How do you introduced baby Chicks to full grown hens?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by debb7898, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. debb7898

    debb7898 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 17, 2012
    I have 10 laying chickens right now, and am planning on getting 10-12 more in January.....

    I have no idea how to introduce these new chicks to them?

    Do they have to be separated for some length of time....

    Im also going to be using a part of our barn, that is not in use right now....

    My coop is a regular old type chicken coop that has 12 boxes, for the 10 chickens I have now..

    Thankyou for your help

    Debb :)
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    You’ll find we do it different ways. I think a whole lot of what works has to do with how much room we have and how we are set up. Chickens have developed ways to live together in a flock. A lot of these ways depend on the weaker running away from the stronger or just avoiding them in the first place. It is important they have room to run away or avoid. In general, the less room you have the older they need to be to integrate.

    You have two basic things to worry about when integrating chickens. They can be territorial. They can recognize who is a part of their flock and who is not. Before I go further, I need to say there is a tremendous difference in what can happen and what will happen each time. Often this does not happen and when it does it is usually a hen, not the rooster. But it is certainly possible a chicken will attack a new chicken to defend its territory. This is where housing them side by side where they can see each other through the wire can really help. They get used to the idea that these are members of the flock. It does not always work but it really improves your odds of success. Usually a week is enough.

    The other thing is the pecking order. For them to live together they have to know where they rank in chicken society. Once this is established the flock usually exists pretty peacefully but getting it established can be pretty violent.

    What usually happens is that the stronger pecks the weaker and the weaker runs away. All is well. But if they don’t run away it is a challenge to pecking order position and can get pretty violent. Usually this is more flaring of the neck feathers or a minor skirmish, then running away but it can involve real fighting.

    One thing is that mature chickens always outrank immature chickens. And some can be quite vicious in protecting their pecking order position. This is why you usually see younger immature chickens forming their own separate flock on the outskirts of the main flock. It’s not that they don’t ever mingle. Sometimes they do. But there is always the chance of a peck.

    This story might demonstrate it a bit. It’s not unusual for me to see a two week old chick leave the broody’s protection to stand next to older hens around the feeder. Sometimes those older hens totally ignore the chick as it eats. But usually it doesn’t take long for one of the older hens to peck the chick to remind it that it is bad chicken etiquette to eat with its social betters. The chick runs as fast as it can back to Mama. The broody ignores all this. That chick has to learn its proper place in the flock. But if the hen that pecks starts to follow the chick, Mama takes great offense and teaches her not to follow her baby.

    I have lots of room. I don’t know if any of this can apply to your situation, but the way I do it is that my broodies raise their chicks with the flock from Day 1. Mama takes care of basic integration but the chicks have to handle their own pecking order issues after they are weaned as they grow and mature.

    For brooder raised chicks, my brooder is in the coop from Day 1 and it has wire sides so they can see each other. Around 4 to 5 weeks of age, depending on weather, I move them to the grow-out coop and run. Again there are wire sides where they can see each other. Around seven weeks age, I alternate letting the chicks and the older ones roam the larger outside are in the electric netting. At eight weeks, I let then out together. There are some of those pecking order issues until the younger chicks learn to keep their distance but I’ve never lost a chick doing this.

    The younger chicks sleep in the grow-out coop separate from the older ones for a while, but at 12 weeks I usually put them all in the main coop. I did put up and extra roost off to the side and lower than the main roosts so the younger can sleep there if they want to avoid the older chickens on the roost. Usually they use these for a few weeks.

    Good luck! Hope you figure out something that works for you.
    1 person likes this.
  3. debb7898

    debb7898 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 17, 2012
    Thankyou so much and Yes it was very helpful....:)
  4. luvamyachickens

    luvamyachickens New Egg

    Dec 13, 2012
    In my experience..introducing chicks to bigger hens has been bad. The grown hens killed my baby chicks. So now..I wait until they are big enough sized pullets and let the pecking order take place without a lot of carnage taking place. They settle down and adjust to eachother's order. I have 30 hens. 4 of which are pullets (2 months old) but big enough now that they won't be killed but can blend in and become part of the crowd. I also have 5 month old pullets that were introducted to the main flock when they were about 2 months old..again..big enough to run or defend and they did just fine. Hope this helps. I'm not a professional but have alot of chickens and have experienced alot of chicken events. Have fun and best of luck!
    I love what ridgerunner true! watching chickens and their behavior is fascinating and entertaining.
  5. Mrs yellow

    Mrs yellow New Egg

    Nov 9, 2013
    I have a chicken called mrs. Yellowfeathers and her four sisters were killed by a hawk this past summer. This post was wonderful since we are planning to get four clicks this spring. Thank goodness mrs.has one other fellow sister to keeper her company over the winter. It is amazing they were not friendly before but now they are always together.

