Getting Prepared

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by milola, Mar 7, 2013.

  1. milola

    milola Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have sooo many questions, but I know I will get great answers from everyone here.

    My plan is to have a 6'x8' coop with an 8'x12' run with daily out of run free ranging. Will that be enough space for 7 chickens? And on that note two of the seven I get will be ready to lay and of the other 5 one will be a rooster. I want to do it this way because I was hoping it would be easier to integrate a young rooster into just two hens rather than integrating five or six pullets to an old rooster and an older hen. Does that sound like it would be easier or will it not matter.

    Also my time line is going to be first getting the chicks (including a rooster) and while they are growing build the coop, then get the two that will be close to laying. Will that be about the time the chicks are ready to go into the coop? Say they would be about 5 or 6 weeks old. Would they be close to their adult size so that they wouldn't be picked on? If not how old should they be before I attempt to integrate? Also if I were to wait until the chicks are of adult size, and then get the two ready to lay pullets could I just put them into the coop all at the same time and have it work because it would be new to all? I will be getting them all from the same place so I would assume it wouldn't be necessary to go through a quarantine period even though they would be brought home separately. Please correct any of my misconceptions. This will be my first ever attempt at this. I just remember as a kid at grammas having fresh eggs and am looking forward to maybe giving my grandkids that same experience.
     
  2. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

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    I usually wait until the younger ones are at least 12 weeks before I put them with the older chickens.... 16 weeks is even better.

    But is sounds like the coop and run will be perfect for the 7 birds.

    Good LUCK!!
     
  3. cmoore333

    cmoore333 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    At five weeks, they are still pretty small, not even half the size of my full grown ones... I know mine are:) I have just put mine outside in thier own little coop that we have for when they are just going outside:) it has it's own little run to keep them in and thie older ones out.. I would say another 5 weeks and my babies (yes I call them my babies) will possibly be the same size as my older crew, where they will be able to intergrated, in the yard...:)
     
  4. milola

    milola Chillin' With My Peeps

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    OK so I need to wait longer to put them together. So what about the rooster arrangement? Or should I not bother with a rooster. I am not planning on breeding anymore chicks. I just want them for the eggs.

    Also I am wanting to just have Dominiques. They are ready to lay at 16 weeks, right? So if that is the case could they all eat the feed for layers at that point or do I wait till they actually lay their first egg. Who would have thought having chickens would be so complicated.
     
  5. cmoore333

    cmoore333 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I got my rooster with two of my ladies, and he took over the floor relatively quickly( very protective of his ladies and a wonderful guard chicken of the yard...), I just recently adopted four more hens and I kept them in a seperate pen for three weeks (my plan was supose to be a month, but three of the ladies jumped over my five foot fencing... ) so they got used to seeing each other every day, after two days of them mixing all 9of mine (including 1rooster where all sleeping in the same coop)

    Chickens that are younger, before they start laying, should not eat layer feed until they start laying or close to it... My babies will stay in thier coop until they are old enough to eat the layer feed (well that's my plan) if they do end up getting out with the older ones once they get transferred to the jr pen I have, I'll just put everyone on the babies feed, and take away the Layer feed till the youngest are old enough to have it( I believe 6 months)
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    :frow Welcome to the forum! :celebrate Glad you joined us! :frow


    I don’t know where you live but in practically any climate that coop and run should be plenty big enough for six hens and a rooster. I suggest you start building before you get the chicks. They grow up really fast and if you have electricity out there, you can raise them in the coop. You don’t have to have the brooder in the house. They create a lot of dust, make noise, and could possibly smell. Many people are really happy to move them from the house to the coop.

    I’m not sure why you are so insistent on bringing in two point-of-lay pullets instead of raising them all together. Raising them together would make integration so much easier. We integrate all the time so it can be done but it is much simpler and less risky if they are all the same age, whether that is chicks or all older. It sounds like you have options so I’d suggest you look for a way to get them all about the same age. A whole lot of problems with integration go away then.

