How old should my chicks be when I put them with laying hens

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by sullivan, Jul 7, 2016.

  1. sullivan

    sullivan New Egg

    Jul 7, 2016
    I don't know how old my chicks should be befor I put them in with my laying hens
  2. Yorkshire Coop

    Yorkshire Coop Moderator Staff Member

    Aug 16, 2014
    Yorkshire, UK
    My Coop
  3. sunflour

    sunflour Flock Master Premium Member Project Manager

    Jan 10, 2013
    [​IMG] I'm interested in hearing from those with experience on your questions., I hope to add some newbies to my 3 hens next year.

    Most advice I can locate states it is best to add them when they are about the same size as the established flock, but without a grow out pen/coop that will be a challenge.

    IMO wait until they are old enough to respect the pecking order issues and use the "look but don't touch" method of separation until any aggression from the elders abates. Use supervised visits and give the newbies an escape "plan" and separate feed/water stations.

    Hope someone with experience will respond - but I do know one cannot just put the young ones in and hope for the best.

    And from personal experience reintegrating a former flock member of the same age - that placing them in the coop at night can be disastrous.
  4. Ravynscroft

    Ravynscroft For the Love of Duck Premium Member

    Nov 30, 2014
    Middle Tennessee
    X2 sunflour, excellent advice!

    Better to go by size than age, really... some don't get as big as quick as others and some get big quick...

    And integrating slowly works much better usually...
    1 person likes this.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    There is no magic age or size for this. Some people, for good reasons, wait until the chicks are practically grown. I regularly integrate 5 week old chicks with my main flock and have never lost one to another adult. We are each unique in many ways; flock make-up and personality, room and facilities, and management methods are some critical ones when it comes to integration.

    Each chicken has its own personality and each flock has its own dynamics. Some individuals are just brutes when it comes to younger, less mature chickens or new chickens. That’s usually a hen, but on rare occasions it can be a rooster. I hardly ever see this but it does happen. I personally like a rooster in the flock when I’m integrating, normally they help keep the peace. But some people have reported that their rooster is the problem. There is some luck involved.

    A huge criteria for successful integration at any age or size is how much room you have. That’s not a matter of so many square feet per chicken, it’s more the quality of that room. One way chickens have learned to live together peacefully in a flock is that when there is conflict, the weaker runs away from the stronger or just avoid them to start with. They need the room to get away and avoid. You can achieve this by pure space, a large coop and a lot of room outside. Of course they have to have access to that outside room whenever they are awake. You can give them room to get away, a safe haven for smaller chicks (Azygous has an article on this, search for her and look in her signature), or roosts or perches up high so the others can’t peck them from the ground. Things for them to hide behind and get out of line of sight. There are different way to stretch your space but room is extremely important.

    Chickens can be territorial. If strange chickens invade their territory they may attack to drive them away. Not all of them do it and it can be a hen as well as a rooster, maybe more often it is a hen. It happens often enough that it is a concern. The way to minimize this problem is to house the chickens side by side across wire for a while so they get to know each other and at least recognize their right to exist. My brooder is in the coop. My brooder-raised chicks grow up with the flock. The flock knows about them and at least knows they are not strangers. Most people don’t raise them in the coop, so I suggest you fence off part of your coop so you can house the younger chickens across wire for at least a week before you let them mingle. There is nothing wrong with waiting more than a week. If you can’t manage that in your coop at least build a predator-proof area outside where they can see each other during the day. If you can’t manage that in your coop, your coop may be too small for that number of chickens anyway. But that’s another issue.

    More mature chickens always outrank less mature chickens in the pecking order and can be pretty brutal in enforcing their pecking order rights. When the younger mature enough to force their way into the pecking order they finally fully merge with the flock. For my pullets this is usually about the time they start to lay, maybe a week or two before or a month or so after, but generally around the time they start laying. Until then they avoid the older hens all the time. During the day they form a sub-flock, keeping away from the older hens. At night they won’t roost with the older hens, the older hens are often truly brutal on the roosts. I built a separate roost, higher than my nests but lower than the main roosts and horizontally separated from the main roosts, so the juveniles have a safe place to sleep that is not my nests.

