Chicken Integration No. 2

marli365

Chirping
5 Years
Jul 31, 2016
29
31
99
New Berlin, Wisconsin
I'm sorry if this is long, but I want your opinions so I want to give you a lot of detail.

About a month ago, we had a hawk take out two of my girls, which took us down to 5 ladies. We bought three 11-week-old Easter Eggers, who seem very large for their age, on Nov 30 (17 days ago). I have had them next door in their own coop, so they could see and interact with the flock through the fence, but with the pretty cold weather in Wisconsin right now, everyone seemed to be staying inside and not interacting. I will admit that when we first got them, it got super cold for a few days, so on and off I had a dog heat mat under them (hand-me-down), mostly at night and with a thick padding of newspaper on it, which I did not realize was pretty darn warm. (I have tried to leave it off as much as possible if it gets above 25 F or so.) Now I am leaving it off in hopes that they will toughen up and grow better feathers soon. But the external coop is kind of flimsy, not insulated, not a great winter coop, plus cramped for three largish birds.

These three now 13-weekers seem gawky, gangly and REALLY uncoordinated. (When they have gotten out of their cramped coop, flapping their wings sometimes makes them rise in the air and spin around uncontrollably.) The guy I got them from said they had never been outside the barn. I am not sure how much exercise they have ever gotten, but I feel like they need to get in the big coop where they can learn to use the ladder, perch bars, run around in the covered run, and meet the older ladies. I am starting to suspect that they are just big couch-potatoes. (With 8 birds, I have an 8X16 run, so 16 sq feet per bird now). The coop is about 4 X 5, but is about 5 feet tall with 3 different perches and a long ladder.

The other 5 birds are: 2 little bantams (Cara and Joni) that are 16 months old, their mother, a tinier bantam (Ginger) that is probably pushing 4 years old, a black larger bantam (Marilyn) (hatched by Ginger 2 years and 8 months ago) and Farrah, who is a large Americauna from Tru Value HW and is 2 years and 9 months old. (Cara and Joni's father, a black-tailed buff Japanese bantam (from the feed store 10 days old), was raised by Ginger but then later died of illness after impregnating her.)

I have gotten everyone out at the same time to meet over scratch now 4 or 5 days in a row for about an hour. (I wait until the weather warms up to a balmy 28 or 30 F) At first, the older ones pretty much ignored them, or muttered at them. While the older ones are out, I have placed the younger ones into the nesting boxes and they settle down for a nap and cuddle without seeming to want to explore the rest of the coop. I then reached in through the egg door to encourage them to get up and try the ladder or perch bars. That accomplished, I threw a tiny bit of scratch on the floor to get them to go DOWN the ladder or fly down from perch bars. They eyed it but then again, settled down on their feet to stay warm and stayed put. I then put one of them gently down on the middle rung to be closer to the scratch, so she did hop down and start eating. The other two followed suit. But whenever left to their own devices, they seem either incurious or - cold? In any case, they just hunker down in the corner of the back of the coop where I have a radiant plastic heater on the wall and cuddle together.

Both yesterday and today Ginger and Marilyn both made little runs at the (bigger than them) chicks in their coop, and vocalized a lot. Two days ago when the pullets were on perch bars, Ginger actually pecked the one next to her on her feet and drew a little blood. (I am suspecting that Ginger is getting deaf? She might not be able to hear that the pullets still make baby cheeping noises.)

If I do put them together after a few more days of interacting in the yard and trying to get them to learn the layout of the coop and run, my fear is that they will not be welcome in the coop at night and will try to cuddle up together in an old coop inside the run at night. (We can rescue them, but what a hassle - plus poopy knees.) Since it is cold at night, we close the chicken door from roosting time until dog walking time (about 4 pm to 8 am the next day). That leaves a potential of chicken beatings at bedtime and again in the morning before they can escape through the open door. (my second fear.) With them being so dang uncoordinated, it seems perilous. My ladies aren't mean, but these are still relative strangers.
Any tips of what more I can do to ensure a smooth integration? It is so much easier to do this in spring/summer/fall when the chicken door can just be left open for the picked-on to escape.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
12 Years
Nov 12, 2009
9,470
13,129
656
western South Dakota
Well you are way more patient than I am.

This is what I would do, in your run area - is it wide open where as a bird can see every other bird? If so add clutter, a lot of clutter. Cardboard boxes, roosts, platforms, boxes laid on their sides to make a wind break, places where birds can jump up on, and fly up too. Or duck behind and get out of sight. Ladders, old chairs, saw horses all work wonderfully. Small piece of plywood, totes are good too.

Then I would put some feed bowls in several place maybe 3-4 around the run. I would put them so that a bird eating at one, cannot be seen by a bird eating at another.

