Getting new birds and a new house-how to manage?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by potato chip, Jan 3, 2016.

  1. potato chip

    potato chip lunch-sharer

    I'm intending to get another 2 chooks to go with my 4 isa browns. I've read the info about how to introduce new chickens to existing chickens, but I'd like some advice as to how best to go about it when I'm also getting a new chook house.

    The girls' existing house (and small attached run) is inside a fenced run. I'm going to put the new house somewhere else so I'll have 2 houses to work with. The info suggests that putting everyone together in 'neutral territory' can help with territorial disputes, but it's also suggested to separate everyone and let them interact through a fence before letting them loose together, so I'm a bit confused as to how to approach it.

    Should I leave my girls where they are, put the new girls when they come in the new house, or move my girls and put the new girls in the old house and run?

    My girls are let out every day, they don't stay just in their run. The new house's attached run is smaller than the run where the existing house is. I could put the new girls in there, let my girls carry on with their existing "routine" and they could see the new girls in the new house. Let the new girls out for a bit while the girls stay in their run???? I wouldn't want an new chooks to get territorial over the new house, but if there's only 2 of them and 4 of the "old" girls, would it matter if they did think the house was just for them??

    Also, what sort of timeframe would stop territorial feelings about the new house, if that's an issue?

    What would you do/suggest as to how to go about not only introducing "new people" but making the move of everyone into the new house (eventually)? I'd love for somebody experienced to just tell me "do it this way" because I'm driving myself nuts [​IMG]

    Thanks.
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    There's no right way, pick one, commit to it, and be ready to step back and try something else, I think the biggest problem you will have is keeping your original hens from trying to get in their old coop, expect to need to round them up for a while before they think of it as their home. I might house them in separate coops for a bit, letting them free range together before trying to put them in the same coop. Sorry there's no right way, every flock is different.
     
  3. potato chip

    potato chip lunch-sharer

    Thanks, I'm not sure they'll have a problem with it, they only go in there when I call them to make them go inside, armed with food. I think they'd follow me wherever I took their "time to go inside bribery". I'm not saying they aren't clever, they just keep it well disguised under a veneer of "you move, we follow" "you throw food, we go for food" [​IMG] Of course, that won't help them find their feeder if they are used to going back to the coop for their tucker. I'm not sure how they eat their pellets, or when, I just leave it to them and fill up the feeder when the food runs out. I don't know whether they go in there during the day or not.
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Hopefully the new coop/run has plenty of room for all the birds...

    I'd put out multiple feed/water stations, places to hide out of line of sight(but not dead end traps) and up and away from aggressors,
    then put them all in at once and leave them there for a few days.
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    OHLD is right, there are many different ways that can work. In spite of what you read on here, most of the time these things go pretty smoothly. People are a lot more prone to talk about their problems than their successes.

    How old will the new chickens be? What are the sizes of the old and new facilities, coops and runs? That kind of information might help in coming up with specific suggestions. I’ll make some suggestions anyway.

    First consider quarantine. It can be a powerful tool but like any tool it needs to be used in the right circumstances and in the right way. Chickens can develop flock immunities and no matter how long you quarantine them they will not show any symptoms. Coccidiosis is a prime example but there are others. It could be your existing flock as easily as the others. If your new chickens are coming from a flock that has not been exposed to other chickens for months, quarantine may not be very effective. If they are coming from a place where they have recently been exposed to other chickens, like a chicken swap, where new chickens are regularly introduced, or a chicken show, quarantine can be very important.

    Chicken diseases can be spread by walking on the same ground, sharing drinking water or food, certain vectors like mosquitoes, or just carried on air currents. The better your isolation the better your quarantine. That can mean changing shoes when you go from one flock to the other and not using the same buckets for feed and water, or even the same feed storage container, however far you want to carry it.

    If you wish, one variation of quarantine would be to select a potentially sacrificial member of your current flock and put her with the new chickens to see which, if any, get sick. This will help protect against the flock immunities issue.

    I’m a big advocate of building in flexibility to your facilities. My management is different than yours. I let broody hens hatch chicks and raise them with the flock. I hatch in an incubator and raise them in a brooder so I’m often integrating new quite young chickens. Mine is a closed flock, that means I only add new chickens by getting hatching eggs or buy from an established hatchery. I do not expose them to any other chickens so their risk of disease is pretty low. It appears yours is a hens-only flock and you will bring in new pullets or hens when you need to so your requirements are different than mine. You might want to isolate your new facility so you have a quarantine facility.

    I find it extremely handy to have a second coop on the far side of my main run. I have it set up so I can close a gate and section off the run so both groups share a common fence. I also have an area inside electric netting so mine have a lot of room, though they don’t totally free range. I find them having lots of room really helps in integration.

