How do I integrate different chickens?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by CuckooCooper, Nov 26, 2016.

  1. CuckooCooper

    CuckooCooper Just Hatched

    Nov 21, 2016
    Hope Valley, RI
    Hi, I'm curious if I can speed up integration of three groups of chickens that I acquired. I got one group a week ago (9 Barred Rocks-11m old, 2 Sex Link-11m old, 4 guineas-5m). These guys are still finding their pecking order, they are curious about the new chickens.
    I just got 10 Golden Comets 17w old, very docile, quiet, gentle girls.
    I also got 4 easter Eggers hens and a roo all are 15w old. They are the loud, pushy and have more of an attitude.

    I've never had to integrate chickens before and I read it could take a while. But I was wondering if since they are all younger and new to my coop if it could possible go faster. Any tips are welcome! Thank you
  2. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    Are you quarantining them so no one brings in any diseases? Once quarantine is over and you are ready to introduce them, it is easier if they can see each other for a while. Then if you can let them out to free range together so they can get away from each other if necessary, if seems to go pretty quickly. Just make sure you have enough feeders and waterers so everyone can get enough. That is where some of the mini skirmishes occur.
  3. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Since they are all fairly new to the environment, you should be able to introduce them with minimal drama.
  4. CuckooCooper

    CuckooCooper Just Hatched

    Nov 21, 2016
    Hope Valley, RI
    The chickens all came from family. They were already quarantined. All apear to be very healthy. Now they are in the coop, separated in their chicken jails. They are separated by hardware cloth and visible to all chickens.
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon

    Since they're all new to the area, and all basically adults or young adults, I'd just put them all in together.

    You have groups of decent size, no single or duo birds. That would be your at risk group. The EE are the youngest, but they're old enough to fend for themselves, pretty much.

    If you have enough space for everyone to live, it should be fine. Put out more than one feeder and waterer. Add some things to break line of sight. Pallets or plywood leaned against the wall of the run is fine and usually easy. Expect some chasing, squawking, things like that. As long as no one gets pinned in a corner and relentlessly pecked, it should be fine. Older or more dominant birds will chase younger birds, that's just chicken society. As long as the younger or beta bird has room to run away and show it's submission, things will be fine.

    Do this on a day when you can keep an eye on everyone for a few hours at least. If one bird has a problem, getting pinned down, you can remove it and work on bringing it in a bit later.

    I've moved a lot of birds around and don't do "integration" as a rule. I just move the birds, usually at night cause that's when I can catch them. They sort things out the next morning, there's a little drama but I've never really had a bird need to be pulled. Putting groups together is way, way easier than singles or duos.
  6. ktisathome

    ktisathome New Egg

    May 13, 2015
    I have a similar problem on a smaller scale and need reassurance. Got 2 new ex-batts yesterday. Today my existing 2 are freaking out and one of the ex-batts is attacking the other one. I was expecting trouble, but it's very noisy and stressful for everyone, any reassurance gratefully received. We're at the "what have we done" stage!!!
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC!

    You've gotten some good advice already.

    Integration is about territoriality.
    Any existing birds are going to defend their resources(space, feed,water) from any 'intruders.
    It can be brutal, bloody and even fatal.

    Putting birds from different sources into a 'new to them all' space all at once is going to be easier due to the lack of territoriality.
    It doesn't take long for birds to make a space their own and thus defend it....probably no more than a few days to a week.
    Birds moved donraes....seems to be less of an issue.

    Lots of space will help immensely... the smaller the space, and often the fewer birds involved, the more problems.

    Read up on integration..... BYC advanced search>titles only>integration
    This is good place to start reading, tho some info is outdated IMO:
  8. CuckooCooper

    CuckooCooper Just Hatched

    Nov 21, 2016
    Hope Valley, RI
    Thank you aart, I read up a lot on integration and it seemed like a long process. I am going to expand their pen area today and tomorrow let theme all out together to free range. I have a large coop that should accommodate 35-40 birds. Right now they have 140 square feet of run and I'm going to triple it.
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Many variables effect length of integration.
    How big in feet by feet is "a large coop that should accommodate 35-40 birds"?
    I use a temporary wire and wood wall to split my coop for integration of new chicks.
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I’m not sure how the guineas factor into this. I have no direct experience with guineas. They may get involved or may stay out of it, I don’t know. So I’ll ignore them.

