Help me integrate my flock!

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by mcclucker, May 16, 2017.

  1. mcclucker

    mcclucker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a complicated situation I would love advice with.

    So I had 4 hens, and had placed an order for 7 chicks. I was planning to brood them in a separate brooder in the coop and then integrate them when they were a month old or so.

    While I was waiting for chicks to arrive my golden laced Wyandotte went broody and was not giving up so I moved her into the brooder pen and had her sit on fake eggs for 2 weeks. I gave her two of the chicks (at night) which she adopted easily and is a great mum. They are 3 weeks old now.

    She is the head chicken of the bunch and has been leading her chicks out with the other hens and they are doing great.

    So I also have the other 4 (I was afraid to give her all of them - she's only 10 months old and had never had chicks before) which I raised in a separate pen in the garage. I have now moved that pen out to the shed so everyone can see/hear each other.

    At what point can I introduce them? One of the brooder babies got out while I was cleaning and the mama mostly ignored it, but there was a warning peck. I am not worried about the other hens attacking any of the chicks - they are all afraid of mama and are staying away from all the chicks for now.

    Is there a chance the mama hen will accept them now, at 3 weeks? What's the safest way to try to integrate them? The brooder pen is a mesh puppy playpen and mama seems very interested in the chicks that aren't "hers" - she clucks at them and is constantly checking on them.
     
  2. mcclucker

    mcclucker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm just worried if I put them all together she will freak out that her babies are in danger and attack the brooder chicks.
     
  3. BayBay Peepers

    BayBay Peepers Overrun With Chickens

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    There is a chance she will help integrate them, but I wouldn't put too much faith in that. When they're old enough I recommend adding them to the group under cover of darkness. I've always had really good luck with this whether it was with younger or older birds. It's like they kind of assume the new birds were always there. And I do believe you'll have pretty good luck since they've been able to see eachother all this time.
     
  4. mcclucker

    mcclucker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks! So what age is ideal for that? I need to wait for them to not need heat at night - we have some cold nights. 5-6 weeks?
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Here's my advice. Increments. You've already begun the integration process by setting the brooded chicks up in a pen in view of the flock including the broody and her two chicks. Great beginning!

    That your broody is showing interest in the brooded chicks is an encouraging sign. I think, from your description of the broody's reaction to the four chicks, there's a good chance she wants to adopt them. (What happened to the seventh chick? Two plus four is six.)

    Let the four chicks spend another day in the pen in view of the broody. Observe carefully her interactions with them. Watch how she communicates with them. Give her some chick treats and see if she tidbits to the four chicks along with hers. I would send the other three adults out to free range so it is just the broody and the chicks for this experiment.

    Next day, do the same exercise with the treats, but slowly open the pen and allow the four chicks to join the broody and the other two, giving the broody the food to distribute to the chicks. Be ready to intervene quickly if the broody tries to prevent the four chicks from eating the food. But I'm willing to bet she will be delighted to adopt the four.

    While a broody is in the hormonal state, it can make her inclined to adopt older chicks. This has happened in my flock. Don't assume yours will adopt the four, but give her the chance. You may get lucky. Just take things slowly and be ready to intervene if she doesn't want these chicks.
     
    CTKen likes this.
  6. BayBay Peepers

    BayBay Peepers Overrun With Chickens

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    You'll definitely need to wait until they at least make it to a stage they don't need heat. If it doesn't work I'd wait and try again when they're a little closer in size.

    I agree with giving that hen a chance. I had two hens with chicks and I kept them each separate (but housed the Mamas close together) and let everyone free range during the day. When the time came, one hen, ran back to the coop and her chick was left behind. My second hen immediately took over. (the chick was 100% feathered and didn't technically need any heat she just wasn't ready to join the flock) Another week went by and the second hen took all the chicks to the coop to be integrated. She ended up being my go-to hen for adopting chicks.

    I hope it all works in your favor. Keep us updated on how it all turns out.
     
  7. mcclucker

    mcclucker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The 7th chick unfortunately died around 6 days old- she wasn't growing or eating and all my efforts to save her didn't work :(. She had been in the brooder, not with the mama.

    This all sounds good. I will send the others out to free range. They will be thrilled.

    This broody has been an excellent mom. I've been impressed. Next time I'll just give her all the chicks - she can definitely handle it.
     
  8. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Please let us know how it goes. We get attached to these critters we offer advice for.

    By the way, a proven broody is a wonderful treasure, and yours will just get better each time. I have one of those and it's one of the big joys in my life. Her present chicks are four weeks old, and they're wearing her out. She's six years old and amazes me.
     
  9. mcclucker

    mcclucker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I will! I did as advised and gave them some time together closely supervised. Mostly the four chicks hung out near me and mama and her chicks came to check us out. One of her chicks came up and bossed the four around but mama just watched. It's odd - she seemed to treat me as their mama hen, and came up and stood near us but generally didn't bother the four. I'll try again this weekend but I think she will slowly get used to them. She still seems on the fence about adopting them - I think she is feeling overwhelmed as it is and hopes I will be their mom. It's almost like she was checking me out to make sure I was doing a good job so she wouldn't have to take over.

    I feel very lucky to have such a good broody. Out of my original flock of 5 she's not the one I would have picked to be such a good mom.
     
  10. mcclucker

    mcclucker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Here she is with one of hers (a welsummer chick). Her name is JoJo and the chick is Buckbeak :)
     

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