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Can a single hen integrate with a group of chicks?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by onyx2011, Jun 17, 2018.

  1. onyx2011

    onyx2011 In the Brooder

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    Mar 12, 2018
    I went out earlier this evening to lock up my flock. To my surprise, only a single hen was roosting. After nearly an hour, I finally found the remaining 3 chickens. Or what was left of them. Feathers were everywhere and only a singe corpse was left. I honestly am really upset over this, and it doesn't help that the sole survivor is the only hen that despises my existence and her only personality trait seems to be "Incessant whiny jerk"

    I'm really hurt by the losses, but I was already in search of adding chicks to the flock as I've been wanting a rooster after my boy passed away in March due to illness. Would it be possible to get 4-5 chicks and integrate them? I'm aware that I could integrate fully grown chickens, but I'm worried that they wouldn't bond with me with Oreo already being standoffish towards me.

    Basically, could 4-5 chicks that are 4-5 weeks old(since they need to be isolated for a month in case of disease) be alright with 1 grumpy and now likely traumatized hen who is over a year old? I don't want Oreo to be alone for too long, and I plan to just keep her shut up in the run instead of free ranging. Sorry if this is in the wrong category!
     
    SurferchickinSB likes this.
  2. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing 7 Years

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    I'm so sorry you had such losses. :hugs

    And of course Ms. Grumpy would survive as she is grumpy and wary. That made her more predator savvy.

    I personally would not put 4 to 5 week old chicks in with a grumpy old hen. They are still pretty small, and she could make their lives pretty miserable at that age unless they had plenty of pigeon holes to run and hide in. Still, that could be a bit much if she is very dominant.

    It would be safer to integrate them at 6 to 8 weeks, whenever they are teen size. That many of them against one of her would balance the odds and chill her out a bit.

    So, after reinforcing for whatever got your prior chickens, as it will be back, and limiting free range for Oreo for her safety, get your chicks and raise them to teen-hood. Then with visual integration through a fence from 4 to 6 weeks, I'd let them integrate with her at about 7 to 8 weeks of age making sure there were plenty of smaller spaces to hide if she takes out after one.

    If she becomes a terror of the flock, then you can decide to re-home her.

    She may also be so happy to be in a flock again by that time so that she mellows out with them, but don't count on it at first. It could go either way, and 4 to 5 weeks of age is too young to risk some real harm.

    My thoughts.
    LofMc
     
  3. onyx2011

    onyx2011 In the Brooder

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    Thanks, that was what I was leaning towards! I do like the idea of visual integration so that she can be assured that she isn't forever alone, but I still feel guilty that she'll be alone for a month.

    Fortunately, the hens were only killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They love to play near this temporary pond that we have (it only exists after rainfall and then fills up with mosquitoes, frogs, and plenty of other chicken treats), and they must have been out too late, and a predator out during the sunset must have taken the opportunity. :( But, that means that my run is still secure and predator proof, so Oreo will just have to live in the run, which is a pretty decent size... hopefully that won't make her much grumpier!

    A month isn't too long for a mature hen to be alone, is it? I feel that if Oreo survived the fox (that's what the attack site seemed to indicate, and we saw one a couple nights ago and weren't able to get a good shot at it), she can survive anything...:confused:

    Definitely setting out some live traps to avenge my birds as well as make the property safer for future birds.
     
  4. SurferchickinSB

    SurferchickinSB Songster

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    What if you bought the chicks from a hatchery that is real careful about their biosecurity? Would you still have to isolate? Could you put the chicks with the hen with a hardware cloth barrier and heat source for that month till they got use to each other?
     
  5. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing 7 Years

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    It isn't a matter so much of biosecurity to Oreo but to the chicks.

    Hatchery chicks have been incubated and brooded in sterile situations, then endured shipping transit which stresses them.

    Adding to that a new environment with a multitude of germs and various pathogens, coccidia being a main one, you can very easily overwhelm little chicks.

    I never have issues with my hen brooded chicks. They hatch under her and I think even in the shell gain some immunity. They definitely are not hatched in a sterile environment and over the next few days are introduced by the hen to the environment. They thrive.

    However, my feed store chicks, who are hatchery raised and shipped, almost to the last one have major issues with integrating into the environment without some initial phase in. I have to keep them on medicated feed, often doctor with some antibiotics for the latent bacteria stirred up from shipping stress, then there is the stress of heat lamp brooding.