    Integration usually goes a lot smoother than you usually read about on here. It can turn deadly so you get a lot of advice with an abundance of caution but it is usually not that bad. Since family members have chickens you probably have some experience with them too. That’s another thing that often happens on here, people with absolutely no exposure to chickens see certain behaviors and are ready to call out the National Guard to restore order, while what they are seeing is just normal chicken interaction.

    I strongly encourage you to triple that space before you let them intermingle much. My main run is about the size yours will be so I can easily picture it. It’s not as big as it sounds for that many birds. One way chicken have learned to live together is that when there is conflict the weaker runs away or just avoids the stronger bird to start with. They need room to run away but even more important is room to avoid the others.

    But room is not just a matter of square feet. The quality of that room is important. That’s where Donrae’s comments are important. Putting things in there to break the line of sight and give them places to hide can help a lot. One common refuge is perches high enough that the stronger can’t peck them from the ground. When I have younger birds in the flock, which is most of the time, it’s pretty common for the younger birds to be on the roosts while the older ones are on the coop floor when I go down there to let them out in the morning. Sometimes they are hiding under my nests which are pretty close to the floor. I’s not quite the same as Azygous’s “safe havens”, they are too close in size, but something of the same idea.

    You can never predict with certainty how any living animal will behave, no matter what any of us say someone can come up with an exception. I constantly see exceptions to what I call normal behavior. I’ll still do some predicting.

    Mature chickens always outrank immature birds in the pecking order. Notice I’m talking about maturity, not specifically age. That 2-week difference in your younger ones may not work out to be an important maturity difference. Different individual birds mature at different rates. But your 11-month-olds are going to be more mature than your 4 month olds. There is a really high chance your younger birds will instinctively avoid the older ones. If they don’t the older ones may teach them to avoid by pecking when they invade their personal space. It’s possible one of your older birds will go out of her way to attack the younger, but that behavior is pretty rare. But most more-mature birds will peck when their personal space in invaded. But this is one of my exceptions. I often see chicks wandering around intermingling with older hens without a problem, but this is usually after they have been integrated, usually by a broody hen.

    What I’d expect is your birds to form at least two different flocks while the younger ones mature. It could be more than two. While your older ones are in the run, the younger may be in the coop, for example. That’s normal behavior.

    This is why you need different feeding and watering stations, so the younger ones can eat and drink without challenging the older ones.

    I never see immature birds stand up to or fight more mature birds. Maybe some others have but I have not. If the more mature attack they run away or try to hide. If they get trapped where they cannot run away, they hunker down and just take punishment, trying to protect their head. This is where the danger is really high, the attacking ones go for the head because this is where they can do the most damage. You may have seen some old comedies where people keep away from others by running around a table, keeping the table between them and their attacker. This is the kind of things you need to create quality space, things they can run around and get away.

    My pullets normally avoid the older hens until they start to lay themselves. That’s when they mature enough to force their way into the main flock and carve out their own place in the pecking order. Sometimes I see this just before they start to lay, sometimes it’s a month after, but generally around when they start to lay. You notice I did into give an age. It’s not age related, it’s maturity related.

    You said you have a large coop. How much roost space do you have and how is it set up? The time mine are most brutal to each other is when they are going to bed. Even with an all-mature flock it can get pretty rough when the ones higher in the pecking order kick the lower ranked ones out of the favorite roosting spots. Again it is not inches per bird, it is quality of that roosting space. Some of us have installed separate “juvenile” roosts for lower ranked birds to be able to find a safe place to sleep that is not our nests. Mine is actually over the nests with the top of my nests acting as a droppings board. It’s a little lower than the main roosts and horizontally separated by about 3 feet. Having a coop big enough that you have flexibility to do things like add a juvenile roost or put up a temporary fence or wall to house them separately is a huge bonus.

    That’s enough for this morning. Hopefully you will get something useful out of all this. Good luck!

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