Then I would add the newbies, a few skirmishes, but no real wrecks, I would call that good. Once in a while, you will get a couple older birds that can be heartless, if so, put them where you have the pullets for a couple of days.

I would not put them in my nests, bad habit, and you will have yucky poopy eggs. If they are not roosting yet, I would just make a nest on the ground. When they see other birds roosting they will figure it out. I would not add ANY heat to birds that old, mine are off heat at about 3 weeks. I am in SD, so we know cold.

I would do all this on a week-end that you can keep an eye on them, and I would get down there early the first day. But sometimes I think you can almost draw out the whole integration thing too long. Sometimes it is just better to let them work it out. Too much interference just makes it long.
 

Anime2lover

Crowing
Apr 17, 2019
3,224
11,008
467
I'm sorry if this is long, but I want your opinions so I want to give you a lot of detail.

About a month ago, we had a hawk take out two of my girls, which took us down to 5 ladies. We bought three 11-week-old Easter Eggers, who seem very large for their age, on Nov 30 (17 days ago). I have had them next door in their own coop, so they could see and interact with the flock through the fence, but with the pretty cold weather in Wisconsin right now, everyone seemed to be staying inside and not interacting. I will admit that when we first got them, it got super cold for a few days, so on and off I had a dog heat mat under them (hand-me-down), mostly at night and with a thick padding of newspaper on it, which I did not realize was pretty darn warm. (I have tried to leave it off as much as possible if it gets above 25 F or so.) Now I am leaving it off in hopes that they will toughen up and grow better feathers soon. But the external coop is kind of flimsy, not insulated, not a great winter coop, plus cramped for three largish birds.

These three now 13-weekers seem gawky, gangly and REALLY uncoordinated. (When they have gotten out of their cramped coop, flapping their wings sometimes makes them rise in the air and spin around uncontrollably.) The guy I got them from said they had never been outside the barn. I am not sure how much exercise they have ever gotten, but I feel like they need to get in the big coop where they can learn to use the ladder, perch bars, run around in the covered run, and meet the older ladies. I am starting to suspect that they are just big couch-potatoes. (With 8 birds, I have an 8X16 run, so 16 sq feet per bird now). The coop is about 4 X 5, but is about 5 feet tall with 3 different perches and a long ladder.

The other 5 birds are: 2 little bantams (Cara and Joni) that are 16 months old, their mother, a tinier bantam (Ginger) that is probably pushing 4 years old, a black larger bantam (Marilyn) (hatched by Ginger 2 years and 8 months ago) and Farrah, who is a large Americauna from Tru Value HW and is 2 years and 9 months old. (Cara and Joni's father, a black-tailed buff Japanese bantam (from the feed store 10 days old), was raised by Ginger but then later died of illness after impregnating her.)

I have gotten everyone out at the same time to meet over scratch now 4 or 5 days in a row for about an hour. (I wait until the weather warms up to a balmy 28 or 30 F) At first, the older ones pretty much ignored them, or muttered at them. While the older ones are out, I have placed the younger ones into the nesting boxes and they settle down for a nap and cuddle without seeming to want to explore the rest of the coop. I then reached in through the egg door to encourage them to get up and try the ladder or perch bars. That accomplished, I threw a tiny bit of scratch on the floor to get them to go DOWN the ladder or fly down from perch bars. They eyed it but then again, settled down on their feet to stay warm and stayed put. I then put one of them gently down on the middle rung to be closer to the scratch, so she did hop down and start eating. The other two followed suit. But whenever left to their own devices, they seem either incurious or - cold? In any case, they just hunker down in the corner of the back of the coop where I have a radiant plastic heater on the wall and cuddle together.

Both yesterday and today Ginger and Marilyn both made little runs at the (bigger than them) chicks in their coop, and vocalized a lot. Two days ago when the pullets were on perch bars, Ginger actually pecked the one next to her on her feet and drew a little blood. (I am suspecting that Ginger is getting deaf? She might not be able to hear that the pullets still make baby cheeping noises.)

