Hen Integration NOT going well.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by downtown, Nov 28, 2016.

  1. downtown

    downtown Just Hatched

    Mar 4, 2016
    San Diego, California
    I apologize in advance for a rather long post. I have a rather perplexing situation and need some advice. My new hens are not integrating and I don't know what more I can do.

    I had 3 hens: 2 Rhode Island Reds and 1 Barred Plymouth Rock (all eight months old and laying well) and wanted to expand my flock. Two weeks ago I brought home 3 twenty-week old Black Australorp hens from a very reputable source. I have a 10'x11' run and 20 square foot roosting box. I let the hens out into the yard to free range for a couple of hours at the end of each day.

    I separated the 3 new hens in the existing coop/run for a week. There was not very much interaction between the two sets of hens, but the new hens were clearly freaked out by all the newness. After a week, I let them all out to free range for most of the day. The older hens chased and pecked at the new hens in the yard for a long while and then pretty much ignored them.

    While they were all out in the yard I removed the separation and hoped that they would all get on with the task of integrating when they returned to the coop. No such luck. The older hens went into the roosting box at dusk as they normally do, and the new hens did not return to the coop. Instead they flew into a bush and roosted there, seemingly with the intention of spending the night there. I grabbed each of them and put them in the roosting box with the other chickens where they huddled in a corner on the floor.

    The new hens have not emerged from the roosting box in ten days. After the older chickens leave the roosting box in the morning and go into the run, the new hens fly onto the roosts and pretty much stay there until the older hens return to the roosting box for the night. The new hens then jump down from the roosts and again huddle on the floor. There is ample roosting space in the roosting box.

    After a day of the new hens not leaving the roosting box, I put food and water in there because I was worried for them. They now come down off the roosts a few times a day to eat and drink, but then return to the roosts. Sometimes, but only rarely, they peak out to see what is going on. The older hens enter the roosting box during the day to lay eggs in the nesting boxes and glare at the new hens, but otherwise do not interact.

    I have introduced into the coop/run lots of grass clippings and leaves, new roosts in the run, and have provided lots of distracting treats and hung cabbages. The older chickens are happy and distracted, but the new hens are just not venturing out.

    Is this normal? It has now been 17 days since they arrived and my new lovely hens are just not relaxing. Will time make a difference?

    I would greatly appreciate any advice.
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Normally I let things settle down on their own. Your new birds are immature and will not fit in until they come into lay.

    To expedite integration, I would identify the dominant pullet in the older group, then confine the other other too somehow in the roosting box allowing only the dominant bird to interact freely with new pullets. The dominant bird will adapt quicker to the new birds that way as she will loose confidence when separated from her current friends. Once dominant bird settles in with the new crowd, then release the other two older birds. The dominant will then work to suppress aggression by the other two older pullets.

    Another option is to rearrange things in the roosting box so everything appears strange to all birds so no one is on their home turf.
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon

    Sounds to me like things are going just fine.

    I know we humans want to see the animals all join hands and sing, but that just doesn't happen. Your older birds are not cornering the newbies, or relentlessly pecking them. Bonus.

    The newbies are just new, and scared. Pretty normal. They're eating and drinking, doing fine.

    I like the above advice, if you want to try to fast track things. Or, why not physically put all the birds out to free range? Sounds like they were doing fine then? Maybe the new pullets can't figure out how to get out? Bless their hears, chickens aren't very bright [​IMG]
    2 people like this.
  4. Peeps61

    Peeps61 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 19, 2014
    NW Florida
    I agree with Centrachid and Donrae. I wasn't sure if your new hens were laying, but it is a definite factor in flock acceptance. When my younger pullets, who are usually kept away from the "core" dominant group, begin to lay, then they are more easily accepted into the core flock. It all sounds pretty normal to me and will work itself out as long as they aren't drawing blood from the newbies.
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    20 sqft of coop for 6 birds is a tight, no room to get away.
    Having the food/water in there makes it tighter.
    Gonna take time.

    In case you haven't:
    Read up on integration..... BYC advanced search>titles only>integration
    This is good place to start reading, tho some info is outdated IMO:
  6. downtown

    downtown Just Hatched

    Mar 4, 2016
    San Diego, California
    Thanks so much for your thoughts. I may try and expedite matters by putting the dominant hen in with them. What is the best indicator that a hen is dominant? None of my older three hens seems to stand out as the dominant one.
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    You might try this: Let the old biddies free range, and lock them OUT of the run. Then make the new birds go into the run, and shut off the coop. Now feed both groups next to the fence. So that they come together to eat, but are separated by the fence. Feed the new ones first, something really good, then bring the old one feed.

    Set up some hide outs in your run, and walk around in there so your young birds find them. Leave them this way till late afternoon. At this time open everything up, do this two days, and then leave everyone they way you have it set up.

    As Donrae says, they are not always the smartest. But sometimes I think that they need a bit of time to explore the run without fear from the other birds. As also mentioned, when I have chicks raised in the flock, they are a sub flock until they lay. Then they are accepted as part of the flock.

    It will get better.

    Mrs k
  8. You might want to put them back into the first Coop and Run for a longer time....Let them all free range as a group until things settle...Sometimes two groups never become one flock...Just tolerate each other......It can take months for pecking order to take place......

    Just a thought......

  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri

    Look for a hen that holds tail less pinched when others in close proximity. You can also slowly through meal worms down and watch for hen that typically takes items first and does not step away from other birds while feeding. Dominant hen will also take lead when tormenting pullets that are not part of the group. Voice differences can also be noted but is hard to pick up on.
  10. Flock Master64

    Flock Master64 Overrun With Chickens

    Jul 24, 2016
    Surrounded by the Amish
    I'm having a similar issue. In August I integrated 2 pullets and 1 cockerel into my flock of 4 hens. I started first with the cockerel who is a Chocolate Cuckoo Orpington and it took a few weeks but my cockerel integrated really well. Then I did my pullets which are a Buff Brahma and an Olive Egger. They are integrated now and my Olive Egger is great with them but the 4 hens ( 3 Amber-Links and 1 White Leghorn) still pick on my Buff Brahma. It's mainly my Amber-Link Antoinette who does the picking.

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