Fast-tracking flock integration?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by bawkbawkbawk, Jan 22, 2016.

  1. bawkbawkbawk

    bawkbawkbawk Chillin' With My Peeps

    I didn't count the weeks very well. (Famously terrible at math). Somehow I thought that if I got baby chicks in January I could have them join the flock by the time we leave on a trip in March. Now I'm seeing a lot of caveats about 16-week minimum for integration and I'm not sure I can find a house sitter who is up to dealing with three vulture-like adolescents in a bathroom cardboard brooder plus the four adult hens outside in the coop.

    Here are the players:


    The new chicks will all be standard-sized fowl. One BO, one Australorp and a RIR

    Adult flock of four. Two are bantams (a D'Uccle and a Silkie), so size becomes less of an issue with them. The other two are a mild-mannered Barred Rock and a not-very-nice EE. She bullies the D'Uccle (who raised her as a broody hen!) mercilessly.

    Our plan has been to start giving the chicks forays in the pen while the big girls are out of the pen within the next week or so, so everyone can get a look at each other. (Mild California winters so brief outdoor exposure hopefully not a problem for the little ones.) Then, later (not sure how much later?) we thought we would put the little ones in a cage inside the pen while the big girls are also inside the pen. And then let everyone free range together. And then add the young ones to the coop about a week before we leave so we can supervise the ensuing mayhem. They would be 10-11 weeks old at this point. The BO and the Australorp are going to be fairly sizable compared to my existing flock. The RIR is so feisty I suspect she may be doing the bullying rather than being bullied by anyone.

    We are expecting trouble from the EE, and possibly the Barred Rock if she gets huffy, so our Plan B is to put those two in a time-out cage for several days if necessary while the new birds mix with the bantams.

    I was hoping to have everyone together by the third week of March. Has anyone had success with this kind of a schedule?

    Our pen is 10' x 24'. Hens free-range under supervision for at least a few hours a day. Coop is 10' x 6'. Two roosting bars.

    Thoughts? Advice?
     
  2. bigzio

    bigzio Overrun With Chickens

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    I would try and find a sitter to watch and care for the young ones....integrating before they are close to the same size could mean trouble....the older ones consider the space theirs, as well as the water theirs, and the food theirs....pecking order will be non-stop without a longer integration time....in my opinion.

    bigz
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    If you move the chicks into the coop or run right away, they can be integrated fully by the time you leave on your trip.

    What you do is create a brooder in a safe pen, either in the coop or in the run if it's sheltered from the weather.

    I assume the chicks are a couple weeks old already? No problem. Give them a week or two living alongside the adults, then open chick-size openings in the safe pen, around 5 x 7 inches. Let them start out with an hour at first, gradually increasing the length of time you leave the chick portals open.

    It won't take but a couple days for the chicks, who should be at least three weeks old before attempting to let them mingle, to get the idea of the portals and to use them to get back to safety. The more portals, the better. The 5 x 7 portals accommodate chicks until they're three months old, giving them safety and relief from the pecking order until nearly full grown. This allows you to merge chicks with adults far earlier than what "most recommend", although it's my opinion that what "most recommend" is full of it, flawed thinking, that is.

    By age five weeks, I move the chicks into the coop with the adults, but they should have at least two weeks of mingling with the adults first.

    I dubbed this concept the "panic room" system of integration. It hasn't failed me in nine batches of chicks being successfully integrated with the adult flock.
     
    2 people like this.
  4. bigzio

    bigzio Overrun With Chickens

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    Wow....is all I have to say.

    bigz
     
  5. mirandaleecon

    mirandaleecon Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have integrated several groups of chicks into my flock fairly easily and I don't think it ever took 16 weeks.
    I have a separate grow out pen that is in view of all of the adults. The chicks go in the grow out pen at a couple weeks of age (depending on the temp, between 2-5 wks) and a couple weeks later I start letting them free range with the rest of the flock. The first couple days some of the adults may bicker with them, but the little ones learn quickly to give the adults their space. The adults have never hurt any of the young ones since they have plenty of space to get away.

    After a couple weeks of them free ranging in the same area, my last batch of chicks decided on their own they wanted to sleep in the adult coop at about 2.5 months old. I did nothing to get them to go in there but I know that was mostly just luck.

    Since you don't have a grow out pen, I think what you have outlined would work pretty well. Same premise as what I do; let them see each other through a fence, then let them free range together. I do think you should try to supervise them for a little longer than a week after you put them together though. Maybe a week of through the fence, a week of free ranging, and then use as much time as you have left to make sure they can get along. If they don't get along (drawing blood type fighting, not just bickering) then I would go back to just free ranging together for a bit longer.

    I also think, if there is any way you could give them their own place to roost, that would be the easiest. Most of the bickering I see is at roost time...
     
  6. bawkbawkbawk

    bawkbawkbawk Chillin' With My Peeps

    Trying to interpret that "Wow". Impressed? Incredulous?

    @Azygous I have proposed to my husband that we set up a kind of coop/run inside the existing pen for the young'uns to use when they become unmanageable on the bathroom counter. Somewhere between a month and six weeks, perhaps. Sort of the same thing you are talking about here.

    But I think I will have a long talk with my house sitter to discuss the possible scenarios. She could be in for all manner of surprises depending on how this all goes...
     
  7. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    The advantage of moving the chicks sooner rather than later is to get them integrated into the flock while they are small enough not to present a threat to the adult flock. The longer you wait, the more difficult it is on the chicks.

    When I get new babies, they get set up in a brooder right in the pen. The blue box you see is their heating pad brooder. The chicks, even though just tiny babies, are observing the adult chickens' behavior and learning from it from day one. Then when they begin to mingle with the big chickens, they already understand how they behave, and what to expect from them.

    If you introduce your chicks to the adults at six weeks, they are already half grown by then, and while still small, they pose a bigger threat to the adults than tiny babies. There is a very complex social order that six-week olds will be going into cold, whereas if you move them in immediately, they will start learning right away while they are still small enough to slip in under the radar, so to speak.

    It's sort of like with us humans, there's a small window in a child's early development where they can learn foreign languages effortlessly, while it's so much more complicated as we get older. Chickens have a complex language, too, and chicks are born speaking it already, but they need to be in the flock in order to fully understand what it all means and how it's communicated. The younger they start this process, the better.

    If you have plenty of room and can construct a chick pen with room enough for you to go in and sit down and play with your chicks, it's way better than interacting with them in the confines of an indoor brooder. Besides, the dust and dander you're going to have in another couple of weeks, will make you want to burn your house down.
    [​IMG]

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    1 person likes this.
  8. bawkbawkbawk

    bawkbawkbawk Chillin' With My Peeps

    Now I am the one saying "Wow!". This is kind of a revolutionary concept! I don't know if we can pull it together to make this happen as quickly as you recommend, but I hope you are writing a book on your method because I think it is completely different from the conventional wisdom on the subject.
     
  9. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I've used the panic room technique, I call it the respite room...haha....
    .....and it was much less elegant than azygous' set up, but worked exactly the same.

    Used a wire dog crate, removing door and replacing it with a piece of 2x4 fencing bent up at the corner for chick access.
    By the tie they didn't fit in crate anymore they were integrated.

    It's actually in my coop partition and was integrating two groups of chicks.
    No heat needed thankfully and they all slept in their little huddle box until they would roost.
    These pics show the first iteration, I later removed the crate door,
    moved the fence section down lower bending the corner up for the chicks access to the 'respite room'.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016

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