Do mixed ages and breeds cause stress -- or not?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by deborahca, Dec 29, 2013.

  1. deborahca

    deborahca Out Of The Brooder

    It looks as if a lot of folks have mixed-breed flocks (I'm used to parrots, it's hard to think in terms of breeds rather than species, but I gather all domestic chickens are the same SUBspecies, let alone species) but Storrey's guide suggests that mixing breeds may lead to stress and problems. Has anyone found that to be they case? Storrey's also implies that adding younger chickens to a flock (i.e. when the older layers are no longer laying well) also causes stress and should be avoided.

    At this point, I'm looking at a flock of 3-4 hens who will be pets as well as layers (at this point, I'm not thinking in terms of "processing" them). If I really enjoy the experience, I can imagine doubling that, but if I retire my older hens, is it really a problem to add younger hens to the flock?
     
  2. Peep-Chicken

    Peep-Chicken Overrun With Chickens

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    I have a mixed flock, a couple bantams, some standard sized. When I added my new chicks, there didn't seem to be a problem. Although, when adding new chicks, but them in a enclosed cage were your hens can see them ad get used to them without hurting them.

    I have had no problems with either adding new chicks with older hens or mixed breeds. Sometimes it does vary from the breeds you are dealing with, most have no problem.

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  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Sometimes I'd like to spend a few minutes alone in a dark alley with the Storey's folks [​IMG]

    Chickens don't know breeds any more than any other animal does. I've always had mixed breed flocks and never had issues with it.

    Now, animals/birds that look or act different can have issues living in a flock. With chickens these are breeds like silkies, polish, sultans, birds that look very different to your standard dual purpose hen. Those breeds are often more docile, and often visually impaired due to feathers on the head, so they can have a hard time in a mixed flock. But most all breeds are going to get along just fine.

    Adding new birds does stress a flock, but folks do it every day. Thing to keep in mind is, a chicken can live 7+ years if no predators are involved. They can keep laying that long, but won't be laying very much. You'll have to balance egg production with number of hens you can keep.
     
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  4. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Agreed - lose the book. It is giving you bad information. I have a mixed flock, and have always had one. Get them at the same time, they grow up together, and other than the typical pecking-order squabbles (which will also happen when you have one breed), and they'll get along fine. Adding younger birds will temporarily upset the balance of the flock, but they'll sort themselves out. It also throws them if you remove a bird from the flock. Changing their food, coop, water bowl, weather conditions, and any other possible thing you could change also causes stress to chickens. In other words, chickens are easily stressed and change of any kind will cause it. But they do eventually adjust, and will be fine until the next change comes along.
     
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  5. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    Add bantams or small breed hens mixed with standard size fowl to that list.



    If you want aggressor hens, and target hens, by all means assemble a flock of varying ages, sizes, and dispossessions. If your yard or run is too small, sooner or later you will learn the true nature of the pecking order or the meaning of the term, "Survival of the fittest."

    The reproductive condition of a hen also seems to be tied to her place in the pecking order with a broody hen seemingly being a high or special status bird. Roosters even seem less willing to protect a hen who is not brooding or laying especially if she is unresponsive to his advances.

    A hen's major concern in life is, "If I hit you, will you hit me in return?" Unfortunately in a mixed flock, the answer is often NO. But it helps keep the hens guessing if all flock members are close to each other in terms of age, size and athletic ability. Breed has little meaning to a hen outside of size and athletic ability.
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Mixing chickens of different breeds may cause stress. Mixing chickens of the same breed may cause stress even if they are the same age and are raised together. It’s also possible that mixing chickens of different breeds or the same breeds may not cause any real stress.

    A piece of space junk may fall out of the sky and hit your house today. You may be involved in a fender-bender next time you are in a vehicle. The sun may shine today. The word “may “ is pretty powerful but it has a totally different meaning than the word “will”.

    I find the different breeds to be fairly irrelevant as long as you stay within the same type of chicken. I think Donrae covered that fairly well. Some “breeds” do have tendencies, such as some Game roosters tend to fight more than others. That’s because some strains have been bred to fight. You’ll find that some strains of Games don’t have that tendency because they have not been bred to fight. I find strain much more important than breed.

    What I mean by strain is that if I keep a flock of Delaware and only hatch eggs to keep for my breeding flock from hens that go broody a lot, I’ll soon have a strain of Delaware that tend to go broody a lot. If I purposely do not hatch eggs from the Delaware that go broody, I’ll soon have a strain of Delaware that does not normally go broody.

    All the books, articles in magazines, blogs, and posts on here are just people’s opinions, sometimes based on experience, sometimes based on what they’ve read but not experienced, and sometimes based only on a fertile mind. Each chicken has its own individual personality. We all keep them in different conditions and circumstances for different reasons. There is a lot of difference in a flock of 4 hens kept in a small backyard coop and totally enclosed run to a flock of many hens and several roosters raising chicks in a free range situation though there is a tendency with people to think all chickens kept in all different situations are exactly the same. They are not.

