HELP! Added New Pullets to an exisitng flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by zogster, Aug 16, 2014.

  1. zogster

    zogster Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 18, 2013
    westford, ma
    I know there is a TON of discussion on this, and I've read through them, but I'm having a problem that I'd like some guidance on. I've got 4 year + old laying hens in an existing coop. I've raised 8 chicks that are now 16 weeks old. When they were 12 weeks old, I put them in my coop and separated the chicks from the hens with wire, so they lived in the same space, but were unable to get to each other.

    My coop has 2 parts. a raised indoor area where they roost, sleep and I keep their food, and a ramp down to the run which is 1/2 under the coop area, and 1/2 enclosed but in the elements. I have water in the run. This is an old picture that does not show the current water bucket, and only 4 of the chickens in the picture are still with us :-(.

    [​IMG]


    A week ago I took the wire out and the fun began, as expected. What's happened is the 8 pullets huddle together and protect each other, and the Hens go about their businesses, and harasses them a bit, but normally are out in the run. The pullets rairly leave the coop unless I put them in the run and close off the coop.

    My concern is that they won't go to the water unless the Hens are out of the run, and with the water and food split off, I want to make sure that all chickens are getting what they need while they sort out the pecking order.

    Questions:
    How long until the Pullets break out of the pack?
    Will the Pullets natural need for water overtake their fear of the Hens?
    How long/will they become an integrated flock?

    One other point... One of my pullets is a rooster, and he's just starting to crow. I'm going to keep him, and I'm hoping that he can unite this flock... any thoughts on this as well?

    ANY insight would be helpful. Will look to add pictures. if needed.

    Pullets:
    2 Ameraucana
    2 White Leg Horns
    2 Buff Orphingtons
    1 Silki
    1 unknown

    Hens:
    3 Black Sext-links
    1 Rhode Island Red - Mother Hen
     
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    There should be multiple feed and water stations when integrating.

    There will be probably be a division of the flock until the pullets start laying, then things will shift a bit and you'll see less separation, but there will always be some segregation.

    When your cockerel grows into a rooster he will not 'unite' the flock, there will always be a pecking order and some pecking and chasing, the hens usually work out their own hierarchy.

    Do they free range at at all? That's a pretty small space for 12 birds...ti will get smaller once the snow piles up.
     
  3. zogster

    zogster Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 18, 2013
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    Thank you aart.

    I do free range them quite often, but your point is a good one so I decided to triple the size of the run. It should be complete this weekend.

    I'm noticing things are progressing, but the pullers are still not coming down, so I'm hoping the larger space will give them some freedom. I'm also going to put a pile of branches in the expanded run to give them more protection from the pecking.
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Your coop is going to get very tight with 12 birds in it when they can't go out because of nasty winter weather.
    How big is the coop......about 3' x 6'?
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Good info from Aart. It actually sounds like your integration is going really well.

    Things may soon get exciting with your cockerel though. At 16 weeks I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t started already. His hormones should soon kick in and his instinct to become flock master will probably take over. He will want to mate with every hen and pullet which is a way to dominate them. To be a good flock master he needs to be the dominate one. What good does it do if he gives a danger warning or tells them he has food if no one listens? How can he keep peace in his flock and break up fights if they turn around and beat him up? The mating ritual is not just about sex, it’s also about dominance. The one on bottom is accepting the dominance of the one on top, either willingly or by force. It’s a part of sorting out the flock dynamics.

    Usually the pullets are slower to mature than the cockerel. They don’t understand what is expected of them so they usually resist the cockerel’s advances and try to run away. He chases them and tries to force them. As long as no blood is drawn it is normal and natural but it can be unsettling to watch if you don’t expect it.

    The older hens will likely be more difficult for him. They are much more likely to want him to be worthy of fathering their children. He should impress them with his brilliance and self-confidence, dance for them, find them food, watch for danger, keep peace in his flock, and perform many more duties a good flock master should perform. An adolescent cockerel usually can’t handle much of that so the older hens may be a bit brutal toward him. Until he can dominate them they will dominate him.

    Sometimes all this goes so smoothly you wonder what all the concern was about. Sometimes there are disasters. A vast majority of the time it’s somewhere in between. The more space you have the better this part goes too. Expanding your run is a great idea. One way chickens handle conflict in the flock is that the weaker runs away from the stronger or just avoid them to start with. They need room to run away or avoid. Putting something in there to break line of sight helps too.

    Good luck!
     
  6. zogster

    zogster Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 18, 2013
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    We had about a dozen this past winter, and things went well until something took out a bunch of the flock. During the winter I cover the the run you see in the picture so the snow won't pile up, and obviously the underside stays clear as well..

    The coop is about 6 X4 with roosting poles. The hens lay in a separate area under the coop, so there are no laying boxes to take up space, but I'm at max right now for sure.
     
  7. zogster

    zogster Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you Ridgerunner. Great insight.

    He has started working the flock for sure... to limited success, but he's working it.

    I had a rooster with the older hens last year, so they have experienced what that means, and I'm noticing one of the older hens "Hanging Out", peacefully with the younger ones, so things are sorting itself out a bit.

    I think things are in a good state right now... even though they are tumultuous at times, but I'm keeping a close eye on things knowing that they are in constant flux. Getting food and water was my biggest concern, but I've added additional water and food stations for now.

    To your point about it being unsettling... with my original flock we had 11 hens and one rooster. My 12 year old daughter and I were watching one day when he started "dominating" some hens... you can imagine the horror and confusion on my daughters face... a moment, and a follow up conversation that she will never forget, I'm sure!
     
  8. nab58

    nab58 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm having a similar problem integrating my two pullets and cockerel into my existing flock of 6 hens. The pullets seem to know to stay out of the way of the hens but the two time I left the grow-out pen open so they could all mingle, I found the cockerel hiding inside one of the empty nest boxes I use for storage in the main coop. He obviously got brave and/or curious and somehow ended up in the main coop. Maybe he was chased in there? He had blood in his comb the first time.

    I've been told to carry the babies into the main coop after dark and put them on a lower perch. I'm afraid to do that without being able to keep an eye on them. Do I just bite the bully and try that?
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I would not unless you are out there before they wake up to open the pop door and give him a chance to escape if they get brutal.
     
  10. nab58

    nab58 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I snuck the babies into the big coop at about 11pm last night. The babies went kicking and screaming (who said chickens go comatose at night?) but the hens didn't seem to mind. We've been leaving the pop door open during the summer (predator safe run) so they were able to get out when they needed to. I haven't been down there yet to check if the cockerel has been beaten to a pulp but so far everything is quiet. I can see and hear the coop from the 2nd floor bathroom window of my house and everything appears to be normal....I can actually hear someone clucking out her laying song as I type!
    I wonder what will happen tonight? Will the babies automatically go into the big coop or do I need to keep placing them I there after dark?
     

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