Flock integration; help appreciated

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by chikachika, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. chikachika

    chikachika Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 6, 2013
    Richmond, Virginia
    This is what I've done using a variety of resources and now this is what I've got. I started with 3 hand raised chicks and when they were 16 weeks old I bought 5 one day olds and brooded them inside until they were 5 weeks old, then segregated them with chicken mesh inside the coop. They lived there for 2 to 3 weeks, during which time I'd let them out during the day and supervise most of the time. They had plenty of places to hide where the hens couldn't fit. The hens would chase if they could and the Australorpe, in particular, was aggressive, while being 3rd in her own little flock and peaceable. Now I have 2 flocks and a certain amount of mayhem every night in the coup. I segregated the new ones at night behind the mesh for maybe a month and then would leave the mesh open, but keep some obstacles up so the big hens couldn't get back there and just recently took the mesh off and added 2 new roosts, lower than the established roosting plank used by the big girls.
    I have 5 eight week olds - sussex, RIR, silkie - who stay on opposite side of the yard and forage all over under brush, and three 24 week pullets (all laying now) who ignore them most of the day but when coop time comes I have loud, nervous peeping chicks terrified of the older ones coming in and then some pretty determined pecking and actual screams, then the 3 fly to their roosts and stay and the others never quite settle (monster in the closet is real!!). Two found the curtained nesting box and hide out of site in there. I have nooks and low and medium high roosts available for the young ones. Last night I did some rescue maneuvers because the young ones wanted to roost high on the farthest end of the big girls roost, but same board. the leader came over and started pecking and knocking them off. I used two fingers and a thumb and came from above and "pecked" the leader. OMG, she was frozen right where she was and didn't move at all, with her head on the board. She tried again and so did I and then she walked down to her side of the roost and took it out on the second in line, pecking and picking at her so she hid her head under the third's breast feathers. I then put up a privacy curtain between the two ends, cutting the roost in two visibly, and the newbies were all in a line, closing their eyes quiet, and the leader was cuddled with her two but occasionally sounding off with annoyed, low throated- bahhhhhhhhh.
    Do flocks stay separate? Have I unwittingly made matters worse by putting up the curtain? I have only a backyard, and a roomy coop for them. I want to add a couple more in the spring but want to iron out all the wrinkles I can before another attempt.
  2. One Chick Two

    One Chick Two Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 13, 2013
    It's good that you have hiding places in the coop for the younger chickens to go to. The flocks will eventually integrate. It took ours a bit of time to get along peacefully as well. You might want to consider removing the curtain- they need to work out their pecking order, just be there if you can to make sure no one gets badly hurt in the process.

    It's been a few months since merging our two RIR flocks (83 of different ages), and occasionally at night in the henhouse, we shift hens around when there are heated disagreements (our older hens can still be bullies sometimes and like to pick on the younger roos.). Recently, we also integrated 3 Old English Game Bantam hens (we had an Old English Game Bantam Roo in with our older hens while our RIR roos matured) and although the girls are little bigger than a hand, the integration went surprisingly smoothly.

    One day, one of the OEGB hens flew over the separating pen to be with the OEGB roo, and she ignored or evaded the much larger birds while she cuddled up to him- much to their pecking dismay. But, it was love at first sight for them. Now, the Bantys are all at home, but we move them at night on the roost sometimes so the much larger birds don't lay on them or crush them in corners. lol Sometimes we see one bird who will flop a wing over a banty and snuggled them close like a chick. lol They will integrate!

    P.S. I do the one peck thing on a bird's head too when they are seriously acting out (just index finger). I think it works wonders too.
  3. chikachika

    chikachika Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 6, 2013
    Richmond, Virginia
    All good to hear. Follow up tonight was a real surprise. I went to close the coop door and check on them with a flashlight and saw the miracle; at least for now. Most chick- aggressive hen (but number 3 in the original flock) on the top roost but displaced by 3 youngins in her favorite corner. Number one and two hen on the roost just below and 2 silkies on the lowest roost. All was very quiet and peaceful. I'll remove the curtain (no one on the other side of it) over the next couple days if they maintain this peace. The secret life of chickens; I wonder how this all got decided tonight after so many weeks of quarrels.
  4. 3chickchicks

    3chickchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 25, 2013
    N. Texas
    When I integrated some newbies, the older hens seemed to pick on them just because they could. Almost like a "I'll show you just how bad I am!" In a few days they got bored I guess or maybe it just wasn't worth the effort. Or perhaps the little ones learn what sets off the older ones.
    Occasionally there's a little squabbling over the roost but it's mild and quick.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2013
  5. Mtn Laurel

    Mtn Laurel Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 18, 2012
    Northern Virginia
    My Coop
    I had a similar problem and did the same thing. I hung a sheet up in one corner of the coop to create a little "hidey-hole" for the younger girls to escape to when the bigger hens were being bullies. Chickens seem to be rather "out of sight-out of mind" and would forget about the younger girls the minute they were out of sight.

    I left the sheet up longer than necessary [DH installed it with staples that I couldn't reach to remove] but it's finally down. The younger girls are now 6 months old but two older hens are now molting and are meaner than ever! Luckily, the younger girls have enough size and experience to stay out of their way and to not take so much bullying.

    They will all settle into a routine. There are still little spats but they all seem to forget them at bedtime and snuggle up on the roost. I wish they'd behave as well during the day!
  6. chikachika

    chikachika Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 6, 2013
    Richmond, Virginia
    Thanks for your stories.
  7. sarahr0612

    sarahr0612 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 7, 2013
    I have 3 chicken pens , we always let them free range in our yard though on days we are home. So we have 9 grown hens, and 12 younger pullets in the coops right now. To integrate them , we just let them all out into the yard at the same time so they have plenty of space to get away from each other if they need/want to. Now they can all graze together with no problem. Even my younger babies are out in the yard with the big girls. But at night they all go back to their separate roost. It's really worked for us.

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