Help with Integrating Chickens

Trimpkey

Chirping
Dec 22, 2016
55
37
91
Rural Virginia
I have 11x 18 week old pullets living in a large run/coop. I have 3x 2 year old hens who have been free ranging during the day and have been shut into the run with a tarp/roost overnight while the pullets are shut in the coop. For 6 weeks they lived together divided by a wire fence. I tried to put one hen in and within 5 seconds she had violently plucked major feathers out of the pullets (who are pretty big). I know of the idea: put them together at night, they wake up happy in the morning, however, my big concern is Polly-my polish. She can't see anything. I am so afraid that at dawn she will have no chance. i feel like I need to be there to mediate to some degree. I must integrate them soon. Should I let them all outside to free range for a day (The pullets have never done this) I run a preschool and can't have chicken poop everywhere. I reopen in 3 weeks so trying to figure this out. All of the chickens still see each other as the hens peck at the pullets through the wire. Any advice appreciated. Thank you.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
84,261
97,615
1,677
SW Michigan
My Coop
I know of the idea: put them together at night,
Yeah, that often does not work.
You'd need to be there at dawn to supervise.

So the new birds are confined in the run during the day while the olders are ranging?
And you put one hen into the run during the day and she attacked them?

How big is your coop and run, in feet by feet?
Dimensions and pics would help immensely here.

Might be time to let them all range together.

These tips might help.....
Integration Basics:
It's all about territory and resources(space/food/water).
Existing birds will almost always attack new ones to defend their resources.
Understanding chicken behaviors is essential to integrating new birds into your flock.

Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact.

In adjacent runs, spread scratch grains along the dividing mesh, best if mesh is just big enough for birds to stick their head thru, so they get used to eating together.

The more space, the better.
Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no copious blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down and beaten unmercilessly, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

Places for the new birds to hide 'out of line of sight'(but not a dead end trap) and/or up and away from any bully birds. Roosts, pallets or boards leaned up against walls or up on concrete blocks, old chairs tables, branches, logs, stumps out in the run can really help. Lots of diversion and places to 'hide' instead of bare wide open run.
Good ideas for hiding places:
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/a-cluttered-run.1323792/
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
25,707
15,745
777
Southeast Louisiana
Size of your coop and run are often big factors. In feet, how big are your facilities? Photos to show layout of the coop and run and inside the coop may help us come p with specific suggestions. Are your pullets laying yet? Mine seem to hit a certain maturity level when they start to lay.

I integrate mine much younger. I find that if you integrate them pretty young it takes more room and possibly more work managing them but if they are older it can be more physical but trends to get over with faster. There are always trade-offs in what you do.

Not knowing what your facilities look like my main suggestion is to try letting them all free range during the day. Just open your run door and let them go out at their own pace. Be around so you can observe in case one of those hens turns out to be a true brute, but try to let them work it out. I'd expect the pullets to avoid the older ones. Let them sleep wherever they want to sleep, as long as it is not your nests and they are predator safe. Not sure how that will work out with how you have trained yours where to sleep.

I'd let them range together during the day for at least a week before I tried to put them together at night. Wait until after dark (hopefully t is dark in your coop so they aren't in danger overnight) and toss them in. Be there at daybreak to see how it is going. With mine it's not a big issue. But I have a large coop with lots of hiding places. Your results could be different.

I appreciate the preschool and chicken poop potential clash. You may need them all to stay in the coop/run together. Take advantage of your current ability to free range them to hasten the integration process. But you mention how the hens try to peck the pullets through the wire. That doesn't sound right. I always try to solve for the peace of the flock, not in favor of any one individual. To me the flock is the entity and it may have removable parts. If an individual is disrupting my flock I eliminate it. Eliminate could mean house it separately, sell or give it away, or eat it. You may be forced into that situation.

Once pullets start to lay they seem to mature enough to join the pecking order. Since yours are so close, you might try isolating one or both of your hens until most of the pullets are laying. Then try integrating them. It could change the outcome by a lot.
 

Sonya9

Crowing
6 Years
Feb 7, 2014
1,875
1,090
271
Georgia
Might want to pen off an area for the pullets and raise the pen fence so only they can scoot under. Idea being they can venture in with the older hens a little at a time.

That would let them integrate at their own pace. Just make sure the young ones are settled into the pen ahead of time (so they see it as "their safe space" and don't forget to run back in a panic). Of course provide food/water.
 

Trimpkey

Chirping
Dec 22, 2016
55
37
91
Rural Virginia
Yeah, that often does not work.
You'd need to be there at dawn to supervise.

So the new birds are confined in the run during the day while the olders are ranging?
And you put one hen into the run during the day and she attacked them?

How big is your coop and run, in feet by feet?
Dimensions and pics would help immensely here.

Might be time to let them all range together.

These tips might help.....
Integration Basics:
It's all about territory and resources(space/food/water).
Existing birds will almost always attack new ones to defend their resources.
Understanding chicken behaviors is essential to integrating new birds into your flock.

Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact.

In adjacent runs, spread scratch grains along the dividing mesh, best if mesh is just big enough for birds to stick their head thru, so they get used to eating together.

The more space, the better. Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no copious blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down and beaten unmercilessly, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

Places for the new birds to hide 'out of line of sight'(but not a dead end trap) and/or up and away from any bully birds. Roosts, pallets or boards leaned up against walls or up on concrete blocks, old chairs tables, branches, logs, stumps out in the run can really help. Lots of diversion and places to 'hide' instead of bare wide open run.
Good ideas for hiding places:
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/a-cluttered-run.1323792/
 

Attachments

Trimpkey

Chirping
Dec 22, 2016
55
37
91
Rural Virginia
This shows the coop where I shut the 11 pullets in at night. They have a tunnel that connects the coop and run that I block off. The run and finally my 3 hens/pullets.
 

Sonya9

Crowing
6 Years
Feb 7, 2014
1,875
1,090
271
Georgia
This shows the coop where I shut the 11 pullets in at night. They have a tunnel that connects the coop and run that I block off. The run and finally my 3 hens/pullets.
If you are trying to integrate all these birds into the coop beside the house you will likely have to make that run bigger. Lots of space helps with integration and prevents squabbles later.

On a side note if one of those pullets goes broody treat her like a queen. A broody hen will make adding even 2-3 chicks each spring a breeze (they can be raised with the flock).
 

Trimpkey

Chirping
Dec 22, 2016
55
37
91
Rural Virginia
So I put things everywhere in the coop for hiding spots and took the plunge and put 2 of my 3 hens in with the pullets. The hens are pecking and chasing but not constantly.The only chest bump was with Polly. The smallest Polish pullet! Go Polly! I think they will be ok. How long do they usually take to settle into the pecking order from this point?
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
84,261
97,615
1,677
SW Michigan
My Coop
So I put things everywhere in the coop for hiding spots and took the plunge and put 2 of my 3 hens in with the pullets. The hens are pecking and chasing but not constantly.The only chest bump was with Polly. The smallest Polish pullet! Go Polly! I think they will be ok. How long do they usually take to settle into the pecking order from this point?
Who only 2 of them?

Pullets and hens won't merge into one flock until the pullets start laying.
 

Trimpkey

Chirping
Dec 22, 2016
55
37
91
Rural Virginia
Who only 2 of them?

Pullets and hens won't merge into one flock until the pullets start laying.
I have 3 older hens. One is a bully. I put the other 2 in with my 11x 18 week old pullets this afternoon and although there is a bit of pecking and chasing they seem to be getting along fine.
 

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