    Overall, it is best to brood separately to avoid contamination to the hatchery chicks until their immune systems have recovered from shipping and introduction into the real world.

    That generally takes about 4 weeks. At that time, fencing visual is good to introduce as they should be fully feathered by then and not needing the heat lamp.

    Another 3 weeks or so, and they are large enough to not be harmed by potential hazing from the adult flock members.

    My hen brooded? Nah.....they hatch in the coop. Poppa rooster watches over momma and chicks keeping overly nosy hens at bay. Mom and babes are integrated within a couple of days....I choose to segregate the first 2 to 3 weeks simply because I don't want to lose little ones through my back fencing or from overhead hawks....but the whole flock is watching them that full 3 weeks.

    My experiences.

    LofMc
     
    ChickNanny13 likes this.
  6. onyx2011

    onyx2011 In the Brooder

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    I'm actually buying these chicks from a 4H club that shows their chickens at fairs! Would that make them more open to all the germs? I don't really know how they have their brooder set up, but from what I can tell on their craigslist ad, the chickens are in barn stalls and seem to have the capability to go outside into segregated(prevent unwanted crossbreeding) runs. I'm assuming their brooder would be more akin to what a normal person would have in addition to their coop... which I've heard is pretty darn difficult to keep sterile. But these chicks are pretty close to being day olds...
     
  7. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing 7 Years

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    In that case, biosecurity will work both ways.

    The chicks are not raised in a sterile environment and could possibly bring disease to your flock. (Really watch for any signs of respiratory illness, rumple standing, runny, bloody diarrhea.)

    And your flock will expose them to new pathogens.

    Obviously at some point you simply can't put your chickens in a bubble. They either survive or don't. We all have to have immune systems that protect us from the buggies that abound.

    Wisdom states use simple precautions. Since the babes will have changes in their environment, it is wise to isolate them from your hen so their immune systems can catch up to the new influences. Good brooding, good feed, good water, watchful eye.

    As they may bring some things with them (viral, bacterial, protozoa, parasite), it is good to isolate them until you've had enough observation time to be certain they are healthy. The minimum time for that is 4 weeks. You don't want to have to disinfect and label yourself "closed flock" if you discover you have introduced MG or Marek's.

    You have a bit of special circumstance in that you now have a flock of one and are essentially restarting, so you won't have a large flock to also treat if the babes bring in something.

    The most important concern will be integration so that the older, bossy hen does not overly haze the babes. For that, I recommend careful eye and some careful integration with the timeline I've given above.

    LofMc
     
    ChickNanny13 likes this.
  8. onyx2011

    onyx2011 In the Brooder

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    Interesting if not frustrating update on the situation... I came back from work to find a bantam rooster in my coop?! Mom(I just graduated highschool last week and am staying home for community college) thought she was doing the right thing and didn't tell me about it until the roo was on our property!!! :he

    Thankfully, she had enough common sense to leave him in a dog crate in the coop so the two chickens can't physically interact, but I am livid to say the least. I tried to explain the importance of biosecurity as I have previously researched chicken integration a couple months ago when hunting for a rooster before deciding I wanted to raise one. Neither of my parents are into chickens, they just enjoy the eggs. However, I am just an arrogant teenager who thinks she knows everything, so as you know my trying to explain biosecurity was just entirely invalid and is just hysterical.

    I'm really worried about biosecurity but more so about why the breeder wanted to give them a free rooster on such short notice(he is a rather beautiful specimen but doesn't seem to have a tail? Is that normal for bantams??), and hoped that it was something like "too many roos for one flock", but nope. This guy has a reputation for being a jerk and apparently was going to the butcher's due to his personality. :barnie

    I handled him a bit today to give him food and water as well as a nice solid stick for a temporary roost, and he wasn't particularly aggressive. He did act all proud and cheeky when I showed him how to use the roost after I found him sleeping under it, but he didn't peck at me when i lightly picked him up and placed him on it. Just made a bunch of small noises.

    tl;dr: my parents made decisions for me about something they don't understand, and now I'm stuck with a rooster that has a track record. Oreo actually does seem to enjoy him(or rather, another chicken to squawk at), but he's a bit spooked as she is bigger. I did try to move the crate out of the coop but my parents harassed me until I "decided" to leave the rooster in there.
     
  9. ldawntaylor

    ldawntaylor Songster

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    Hi and welcome,

    It sounds like you are doing what you can with what you have.

    Having a rooster may prove to be a good thing if you do go back to free range. Some roosters are excellent at sounding a warning of predators.
     

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