Can chicks this size be integrated into the flock?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Petra Pancake, Nov 21, 2016.

  1. Petra Pancake

    Petra Pancake Chillin' With My Peeps

    These two chicks are about 6 weeks old and are being raised by their mother. Do they seem big enough to be integrated into the flock together with their mother (who is also "new'")? It's a small flock - there are three other hens, no rooster. They have been able to see each other for about two weeks through a wire fence.
    Another thing is, are they in danger from cats? We have a lot of stray cats here - though they leave the adult hens alone. My small flock is during the day in a run that a determined cat probably could climb into. The chicks with their mother are so far in a safer small run and coop but it means double work for me having them there and the small coop is very "user-unfriendly", low and hard to reach - that's why I would like to move them in with the others.

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  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    Since the mother is a new addition to the flock, I think i would leave it a couple of weeks before attempting to integrate them. The mother will have to deal with integrating and this could leave the chicks vulnerable. At around 2 months old, they should be able to withstand a few pecks from the adults.

    The more i mull it over, it may be better to wait until the mother has weaned the chicks - she will show less "attitude" to the established flock and likely ease the integration. If you could then make holes between the existing runs that are small enough for the chicks to get through, but not the adults, it would be a good idea (and have food and water there for them).

    Ensuring that your run is sufficiently big (10 sqft per bird), has plenty of "places of refuge" so both chicks and mother can get out of the way of the others, as well as having multiple feed stations will ease integration.

    I have had mothers raise chicks and take them outdoors on day 2, and whilst we also have feral cats, i have never lost a chick to a cat.

    Here's quite a few links on integration - some for adults, others for chicks

    Adults to adults
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/adding-to-your-flock

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/introducing-a-single-hen-to-an-existing-flock

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/introducing-new-chickens-using-the-see-but-don-t-touch-method

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1098683/introducing-new-chickens-to-old-flock#post_16895615

    Intro chicks to adults

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1126547/topic-of-the-week-integrating-chicks-into-an-adult-flock

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1069595/introducing-chicks-to-adults#post_16276224
     
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  3. Petra Pancake

    Petra Pancake Chillin' With My Peeps

    @CTKen , thanks for your answer. I just wonder, if I wait until they are weaned, they won't have their mother's protection against the other flock members anymore - won't that be harder on the chicks? At two months old or even three they'll still be smaller than everyone else but with no one to help.
     
  4. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    The issue that I have in mind is that the mother, being protective of her chicks could make her a target for aggression from the established flock. I know that my broody hens are very fierce when they have chicks, which is fine, when they are established in a flock. Being a newbie to the flock could complicate matters (i.e. She will not show submissive behaviour). She could decide to wean / abandon the chicks any time now (mine seem to usually wean their chicks at 6 weeks or so) - making the creation of a panic space for the chicks particularly important.

    I have never been in your situation, so I'm kinda thinking on my feet. Maybe other members who have had a similar experience could chime in. Theorising is one thing, but you can't beat experience! @aart or @azygous will be along soon (among others, I might add) that will hopefully be able to help further.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2016
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  5. Peeps61

    Peeps61 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    CT Ken is right - his advice is very sound. Since your broody is not an established member of the flock, you'll have integration problems with her as well as the chicks since attitude from a new comer is seldom acceptable to the established flock. The chicks will survive being integrated later on - it's just harder on our nerves to see it [​IMG].

    If the broody is already established, the chicks will be integrated from day one. I have a flock of over 30 birds, and my broody brought her four chicks over to the flock the first day.

    Yes, you may lose a few to predators, but I noticed the broody raised chicks are much more cautious than those I have raised in a brooder, so I think they will recognize the cat for what it is

    As a side note, I have a feral cat that lives with my chickens. She started doing that as a kitten (young) when her mother was taken by something - probably a coyote. Now, I see it playing tag with my younger pullets - they literally chase each other back and forth. It was craving companionship and the chickens provided it.

    Mother nature can be very interesting sometimes!
     
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  6. Shezadandy

    Shezadandy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What I'm noticing is my chicks have fewer worries (they're 7 weeks now) when Mom isn't around ... helping. At this point, this broody still treats them like they're 2 weeks old (last broody weaned hers at 3 weeks, looked after in a basic way for a week after that outside, and that was it, everything was fine) and running interference causes a bigger problem than just a quick chick interaction with the flock. This broody isn't a stranger to the flock though- she brooded her eggs in the coop, and raised the chicks in the flock from the beginning. But her worried attitude causes more problems at this point than it "protects" them. At 6 weeks they're fast and savvy, though again, your chicks don't know your other hens the same way...

    I like the suggestion above of making multiple holes just big enough for the chicks to squeeze through at will. Obviously be present- do it on a day where you have time to watch things unfold. Make sure the chicks know how to get in and out and that none of your original hens are out for blood. Maybe it will be the chicks that ease the transition for the mom.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2016
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  7. Petra Pancake

    Petra Pancake Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks for your replies. Basically, all of you are right @CTKen , @Peeps61 and @Shezadandy, - I' m saying that because I actually tried it out now. I opened the fence between the big run and the small run to see what would happen. First, one of my "old" hens strolled into the small run where the mother with the two chicks was. She was not aggressive, just curious. Next thing - wham! - mother hen slammed into her and kicked her out in a second. Then, a few minutes later, mother hen with her two chicks came out into the bigger run. She and the chicks started scratching the ground next to the other hens, who ignored them. When one of the other hens accidentally got a bit too close, mother hen attacked her viciously until she fled into the coop. My "established" hens seemed to be totally shocked by these attacks on them and didn't even try to fight back. I broke the experiment off at that stage and herded mother hen and chicks back into the small run and closed the fence. It's really the opposite of what I thought - I was worried that my old hens would attack the chicks but instead, their over-protective mother beats up the rest of the flock in advance. Seems I'll really have to wait until she weans them and try again after that. (Groan, another couple of weeks with that back breaking low ramshackle coop...)
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2016
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Well, as long as the broody is not drawing copious blood or chasing, pinning down and beating them unmercilessy....just let them work it out.
    Every time you separate again you are starting the whole process over.
    I actually think that having the new bird be a broody might be an OK thing,
    it will help her attain a place in the pecking order and ease the transition for her chicks.

    Provided you have the plenty of space, multiple feed/water stations, places to hide 'out of line of sight'(but not dead end traps) and/or up and away from aggressors.....that are all essentials 'tools' for integration.

    I might leave the fence partially open and see what happens....they may mostly keep to their respective spaces and eventually get used to each other.
    Seeing your setup might offer more specific suggestions.
     
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  9. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    I would do so as you free range.......They have seen but not touched for two weeks.....Try it.....It will probably be fine...The hen is ready to leave the Chicks, but she will protect them......The others will probably leave them alone....All you can really do is try it?



    Best of luck....


    Cheers!
     
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  10. Shezadandy

    Shezadandy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It sounds like it went as well as it could have- momma hen drew her boundary, the other hens respected it - like aart said, as long as it wasn't a bloody encounter, that may have been all there was to it. At this point I would absolutely try again with multiple resource stations so nobody gets cheeky and guards the only food/water. I'd still supervise for a while, i.e. don't open the gate and then leave, but it sounds like you're well on your way. =)
     
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