    There are a few different parts to integration. You won’t have multiple roosters so that simplifies it. The first is that chickens recognize which individuals are part of their flock. Occasionally, not often but occasionally, one chicken will attack strange chickens, especially if their territory is being invaded. This is where housing them side-by-side for a week or more helps. It doesn’t totally solve the problem but it can help a lot if you have one of those aggressive chickens.

    Then you have the pecking order. Each chicken needs to know where it stands in the social hierarchy of the flock. Rank has its privileges. If two chickens that don’t know where they rank meet, usually one invades the personal space of the other, one will try to dominate the other, usually through pecking. What usually happens is that one runs away from the other. While there may be some chasing and future reinforcements, they soon sort this out with little drama. Occasionally they will be fairly evenly matched so they fight. It normally doesn’t take long for one to decide they are better off running than fighting so it ends peacefully as long as they have room to run away and get away. Providing lots of room when they meet is important.

    Whether you have a rooster or not, one chicken will become the dominant flock master. This can be the cause of one chicken attacking another, nothing to do with protecting territory, recognizing them as a part of the flock, or the pecking order, though it has a lot of similarities to pecking order resolution. Two chickens might fight but normally it doesn’t take long for one to run away. There may some chasing and even attacking until they decide which is the dominant one. Some can be more stubborn than others in accepting the other’s dominance.

    If you have enough room there is usually not a whole lot of drama associated with any of this, but occasionally a chicken can die from this. When you deal with living animals you don’t get guaranties. You have room, you should be fine.

    One approach is that you house the new group in the new facility until they accept it as home, maybe a week. In the meantime let your other hens continue to roam so they can see the new ones. Once the new ones accept it as home and they have seen each other for a while, let them all roam together during the day but sleep separately at night. Age is a factor but they will probably form two separate flocks roaming independently. Separate feeding and watering stations are good to have to minimize conflicts.

    After a couple of weeks of this, as long as they are not still fighting or chasing or if the new chickens are not pretty young, take the older hens from the roosts at night and move them to the new facilities, locking them in there for the night. Be there kind of early to let them out the next morning until you gain confidence you won’t see a disaster if you are late letting them out. You can lock the door to the old coop to keep them from going in there at night to help them with the transition or keep moving them from the roosts until they get the message and start sleeping in the new facilities. If you lock the door it will help them switch faster but they may try to roost near the old facility for a while. You still have to move them until they start sleeping where you want them to.

    You still have the problem that they are still laying in the old facility. I’d let them for a while, until they are sleeping in the new coop, then once they are all happy together lock the old coop and lock them all in the new coop and run until they are committed to laying in the new nests. Then you can let them range again. This will probably take a week or so.

    Sounds pretty involved, doesn’t it. It is and is probably unnecessary. All this assumes your new coop and run are dangerously small. If your new coop and run are decent size, avoid most of this by locking all of them in the new coop and run together until they are laying in the new nests and sleeping in the new facility. Lock the old coop so they don’t go back there after you let them range again. Do this after they have ranged together for a few weeks. This is why the size of your new facilities, coop and run, are so important. Squeezing them into the least possible space makes your life a lot harder and increases the chances that they will hurt each other. Providing sufficient room makes this a whole lot easier.

    With only six hens total you really don’t need that much room, especially if you let them range together for a while. Just don’t try to shoehorn them into the least possible space.
     
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  6. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I'm not real clear about what you plan on doing with the original coop after you build the new coop. I recommend keeping it and incorporating the living/roosting space into your infrastructure. It will provide a lot more options than having a single coop.

    I have two coops on each end of a connecting enclosed run. Three years ago, I raised five Welsummer chicks and installed them in the second, empty coop. Then this year, I moved those five into the main coop with all the rest, and I raised several new chicks and they moved into that second coop when they were old enough. It really made integration a breeze.

    However, a few months later, three of the original five Welsummers decided on their own to move back to the coop in which they started out, and it went just fine with the new chicks already in there. But it doesn't always work out. I'm lucky they all get along okay.

    Chickens are extreme creatures of habit, so keep that in mind if you decide to change where they live. Installing new chicks or adult chickens into a new coop is no problem, but don't expect it to be a walk in the park to move your chickens from one coop to the other unless it's their own idea.
     
  7. potato chip

    potato chip lunch-sharer

    The new one is 3m x 1.5 (about 10ft x 5 ft in imperial), with an enclosed house 1.5 x 1.2 and the rest a meshed run (with a roof, it's not open on top). I'll also set up another fenced run (star-pickets and mesh) around the new one. They are let out during the day and my backyard is pretty big (it's a 850 sq m block with a single house on it, not sure how big the backyard is, but it's pretty big)
    Quote: They can be any age (but old enough to eat "grownup" food, I have no idea how to look after babies), whichever is the "best" age to go for. (having said that, if I come across some poor chooks being "rehomed", I could adopt more adults instead of getting "new" ones, I'm a sucker for taking in "strays").