    There is a lot of good information in Storey’s. There’s a lot of good information in some of those magazines or in the posts people put on here. What you need to do is to try to figure out if the circumstances and conditions the people are talking about match yours closely enough that it might have some relevance.

    There is another aspect to it too. When some people see a chicken peck another chicken, it’s a national emergency. That chicken is a brute. Call out the National Guard to put the aggressor in timeout to teach it how to behave right. They are killing each other! Oh, woe is me! Civilization as we know it has just ended. Others among us may just see it as chickens being chickens and they are sorting out the pecking order so they can live together peacefully in a flock.

    So, will chickens of different breeds pick on each other? Not because of breed. Chickens of the same breed or different breeds might pick on each other because of many social things; age, pecking order, some chickens are just bullies and brutes, or just differences in the individual personalities involved.

    Will adding younger chickens to a flock that has some older hens cause stress. Practically always. Adding any chickens of any age to any flock will probably add stress until they sort out the pecking order.

    The big problem of adding younger chickens to your flock is space. There are other issues too and when you are getting ready to try it get back on this forum (or read up about it in the meantime) but many of us do that all the time very successfully. The more space you have the easier it normally is. The less space they have the more problematic it becomes. Sometimes when you add chickens like that it goes so smoothly you wonder what all the worry was about. Sometimes it gets pretty messy. I normally add 8 week old chicks to my flock and have never lost one but I have lots of space. If your space is tight, you might have a disaster trying to add them that young.

    We’ll help you through that when the time comes, but try to listen to someone that has conditions similar to yours so you have a better understanding of whose advice to follow.

    Good luck!
     
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  7. deborahca

    deborahca Out Of The Brooder

    I guess I should have clarified that I had the impression from Storeys that some people think mixing breeds is a real no-no that will totally screw things up. I get the "normal" stress of changes to flock structure, it's not that different from adding horses to a herd or new cats to an existing household. I did sort of want to get quite different-looking birds to start with. I can see the argument for staying with a similar size range, but do differences in build and plumage disadvantage some birds?
     
  8. StruckBy

    StruckBy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've been mixing not just breed, not just type, but species for years and have never had much of a problem. At the moment I have ducks, sebrights, and standard cochins in one flock. Prior to the last dog massacre I had ducks (several breeds), Wyandotte’s, silkies, New Hampshire reds, RIR, Americana, brahmaX, and Australops all together. For one year I had a pair of turkeys too. BUT, as was mentioned, the key for me is lots and lots of space. The smallest area I've ever kept birds in was a 8x8 coop with attached 20x20 run that was expanded to 20x40 within a year. And they free range on top of that space. I probably wouldn't mix silkies in with my feistier standards in a smaller area. As things are now, everyone breaks into cliques which pretty much ignore each other. The only time I've ever had a real problem was when I tried to add a rescued hen that had neurological problems. The others had a kill-on-sight policy with her no matter the integration method I tried. She was so sweet that I ended up buying 3 Australop chicks for her to raise. They accepted her even as adults & the ducks had always ignored her so it worked out to just have a second flock in a different area (feasible when you have 5 acres like we did then).

    Edited to add: The only thing in terms of odd feathers/size differences I haven't done at some point is Polish. Mine spend so much time free-ranging that they'd be hawk food pretty quickly. My silkies didn't have enough of a poof for it to interfere with vision.

    Edited again to add photo: (This was a really motley crew...there were 3 separate flocks that I inherited from other people. One of assorted banties, my mixed flock of standard layers, and a flock of heavy breeds. They all got along great but it was funny when the big brahmaX rooster decided his best friend was the tiniest bantam hen...she ruled his world but he adored her.)


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    Last edited: Dec 31, 2013
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I have never had any problems whatsoever mixing breeds or colors. I have raised turkeys with the flock too. All my chickens have been full sized breeds or full-sized barnyard mixes. I have raised Speckled Sussex, Buff Orpingtons, Black Australorps, and Delaware together. That's red, yellow, black, and white together. Nothing was screwed up. I don't know how I can be any clearer than that.

    I know I sound aggravated, but I'm really not. I'm just trying to be as clear as I can.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2013
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I don't know how many breeds you can see in this pic, but I had barred rocks, welsummers, easter eggers, production reds, red sex links, gold and silver laced wyandottes and speckled Sussex birds, plus all their mixes. You can see the stress in my flock lol. Oh, plus all those roosters that will absolutely, positively no doubt fight to the death the moment they see each other [​IMG], but that's another topic!
     

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