If I do put them together after a few more days of interacting in the yard and trying to get them to learn the layout of the coop and run, my fear is that they will not be welcome in the coop at night and will try to cuddle up together in an old coop inside the run at night. (We can rescue them, but what a hassle - plus poopy knees.) Since it is cold at night, we close the chicken door from roosting time until dog walking time (about 4 pm to 8 am the next day). That leaves a potential of chicken beatings at bedtime and again in the morning before they can escape through the open door. (my second fear.) With them being so dang uncoordinated, it seems perilous. My ladies aren't mean, but these are still relative strangers.
Any tips of what more I can do to ensure a smooth integration? It is so much easier to do this in spring/summer/fall when the chicken door can just be left open for the picked-on to escape.
Ees are a breed that typically like to run around. They aren't typically lazy. It seems to me that they need to have access to a larger space. With my winter we chicks this year, I found that when they were in the cooler areas though, they also huddled and didn't move for warmth under the nearest heat source. To fix the roosting problem, just repeat putting them on their roost every night. As for integrating them.... I've never integrated during winter to so I will ptf on that one.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Nov 27, 2012
100,732
144,019
1,867
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
(With 8 birds, I have an 8X16 run, so 16 sq feet per bird now). The coop is about 4 X 5, but is about 5 feet tall with 3 different perches and a long ladder.
Nice sized run, is it protected from snow and wind?
Some pics are always good.
Coop might have been a bit crowded for 5.
Adding 3 more is gonna be rough.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,060
22,764
907
Southeast Louisiana
All in all you are not doing that badly. As you've noticed size and them peeping like chicks doesn't matter. Mature chickens outrank immature chicks and are sometimes not shy about enforcing those pecking order rights. One of those rights is to not have their personal space violated. That may prove to be an issue in your tiny coop. It generally takes more room to integrate than for them to live together once they are settled anyway, room gets more important when there is a maturity difference. My pullets tend to hit that maturity level about the time they start laying.

Mine really hate a cold wind. They do not seem to mind cold but if a cold wind is blowing they are not out in it. I took this photo when it was 4 F, I left the pop door open and let them decide what to do. If it is calm they are outside. With a cold wind blowing they are somewhere sheltered. In addition to clutter you might consider wind blocks to make that run more usable in winter.

Ice.jpg


I think you are correct to be concerned about the time before dark and in the morning after they wake up. Locked in that small coop it will be very hard for the younger ones to avoid invading their personal space, let alone get away if attacked. When I'm integrating I don't care where my juveniles sleep as long as it is predator safe and not in the nests. I don't know what that second coop looks like but I'd probably be OK with them sleeping out there instead of in that other coop until you are comfortable leaving the pop door open so they can escape if they need to.
 

marli365

Chirping
5 Years
Jul 31, 2016
29
31
99
New Berlin, Wisconsin
I appreciate the feedback! A couple comments/questions:

* I thought there was a hard-and-fast rule about having a 30 day quarantine! I thought I would have been scolded for trying to combine the groups after only less than 3 weeks.

* I do have a bunch of obstacles / ladders/ an old coop / a tunnel in the run, so there are places to hide and jump to. I can see about adding more. I do have plastic and wood panels I put up to be windbreaks, but we have not had much snow yet, so I have not put them up.

*I also have two feeding stations - one out of sight, and usually two waterers (but only one is heated...)

* Since 4 out of 5 of my birds are bantams, 3 out of 5 tiny bantams, it does not seem crowded. I might have the coop size wrong. I will look for photos. But I have had 9 birds comfortably, when 7 were bantams and only 2 full-size birds. That is a good point about how they need more space during integration than they need for regular settled life.

*I usually have Ginger (mother of most) to raise the chicks, so she is usually the one to move them into the "big house" and they choose to sleep together in a nesting box. So that is what I assumed would happen with these 3. But since they don't have a mommy present, maybe I would be successful moving them to a perch bar at night when I move them in for good.

*Maybe I can let them be integrated during the day, then separate them for sleeping. That way they can get their pecking order squabbles started and the young ones can get practiced at using their legs/ wings/ bodies in a more coordinated way. Maybe they just need to have more room for exercise during the day.

*The hawk attack from a month ago really left a lasting impression on my birds. I am surprised about how freaked out they still are about stepping out into the open. Even if I am right there, they seem to have stopped considering me to be much protection and prefer to be under a trailer or inside. They seem to spend most of their day inside since it happened.

The coop and run are far enough from the house that I can't see what is going on. I can spend between one and two hours outside with them during this integration, but ultimately there will have to be some "unsupervised" time with them all together if the young ones are to get room to move around (not stuck in their actually tiny coop.) I will look for photos.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
12 Years
Nov 12, 2009
9,470
13,129
656
western South Dakota
Quarantine is not sharing the same air space, the birds are kept completely separate by a large space (300 feet?) and you change your shoes between groups, and some people their clothes.

Most back yard people do not have the option to quarantine. Two groups next to each other and quarantine is over.

I would just put them together, and walk out and check them several times. Being as you have clutter, could you rearrange it? That makes it a bit strange for everyone, sometimes helps. But from what you have described, I think you are a go. I don't count a single peck on a foot that big of deal.

Put them together and see what happens. Check about dark, are they settling down. Where they settle down is not the big of deal. Shut it up, go back out a couple hours and check again. Set the alarm, and get down there near daylight to open the coop.

Mrs K
 

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