Help! Trying to find a safe way to feed mixed age birds

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by The Yakima Kid, Jul 20, 2011.

  1. The Yakima Kid

    The Yakima Kid Cirque des Poulets

    I have two 14 week old Barred Rock pullets that we have kept in the cage we use as a brooder in our family room. They need to go out in the coop.

    The problem is that the Black Stars are laying, and are on laying crumbles. Since the Barred Rocks seem to be nearly as tall as the Black Stars, I don't know how to move them all to Starter and have the oyster shell up where only the girls that are laying can reach it.

    Suggestions would be greatly appreciated. We have been taking the Barred Rocks with us on trips because people are willing to care for the girls in the coop; but they don't want to take the Barred Rocks home to their family rooms. I'm beginning to feel conspicuous carrying a pair of pullets with me on trips. They do attract way too much attention when seen sitting in their carrier and sharing my lunch at picnic table.
  2. Gullygarden

    Gullygarden Chirping

    Jul 2, 2011
    Can you put two coops in your run and have them take turns being out? I do that and lock the babies out of the hen's coop and vice versa. I. only let them out together when I am there, and then the door to the hen food is shut. The hens are very curious about the new house, and rush in if I let them. I have to watch because they are still aggressive towards the 9 week old group. I t is useful to have two safe places!
  3. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member

    14 weeks? Wow. Just do it. It is time for integration. My barred rocks are now 16 weeks and they are huge. There will be some tussle for position, but it goes away in a day or two. I'd make the introduction late in afternoon and outside.

    OK, if you feed an All Flock or feed non-medicated starter then everyone can eat it. Offer shells on the side, and the younger pullets won't normally be all that interested in them. That way, there's no feed conflict between layers and younger pullets.

    By 18 weeks, they can eat layer with the rest of the flock and there will be no harm.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I agree. Don't worry about the oyster shells. The young ones may experiment a bit with them but they won't eat enough to do themselves any damage. Just offer it on the side.

    Sometimes integration goes so smoothly you wonder what all the worry was about and sometimes it is pretty rough. And we do it at all dfferent ages. I usually have mine running around with the main flock by the time they are 8 weeks old. I'd do it sooner but I like them to get a bit of size on them so they are not such hawk attractors since mine free range. I know. I'm being over-protective, but that is just me. A broody hen may wean her chicks at 4 weeks and those chicks are part of the flock, fully integrated. At 14 weeks age, you can certainly start.

    There are two types of aggression you need to be aware of. You don't have roosters so you don't need to worry about the third. The first one is pure integration. If the other chickens don't accept the new chickens as members of the flock, they may try to run the intruders out of their territory. Some may even hunt them down to destroy them. Usually this is a hen when you have one of these seek and destroy chickens, but it can be a rooster. And many flocks do not have chickens that do this. One way to help this situation is to house the new chickens within sight of the flock for a week or so. If you can partition off part of your coop or move a cage or dog crate in there, that might work. It is not always easy.

    The other aggression is the pecking order. Each and every chicken has to know its social standing within the flock. Knowing which ones are superior socially is how the flock manages to live close together fairly peacefully, but sometimes it is not very peaceful determining that pecking order. Sometimes that pecking order is determined more by intimidation than physical violence, but it does very often involve pecking.

    Immature chickens are socially inferior to mature chickens. It is perfectly acceptable, according to chicken etiquette, for a higher ranking chicken to peck a social inferior if their private space is invaded. As long as the inferior runs away and acknowledges the others social superiority, the pecking order has been maintained and things are peaceful in the flock again. If the inferior does not run away, then it is seen as a challenge to the pecking order and violence may follow. That's why they need sufficient room to be able to run away. In integration, just like regular flock life, space is your best friend.

    Since the immature chickens are automatically socially inferior, they will normally try to stay away from the older chickens. I suggest extra feeders and waterers to reduce possible areas of conflict. And as much space as possible for them to get away and stay away. Even different sleeping areas for a while can help, until they really get used to each other. My current group of 9 week olds still sleep in their grow out brooder instead of the main coop. My situation may be different to yours since mine free range, but I find the worst aggression is on the roosts.

    One story that may help illustrate this. My broodies raise their chicks with the flock. I've seen 2 week old chicks stand next to other adult hens and eat out of the same feeder. Sometimes the other adults ignore the chick, but usually one will eventually give that chick a peck, reminding it that is bad chicken etiquette to eat with your social superiors. The chick goes running/flying back to Mama as fast as it can, peeping the whole way. Mama ignores this. Sometimes it takes a flock to teach chicken etiquette. But if that hen were to really go after the young chick and try to hurt it, Mama would be all over her, protecting her chick.

    Each chicken has its own personality and each flock has its own dynamics. We all have different goals, situations, and management styles. I can't tell you what will happen when you try to integrate, but do think it is time you started letting them get used to each other.

    Good luck!
  5. debid

    debid Crowing

    Jan 20, 2011
    middle TN
    I'm having a good time imagining you with your 14-week pullets in a dog crate having a picnic at some highway rest stop. [​IMG]

    The others have offered good suggestions.

    My folks first integrated their young chicks by putting them in a fenced portion of the coop so they could be seen but not pecked. Once the size difference was not so huge, they started letting them out to range with the big girls and roo. One chicken appointed herself to run off the new ones but the rooster was not in agreement and pecked her back into line. It was fascinating to see the dynamics. No injuries, though, so I'd call it relatively peaceful.

    I don't think, with chickens, that anyone can predict exactly what will happen when you mix the two flocks but it's definitely time to try it.
  6. simpsoncj

    simpsoncj Songster

    Dec 27, 2009
    I just feed all my chickens starter/grower when integrating. I believe it might even be better for them. Just be sure to put out oyster shells and you'll be fine!
  7. Hinotori

    Hinotori Silver Feathers Premium Member

    Apr 27, 2011
    Graham, WA
    I wasn't going to buy different feeds so I switched everyone from grower to flock raiser. I have a little hopper of oystershell for the girls who are getting ready to start laying. They all ignored it until this week. I got my first egg yesterday.
  8. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Crowing

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    Just feed them all the same and don't worry about it.

    They are chickens, and it's just chicken feed.
    There is no "right" or "wrong" as long as they are healthy

    There's no need to agonize over a couple of percentage point's difference in protein
  9. Judy

    Judy Crowing Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Just agreeing. Been feeding grower or flock raiser as the only feed for months now. Have never seen a young chick even look at the separate bowl of oyster shell.
  10. The Yakima Kid

    The Yakima Kid Cirque des Poulets

    My concern was less integration and more fear of too much calcium. B^) At the time I had one small coop and a fifty pound bag of laying chow and enough starter to last until they reached laying age.

    Integration went well, and since then I have added a second coop for those last few weeks. Yes, the picnics at the rest areas were different; especially when people would come over to see the dog or cat they expected in the carrier and discovered two friendly pullets. With a straight face I would inform that they were "long parrots", playing on "long pig."

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