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Free ranging integration question

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by jp57, May 24, 2018.

  1. jp57

    jp57 Chirping

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    I have two barred rock girls that are about 12 weeks old now. I have had them since the were one week old. They have always been together. I would have to pick them both up together as chicks because they always liked to be able to see each other (or they would freak out). For the last 4 weeks, they have been outside. I have a coop inside of an enclosure, and they are in a covered puppy pen also inside the enclosure. The coop is home to 3 buff orpingtons and 3 ameraucana that are a little over a year old now. They have not acted aggressive toward the barred rock. They have gathered around to watch them eat sometimes. I want to let the barred rocks free range with my other girls, but I was concerned that instead of staying with the older girls and learning from them, they would want to keep to themselves. Should I try keeping them in the enclosure together before letting them free range. I have 5 acres and am worried that they will go off on their own and get eaten by something or lost in a cornfield.
     
  2. chickengirl778

    chickengirl778 Songster

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    Probably some time in the enclosure would be good, but you should probably watch them the first few times to make sure they don't injure each other. They will need to fight it out a little bit, but just make sure they don't get hurt :)
     
  3. Sparrowsong98

    Sparrowsong98 Songster

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    Take them to the run and let them have a "playdate" with the big girls and watch to see how they act. If the big girls peck at them or chase them, make sure to impress upon them that that is not ok, but do not take the little girls away unless blood is drawn. Keep repeating for a few hours every day until they seem to be nice to them. Then start leaving them alone for short periods of time. "Alone" can mean you sit ten or so feet away and watch to see how they act. If everything goes fine, then leave them alone for longer, and if everything goes fine then they have moved in. Do not worry about them getting lost. Chickens always come home to roost, and they will stay near the other girls. They might not get very close, but they will follow and observe from a distance, and will not go wandering at least for the first week, and by then they will know the territory enough to be fine. I would suggest integrating them with the rest of the flock in a run before free ranging them all because the dig girls might chase the new ones away and get them lost if they decide they dont like them.
     
    egodfrey1991 and Cyprus like this.
  4. jp57

    jp57 Chirping

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    Here is a picture of my set up. This picture is from last year when I first got my other girls moved outside. The coop doesn't have a large run, so I built the enclosure for it. Since they free range, I didn't think they would need a large one. The barred rocks are inside the enclosure in a puppy pen. They are on the right side of the coop towards the front. They have been there for 4 weeks now.I could try keeping them in the enclosure together. They would have enough room and maybe get into the coop.
     

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  5. lcwmt

    lcwmt Songster Premium Member

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    Waving hello from outside of Townsend MT <G>.
    All I can offer is my recent experience. My youngsters [3 barred rocks and 3 EE including one that is hoped to be a roo] are 7-9 weeks old, the big girls [a buff orp, 2 EE and a bantam] are 13-14 months old and free range at will.
    About a month ago the littles went out to the grow-out coop/run. They were secure, had their own food and water and a place to roost overnight. For the first few days the big girls were curious, watched through the sides, made no aggressive moves.

    After a good growth spurt I started letting the littles out for an hour at a time. The older girls were interested but that's all. The outdoors time was gradually expanded. I watched to see that they knew where "home" was.
    At this point, everyone gets let out when day begins here. They are all excited to the same degree. Each day the younger ones expand their territory a bit. The older girls will go in the chickies' run and eat their crumble, everyone shares the multiple waterers. (I'm looking forward to getting everyone on All Flock!)
    The Buff gestures at any younger who comes near while she is eating. It is not violent, just an assertion, respected by the younger bird.
    The younger girls will hang out in the main run but still go to their coop to roost.
    So far the two groups will overlap but still seem distinct. They are sharing spaces, sharing feeders, mingling. It might be different for you with only 2 newbies.
    Once our coop addition is complete and the younger girls are same size as the hens they will get put in that coop at roosting time. I expect them to fully integrate then.

    My advice, based only on my experience is to start letting your barred rocks out into the main run, leaving them access to their secure place. Watch them but don't interfere as everyone gets oriented to the larger group.

    As for how far anyone wanders: We have over 13 hilly acres with 80 acres of BLM at one fence line and a county road at the other with just a short run of fence adjoining another private property (it's an oddly shaped parcel). The chickens stay reasonably close to the house. They like the garden beds, going under the deck and juniper trees and are absolutely tuned into their nesting boxes and coop.
    They have two dogs and a cat keeping track of them. So far nobody seems to get out of range. We do not have neighbors or stray dogs and are high and dry so no raccoons. The aerial predators have an ample food supply and are easily deterred by the dogs. Likewise for the coyotes.
    Good luck! It's all an adventure.
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging 9 Years

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    Generally, the juveniles form subflocks that have overlapping home range with adults, but the subordinate subflocks tend to avoid the dominant subflocks. They are still in communication even though it is not always pleasant. I a running four subflocks now where conflicts are restricted to roosting time and deal with sequence everyone goes to roost.
     
    egodfrey1991 and deepbluesea like this.
  7. jp57

    jp57 Chirping

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    Roosting time was a concern. My older girls already fight going into the coop at night. My other concern was food. I can make a small door on the puppy pen so the older ones can't get to the younger one's food. How do I keep the younger ones away from the older one's food without keeping the older ones from eating? Meaning not keeping the layer feed inside the enclosure.
     
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing 8 Years

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    Use a flock feed or give everyone chick feed, and supplement with oyster shell on the side, the chicks won't touch it.

    I truthfully don't think you will have any problems. As you free range your hens, lock them out of the set up, and put your chicks into the big set up, so that the chicks can explore the area without threat of pursuit for a day. Do it a couple days, and then turn out with the big girls, they will know this is home. You might set their shelter in the big run for a bit too. Later you can pull it out.

    Looking at your run, it looks pretty bare and empty. Adding some stuff to the run, will let you use some of that vertical space. It will make the run look more cluttered, but will actually increase the area the chickens can use, as they can get under in the shade, and on top to bask in the sun.

    I am amazed you can free range, as that wide open space would be prime for hawks and predators. Your established flock will not protect the chicks from predators.
     
  9. jp57

    jp57 Chirping

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    My property is surrounded by cornfields, but I have a lot of trees and 8 buildings on my property that they can hide under or around. Plus once the corn is grown it, it cuts of a lot of visibility. I've had one instance where a hawk was going after one of my girls. I saw it as it was happening and ran out and screamed at the hawk which then took off. I wanted to close the young ones in the enclosure alone, but the nesting boxes where my girls lay are in the coop. I didn't know if that would agitate the older ones seeing the younger ones in the area that they are trying to get into to lay.
     
  10. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing 8 Years

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    Well you can do it later in the morning, or set out a temporary nest, kind of hidden, my girls love a new place to lay.
     

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