    Our question is , does anyone think mrs. Yellow feather's would take chicks in as her own?... She is a yellow comet that has become extremely friendly to the point that when the schoolbus arrives they come to meet the kids. They would love to come into the house if we would let them.

    Henry (11). And momma
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    no, she will not take chicks. Even the nicest of hens will kill chicks. The only way is if she goes broody before you get the chicks, she should be broody about 2-3 weeks, then you can trick her into believing that the brand new chicks are hers, AND trick the day old chicks (not older) into believing she is their mama. Then you can pull it off, having the chicks with the mama hen in with the flock.

    I have read, that if you create a nest with rocks or golf balls in it, 4-8, and stars line up and you get **** lucky, you can start a broody hen. Some breeds are much more likely to go broody, and some breeds are very unlikely to go broody. But mostly it is a huge amount of luck.

    Mrs K
    1 person likes this.
  7. Mrs yellow

    Mrs yellow New Egg

    Nov 9, 2013
    Thank you.
    We will do more research to see if we can trick mrs.

    Thanks again
  8. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    You should just plan on brooding the chicks.
  9. Mrs yellow

    Mrs yellow New Egg

    Nov 9, 2013
    The more I read about getting an older hen to raise chicks it definitely looks like we will be raising the babies

    Henry and mom
  10. Maven

    Maven Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 30, 2012
    As usual, Ridgerunner is full of wisdom and good advice. [​IMG]

    I learned sooooo much from the OTs (old timer) here, they really know their stuff.

    I've had a dozen or so successful hatches now, all because when I first found BYC the first thing I did was devour the original OT thread, the HLF thread, and any others I could find where the OTs were hanging out.

    I have NEVER had an older hen or rooster kill a chick, and this is after integrating more than 100 chicks into the flock over the last year and a half. Some of the things I do as I learned from them that makes hatching and integration so easy.

    1) If I have a broody, I make good use of her. After many broody hatches and incubator hatches, I find I prefer incubator hatching. But if I want chicks and a hen goes broody, I set eggs when a hen goes broody. I leave her on her nest on golf balls, and set the eggs. As soon as they hatch and dry, I take the chicks out to her that night and put them under her. The next morning she is Mama Amazing - never had a broody fail me yet - and I no longer have to worry about the chicks at all. As RR said, she will teach them their manners and woe be it to any other hen that tries to interfere with her babies.

    2) If I am doing strictly an incubator hatch and have no broody, the brooder box goes into the coop the day I set the eggs. When the eggs hatch, the dry chicks are taken to the brooder box where they can be seen and heard by the rest of the flock. My brooder box is 28 inches wide, 5 feet long, and about 3 feet off the ground. It has a wire covered lid that the big hens can see thru from their roost. The legs have slats - much like a barnyard fence - around them that are about 4 inches apart. There is also a little roost under there for chicks. When the chicks are about 2 weeks old, they are transferred from the brooder box to the floor of the coop - their food, water, and heat lamp (if needed) are placed under the brooder box. From this point on, the chicks are part of the flock. They can run in and out under the brooder box for safety because the bigger hens can't get through the slats but they can. When they are big enough and adventurous enough, they leave the coop on their own and go to the run where they also have a pallet on legs just big enough for them to get under for safety that the older hens can't get under. They eat with the flock, learn their place, and when finally feel REALLY adventurous they head out of the run to forage with the rest of the flock on their own.

    3) I have had the best of both situations merge before. I hatched a brood in the 'bator and put them in the box one day. A few days - nearly a week - later, I had a BA go broody on me. I didn't want to hatch any more chicks right then, so I gave her a couple of days to make sure she really meant it, then I went out in the middle of the night and put 15 of those 'bator hatched chicks under her. Mind you, those chicks were a week old and she had only been sitting a couple of days. The next morning those chicks were HERS and she raised them for 6 weeks beautifully.

    4) I had an Wyandotte go broody on me and a friend wanted some eggs hatched. He didn't want them 'bator hatched, so we a dozen under her, right there in a bottom row nest box in the coop. No blocking her off or pinning her up, just left her right there. 8 days later, a BO went broody on me. I took half the eggs from the Wyandotte and put them under the BO. I checked the nests daily and the time or two I found someone else's egg there it was removed. They both hatched their broods on the same day and what was REALLY neat about this hatch is that both those broodies CO-PARENTED those 12 chicks. They went every where together, they ate together, they nurseried the chicks together, and all 12 chicks considered both broodies their mamas. [​IMG] It was one of the coolest things I've seen so far, and I am going to see if it happens again this spring.

    I guess the bottom line is, listen to the OTs if you want sage advice, and let chickens BE chickens. They figure it all out on their own. As long as they have enough SPACE to be themselves - room for the whole flock to integrate properly, they take care of everything else. You are only going to have problems if your flock is too cramped in the space you are providing for them and if the young ones don't have naturally safe places to hide from the older ones when they need it.

    Good luck!!
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
    3 people like this.

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