults. Run away or avoid to start with.

    I can’t tell you what is the best age to integrate your younger chicks. That depends so much on your set-up, personality of your chickens, and how you manage them. Some things that can help, other than providing as much space as possible so they can run away and avoid, is to provide different eating and watering places so the younger can eat and drink without having to challenge the older. Give them places to hide from the older, either behind or under. Having some perches high enough that they can get away from the older can help, especially if space id tight. Provide plenty of roost space. The time mine are most brutal to the younger ones is on the roosts as they are settling in for the night.

    As long as you have room, you can successfully add to your flock. We do it successfully all the time using many different methods and techniques. I don’t know enough about your unique circumstances to be able to tell you what is the best method for you, just that you can do it.
     

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