    At 5 weeks age in most climates and weather the chicks will be OK in the coop without additional heat or anything like that. That will depend some on breed and how well they can stay out of breezes while they are out there, and some on how cold it actually gets, but most should be OK.

    At five weeks they will not be grown however. That age difference between POL pullets and 5 week old chicks causes some integration concerns. You present so many possible options it’s hard to talk about them all. So maybe talking about some of the potential problems is a better way to approach this.

    First, chickens are living animals. Nobody can tell you how an individual will react each and every time. They do have tendencies though, so we can sometimes tell you how they will probably react. One of those tendencies is that they tend to be brutal bullies when given a chance.

    I guess talk about the rooster first. He will go through three different stages. As a young chick he will not really be any different from the pullets. But when he hits adolescence, the hormones kick in and his behavior changes. Those hormones running wild in him want him to mate a lot and to become the dominant chicken. He has not matured enough to be able to control himself and his techniques can be pretty rough. A lot of young roosters are killed because of their behavior at this time. By the way, the pullets are going through hormone changes during adolescence too but their change generally comes a bit later and is not so obvious. Eventually most roosters mature enough to learn to control themselves and greatly improve their technique if given enough time to mature.

    At what age does adolescence kick in with roosters? It varies. Some may start about 11 weeks. Some don’t start until they are around 20 weeks. I’d say 15 weeks is a pretty good average but they don’t all start at the same time. When do they switch from adolescence to maturity? Again it varies. I’ve seen some in control of themselves as young as 15 weeks, though that is highly unusual. I’ve seen some take closer to 11 months to really mature, though I usually eat them if they haven’t caught on a lot younger.

    You generally don’t have to worry about a mature rooster that is the dominant flock master when you integrate. I’ve never seen a mature flock master threaten to injure a chick. Often, but not always, the mature flock master will help a broody with her chicks. Most will accept any pullet or hen into his flock. Immature roosters or non-dominant roosters can be as brutal as the hens however. That can be pretty brutal.

    You can run into some problems when integrating an immature adolescent rooster into a flock that has older mature hens. Mature hens tend to want a rooster to behave like a gentleman and do his duties as the flock master. They want him to find them food, keep peace in his flock, dance before attempting to mate, keep watch for predators, basically provide for his flock as a good rooster should. Some hens will squat for practically anything wearing spurs, but most want a rooster to WOW! them with his magnificence and maturity, not act like a spoiled brat. Not only will they resist his advances, they just might beat the tar out of him to teach him his manners.

    With integration you have a few specific things to worry about. In any of them, the more space you have the better. Chickens have developed ways to avoid conflict in a flock. One very basic way is that the weaker runs away or just avoids the stronger to start with. It really helps for them to have room to run away and avoid. You should have enough room for that with the numbers you are talking about, so that part should be manageable for you. I do suggest providing extra feeding and watering places so the weaker ones can eat and drink without challenging the older ones.

    Chickens can learn to recognize the members of their flock and may attack any strangers. It’s also quite possible they will welcome new chickens into a flock without this problem. You just don’t know how they will react. But if you can house them where they can see each other but not get to each other for a week or so, you can really help minimize this potential problem.

    Another thing is the pecking order. Chickens need to know where they all stand in the social order of the flock. Once the pecking order is established, things normally go pretty well, but establishing the pecking order can be pretty brutal. It involves intimidation, pecking, and sometimes pretty serious fighting. What normally happens when two chickens that haven’t worked out the pecking order invade each other’s space is that one pecks the other or somehow tries to intimidate it. If the other chicken runs away, order is restored. There may be a bit of chasing involved, but the other simply running away usually solves it. If it does not run away, it is considered a challenge and things can get pretty bad. So again it helps for them, to have enough room to run away. Some hens can be pretty brutal about this and may give serious chase. Running away does not always solve this problem, but it usually does.