    Quote:
    See above for the new one, the existing house/run is 900x2300 (house 1m, run 1.3). The yard around it is, I don't know, 6m x 6m? They only go in the yard if I want them out of the way to get something done without stepping on chooks, otherwise they've got the whole backyard.

    Quote: Yes, I've read the "instructions" as to keeping them apart.
    Quote: Yes, because they are "adopted" and I don't know their full history, they could "have something". All I know is that they seem healthy, they eat and run about and do "chook things" - but that could be because they have immunity to anything-they've-been-exposed-to in the past.
    Quote: I'm looking at getting them from a "chicken farm", so I expect they would only have been exposed to the chickens at the farm. It may be that the "babies" would be more at risk from my girls than the other way around......

    Quote: Sounds a bit mean to the "sacrificial" one, but it's better that only one got sick than everybody. I'd just pick one up at random, I couldn't do a "Sophie's Choice". [​IMG]

    Quote: Yes, it would probably be a good idea to keep the existing house in case somebody needs to be separated for some reason.

    Quote: I find it hard to imagine that any of my girls would be "like that". I had some chickens years ago, and one was quite obviously "top chicken" with the others her hand-maidens, but with these girls none stands out as the leader, they seem more "equal" and nobody seems "bossy" towards the others (although there is one that I'd say is the "runty one", always last)
    Quote: Will young hens just take their place in submission to an older girl (in dogs, puppies will usually just submit) or can a "baby" still have aspirations to be in charge? If babies will just take their place in line, will they challenge later on, when they hit puberty?

    Quote: Also, they don't have to compete for food, I can put multiple feeders, and when I chuck out the scratch mix, I chuck it in a couple of directions, some can go over here, some can go over there. I (as a non-chicken) don't see that they'd have anything to fight over.

    Quote: Thanks, I was mostly concerned about "this is MY house" territoriality, but it seems that it is more a question of personalities than of location/"stuff".
    Quote: They never "go home" by themselves, they are hanging around outside the back door, they just follow me "home" and I put them inside.

    Quote: They seem to do all their eggs early in the morning before they get let out. Sometimes, they'll go back in the day, but mostly I find the day's "quota" sitting there first thing. If they are shut in the new coop, I'd expect them to do their eggs in there?

    Quote: Well, I think it's ok, but that's why you sign onto forums and find things out before you do something.... What do you think?

    Originally Posted by azygous [​IMG]
    Quote: I could/will keep it and stick it in the fenced run, but it can't really be incorporated in the new house/run (and I don't want to have to be fetching eggs from more than one location, or cleaning 2 houses). It is handy having options for housing if anyone gets sick, or starts fighting or something.

    Quote: I will probably be proved wrong, but I don't feel that my girls have that much attachment to their existing coop, moreso to the food that goes in there. [​IMG]
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Will young hens just take their place in submission to an older girl (in dogs, puppies will usually just submit) or can a "baby" still have aspirations to be in charge? If babies will just take their place in line, will they challenge later on, when they hit puberty?

    Mature chickens always outrank immature chickens. When they mature, with pullets often when they start laying, they force their way into the pecking order. Usually it’s pretty peaceful, but not always.

    Also, they don't have to compete for food, I can put multiple feeders, and when I chuck out the scratch mix, I chuck it in a couple of directions, some can go over here, some can go over there. I (as a non-chicken) don't see that they'd have anything to fight over.

    When they fight it’s for social position and the privileges that go with social position, not over food. An example might be where they want to sleep. The higher ranking one sleep wherever they want to. One way they pull rank is to keep the younger ones away from the feed. It’s pure intimidation. That’s why multiple feeders works well.

    They seem to do all their eggs early in the morning before they get let out. Sometimes, they'll go back in the day, but mostly I find the day's "quota" sitting there first thing. If they are shut in the new coop, I'd expect them to do their eggs in there?

    They are creatures of habit. Once they pick a nest spot they want that nest spot. If they are locked where they can’t get to their normal nest, they will pace and desperately look for a way out so they can get to their nest. But after a while they give up and lay it in a new spot.

    Well, I think it's ok, but that's why you sign onto forums and find things out before you do something.... What do you think

    I think they’ll be OK all locked in that new facility. I’d still house them separately for a couple of weeks and let them roam together during the day but sleep separately before I tried it.

    Good luck!
     
  9. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    Remember the old question, "Where does a 500 pound gorilla sleep?" The answer is any darn place he wishes.

    Chickens are no different.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016
  10. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Personlly, I find the more you mix it up the better. I would not get the new chickens until you have the new coop set up and ready to go, then I would put everyone in there, and lock up the old coop for a couple of days so that they can't lay or sleep in there. Throw some grain just in the chicken door of the new coop, and they should all figure it out. With a new run and coop to everyone, you lose the territory rights.

    Mrs K
     

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