    I find that size is not that important. It’s not unusual for a bantam to dominate a full sized hen or even rooster. That’s a matter of the spirit of the chicken, its personality. But until personality comes into play that much, it is a matter of maturity.

    Even if the older chickens don’t go out of their way to attack the less mature, if the younger ones invade their personal space they may get pecked. That’s why the younger form a sub-flock, they are scared of the mature chickens, usually with a very good reason. One way they intimidate the younger is to keep them away from the food and water. To help avoid conflict have a few separated food and water stations so they can eat without challenging the older ones. They won’t challenge the older ones, they are too scared.

    I don’t know enough about your situation to give specific advice. Give them as much room as you can, house them close together but across wire for a while, and provide separate feeding and watering stations. Do not leave them locked in an enclosed space when they are awake until you are confident that they will be OK. That often means being down there at daylight to open the pop door before they wake up. “As much room as you can” includes square feet but it also means quality space so they can avoid or run away. If space is an issue, waiting until they are older can help. Some people quote the magic age of 16 weeks. If space is really tight that may not be enough.

    Sometime this process goes so smoothly that you wonder what all the concern was about, sometimes it ends in disaster where chickens die, most of the time there is some drama but often not a lot. It is a situation that needs to be managed but we manage it all the time, usually successfully. You can too. Good luck!
  6. song of joy

    song of joy Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    A couple of years ago, I would have said "wait until they're about the same size as the adults". But this year I used a method discussed by azygous (see link below) and was able to integrate two separate batches of 3-week old chicks (8 chicks and 10 chicks) into an existing flock of 10 hens and 1 rooster. These chicks were allowed access to the coop, flock, and yard beginning at 3 weeks of age, using a panic room with 5 x 7" doors. Beginning at 3 weeks of age, the chicks were out free-ranging with the flock. Yes, I was nervous, but they learned flock dynamics and foraging skills very fast. The first batch of chicks abandoned the panic room and began roosting on roost bars (on the opposite side of the coop from the adult flock members) when the chicks were about 6 weeks old.

    A lot will depend on the number of chicks, number of adults, and your set-up, but this worked very well in my situation. Also, with this number of chickens (11 adults and 18 chicks), I have 3 feeders and 3 waterers set up to reduce competition.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2016
  7. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Mine are in the coop 'annex' within sight of the flock from about three to four weeks of age. When they are feathered out, and don't need extra heat, I start to let them out of their area to get used to the wide world briefly every day. Then everyone free ranges, and the babies get locked in to their area every night. Finally, everything is opened up, and the integrate into the main group. It takes a few weeks, and some supervision, but works very well. I do have a lot of space, outside, and in the coop and run. I also don't get production reds or other more aggressive breed types. Mary
  8. Tripschiks

    Tripschiks Just Hatched

    Jun 30, 2016
    Oh wow!! We have 4, 12-14 week old chiks. 2 are opinghtons and 2 are leg horns. We just bought 4 1-3 day old chiks 2 are GLW and 2 are Barred rocks. The 4 older girls free range all day till dusk. At what age should I start allowing them to free range together under supervision? For now the younger girls are in a separate cage under the patio. The older girls will have access to the patio when they free range, does this sound like a potential problem? We're brand new to the chik life so any valid info will be appreciated. Thanks
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2016
  9. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Your babies need their own digs with a heat source for a few weeks, and then limited outdoor excursions, and gradual mingling with the older birds. Lots of room to get out of the way, and things should work out well. My cockrels are starting to get 'hormonal', and many of them will be moving on in the next month or so. Mary
  10. I have 4 RIR 14 weeks and 2 barred rock 11 weeks. The two groups have been side by side for about 6 weeks and every time I let them out to play the rir chase and peck the br's. When I coral them back to the coop they go in together but the br's hide in one of the hiding places and won't come out, eat or drink. It's like they are really scared of them. So far I give them turns in the yard and allow the br to run the coop as the rir are in the yard. I'm not sure how to help them get along.

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