    The other thing is that mature chickens always outrank immature chickens. Older hens have a tendency to be brutal toward younger chicks. The younger the chicks the higher the risk. If chicks are raised by a broody hen with the flock, this is generally not a problem. The broody usually has such a bad attitude about any other chicken threatening her babies that she quickly teaches them to leave her babies alone. Younger chicks without a broody to protect them are certainly at risk. The younger they are the greater the risk.

    You can never be absolutely guaranteed you will never have problems when you integrate new chickens of any age. The make-up of the different flocks, the amount of room you have, and how you go about it makes a lot of difference, but occasionally you get a chicken that is just a total brute.

    The less space you have the more likely you are to have problems. I have lots of space and house them side by side in the coop from day one. I generally let them loose to run with the flock about 8 weeks of age, but they have their own separate sleeping quarters. I’ve seen a broody wean her chicks and leave them on their own with the flock at three weeks. I certainly don’t recommend three weeks for you. That would probably be a disaster. If space is really tight, it is probably pretty wise to wait until the young ones are practically grown, which could be 16 to 20 weeks old and you are still likely to have some problems if space is really tight.

    In all this I haven’t given you a lot of specific directions on what to do. I don’t give guarantees with living animals. Hopefully you can get something out of this that will help you. There are many ways you can go about doing what you are talking about and be successful. I wish you good luck.
     
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    You don’t need a rooster unless you want fertile eggs. Anything else is just personal preference.

    I’ve had pullets start to lay at 16 weeks. I’ve had some start at 9 months. There are no guarantees. A more normal age for the first one to lay might be around 20 weeks but it can certainly take a lot longer.

    The problem with feeding Layer to growing chicks is that the extra calcium can harm their internal organs. Once they are more mature they can better handle that extra calcium but I don’t know what that magic age is. Once they start to lay, it should be safe. Another approach is to continue to feed them Grower, Flock Raiser, whatever other feed you were feeding them and just offer oyster shell on the side. The ones that need the extra calcium can get it and the ones that don’t need it shouldn’t eat enough to damage themselves. That’s a real common approach for many of us.

    We tend to make keeping chickens a lot more complicated than it really is. As long as you provide food, water, shelter, and space, it really isn’t that hard. It tends to get a lot more complicated for a lot of people on this forum because they are often in suburbia where space is tight and they don’t have the experience to know what to expect or what is really required. But if you can keep the size of your flock down to match your facilities, it usually works out really well.
     
  8. cmoore333

    cmoore333 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think you covered Alot Ridgerunner:):). I always get such great advice on this site, that's why I love it:)
     
  9. milola

    milola Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ridgerunner and others thankyou for your replies. Wow that was a lot of information!

    I wanted a rooster really just to have the crowing. I love the sound. We are on 9 acres on the side of a mountain in SE Tennessee so no neighbors to worry about. But on the same token I don't know if an aggressive rooster would scare the daylights out of me. I would hate to have to try to rehome one but I would really love the naturalness of it all if you know what I mean. As for the desire to get two that are ready to lay, that can only be attributed to my impatience. I want fresh eggs NOW! LOL.

    Anyway thanks for all the advise. I am going to have to do some serious rethinking of all this. I have read all the threads I have found so far on integrating and I didn't think it would be so bad to do what I was thinking. But now I am having second thoughts.
     
  10. PSJ

    PSJ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You may be able to find an older, mature rooster for your flock. I agree that young roosters are a pain, to say the least. I have an older rooster (blue wyandotte) who is GREAT with his girls. He has never looked at me crossways and does exactly what a rooster is supposed to do.. He takes care of the girls. I HAD a younger RIR rooster (about a year old) who was just plain MEAN. He got so bad that the house dog couldn't even go outside. He would spot her from across the yard and take off in a full sprint to attack her.

    As for wanting the older girls who are of laying age, I completely understand that. Just know that when you put your younger ones in there, the stress of adding new hens can cause them to stop laying for a while. This usually doesn't last too terribly long. Once the pecking order is re-established, they will be back to laying. You will love having chickens!

    I agree with Ridgerunner...there isn't really much difficulty in it. Just start working on your coop before you get the chicks..they really do grow fast. The rest will fall into place.
     

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