Hen and chick integration/ unique situation?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by slowmelt, Mar 29, 2017.

  1. slowmelt

    slowmelt New Egg

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    Mar 11, 2017
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    So we have 11 chicks that are roughly the same age (3 weeks-ish) with a slight age difference in our brooder, multiple different breeds. Several are starting to try to fly. Some are closer to fully feathered than others. My husband is coming home with 6 laying 1 year old hens today. What is the best way to move chicks outside with them? Should we just move them out a few at a time as they are feathered? Or is moving all at once a better idea? Should we wait until they are older/bigger if we are moving them in with hens? Or should we make a special section for them where they are separated? We're in GA so it's in the 60s-80s during the day and mid 40s-60s at night right now. And I've heard you should move the new chickens in after dark...true? TIA
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I could easily write several pages on these questions but I need to go can some chicken broth so I’ll try to be brief, at least for me.

    Chicken integration is often not as hard as we make it out to be, but chickens do die during integration so we tend to be very careful. First, do not, don’t even think of doing it, absolutely avoid just tossing some strange chicks in with the older chickens at night and leaving them. That is a disaster waiting to happen.

    One way chickens have learned to live together as a flock is in case of conflict the weaker runs away from the stronger. They need enough room to get away. They need enough room to avoid the stronger to start with. The more room you can give them during integration the better off you are. Immature chicks are much weaker than grown hens and the hens can be brutal. Just tossing chicks in a coop like that gives the chicks no place to run.

    I strongly suggest you keep those chicks together. They are integrated and function together now, don’t mess that up by separating them.

    My suggestion is to wait another week or two before they go outside. Have a pen next to the adults where you can house the chicks for at least a week where they can see each other. Longer is better but a week may be enough. This gets the chickens kind of used to each other.

    Here is an article by Azygous about her “panic room” method. Basically you create a safe place the chicks can go to so they can escape the adults. Here’s a link.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/...rooder-and-start-raising-your-chicks-outdoors

    I’ll repeat myself because I think it is important. The more room you have the easier this process is. If you can tell us about your facilities we may be able to offer more specific advice. The better we understand what you have the easier it is for us to be helpful.

    Good luck!
     
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  3. slowmelt

    slowmelt New Egg

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    Thank you so much! I really didn't know how to search other threads for this situation. I feel like I have a lot of different different variables going. I'll post some pictures in an hour or two when I get home.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    18 pints of chicken broth pressure canned and another quart in the freezer, ready to make vegetable soup. Let’s get back to this. I’ll try to go through some of the basics before you give more info. I told you I could write a book.

    No one, including me, can tell you what will happen with chicken behaviors. We can tell you what we expect to happen or what we have seen and experienced, but no matter what anyone says on here, somebody else can come up with an exception. I can come up with exceptions I’ve seen to a lot of what I say. You just don’t get guarantees in regard to living animals and behaviors.

    There are a few things going on with integration. Chickens can recognize which chickens belong in their flock and which don’t. Sometimes they can be territorial about that. Sometimes, not all the time and not really all that often but often enough for it to be a concern, a chicken will attack a stranger to drive them out of the home flock’s territory. It’s not always a rooster, often it is a hen. Sometimes if one hen starts it, the others join in, sometimes it remains just one chicken. That’s a big reason to house any chickens side by side across a wire fence so they can get used to each other without being able to harm one another.

    A chicken flock sets up a pecking order. They know how each chicken ranks in relationship to themselves. The lower ranked chicken defers to a higher ranked chicken automatically so they avoid conflict. But determining that ranking can involve conflict. What normally happens when two chickens that have not settled which is boss between them is that one pecks or somehow tries to intimidate the other. If one backs down, life is good and it is settled. Sometimes though, they fight if one doesn’t back down. They can fight to the death or until one is seriously injured if they are pretty evenly matched, but most of the time one quickly determines she is better off running away so she runs away. There might be a rematch later, but generally if one runs away and gets away it is settled and the flock becomes peaceful.

    This is where room is so important. They have to have enough room to get away when they run. If they can’t get away the winning hen does not know she has won and keeps attacking. The weaker will often hunker down, usually against a fence or wall, and try to protect her head. This is where it can get deadly. They do attack the head and they can kill.

    You might see some of this when your husband brings home those 6 hens. When you relocate a flock like that, especially when it is just a part of a flock, the pecking order gets reset. There is potential for drama when they get to their new home.

    What I expect you to see with them is not much, if anything. I know I’ve made it sound horrible, there is some potential for drama. I gave you the worst case scenario but usually these things go extremely well. You might see some fighting but I really doubt it. There is a chance you will see a peck or two if you watch for it, but it probably won’t amount to much. That’s why so many people can get away with putting adult chickens in the coop at night and not have big problems. Usually there aren’t problems or any problems are settled before the human gets down there to mess things up. Often the weaker chickens are on the roost while the stronger are on the coop floor. They know who is boss and the weaker are avoiding the older. But occasionally things don’t go well and you wake up to a massacre, especially in a small coop.

    Young chicks add another dimension to all this. Mature chickens always outrank immature chickens in the pecking order. Most of the time older chickens ignore younger chicks unless the younger chicks invade their personal space. Then they peck them. The chicks very quickly learn to not invade a mature hen’s personal space. That’s why you usually see younger chicks form a sub-flock and avoid the adults as much as possible. They need room to do this, the more space you can give them the better. If they can’t get away or avoid, they are in danger.

    Occasionally you will get a hen that goes out of her way to harm the chicks. I hardly ever see this but it can happen. Usually it is a lower ranking hen, not the leader of the flock. It’s as if she is jealous of her low ranking and wants to lord it over anything lower ranked. Again, this can be a deadly situation. I’ll say it again, I almost never see this.

    I regularly have broody hens raise the chicks with the flock. Sometimes those broody hens wean the chicks as young as 3 weeks of age and leave the chicks to make their own way with the rest of the flock. I’ve had two do it that young in the heat of summer. Most broody hens wait longer to wean their chicks. Those chicks were raised with the flock and the broody spent time teaching the others to leave her babies alone if there any problems.

    I regularly hatch in an incubator and raise those chicks in a brooder in my coop. They grow up with the flock being able to see them. Often at five weeks I just open the brooder door and let them mingle with the flock. It’s never been a problem. But the key things are that they were raised with the flock and I have lots of room. They have no problems avoiding the adults. They are locked in a common coop at night but it is a big coop with places for them to hide from the adults. I don’t even have to be down there that early to let them out.

    Yours were not raised with the flock. I don’t know how much room you have or what your facilities look like. That’s why I gave you that article about the panic room, or as some call it, safe haven. If you can come up with something like that, even if the room is a little tight, you’re odds of success go up dramatically.

    For what it is worth, there is no telling when a cockerel will mature enough to join the main flock. I’ve seen that at 5 months, I’ve seen some cockerels wait until 11 months to win over the last hen. With pullets it’s normally about the time they start to lay.
     
  5. slowmelt

    slowmelt New Egg

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    Mar 11, 2017
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    [​IMG] the big outdoor coop 11'x21'
     

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