Incorporating new chickens/rooster question

Ehlena99

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 6, 2013
30
1
24
Hi All!! It's been a while since I've posted, but I've been reading! I haven't been able to find the answer to this question though.

I have a flock of birds that until yesterday was 8 hens and a rooster. They were raised (mostly) together and are about 18 months old. The rooster was horribly mean though, and so after raising a bunch of other chicks this year I decided to turn him and another 6 roosters into stew. I then moved the new hens and 1 new rooster into the coop. (They are 20 weeks old) It's been very quiet- in fact so quiet that I just don't know exactly what's going on. It looks to me like the rooster is making sure that the 3 young hens and the 7 older hens are kept completely separate. The older hens seem like they are so afraid that sometimes they won't even come out of the coop and into the run. I understand that they are rubbed completely raw from the old rooster, so I wonder if that could be leading to their fear? My question really has to do with making sure that I'm doing the right thing by just letting them be together in the coop and run and letting them mix on their own, or should I separate the rooster for a while to let the hens work it out? I just expected a big loud ruckus yesterday morning when they all woke up together and just never got it.

Help! (And Thanks in advance!)
Holly
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,902
678
296
Australia
Hi All!! It's been a while since I've posted, but I've been reading! I haven't been able to find the answer to this question though.

I have a flock of birds that until yesterday was 8 hens and a rooster. They were raised (mostly) together and are about 18 months old. The rooster was horribly mean though, and so after raising a bunch of other chicks this year I decided to turn him and another 6 roosters into stew.

Good on you for having that consideration for the quality of life of your hens... Too many people don't.

I then moved the new hens and 1 new rooster into the coop. (They are 20 weeks old) It's been very quiet- in fact so quiet that I just don't know exactly what's going on.

It looks to me like the rooster is making sure that the 3 young hens and the 7 older hens are kept completely separate.

What's going on there, to make you think so? Can you observe them and give some info on how this is happening?

The older hens seem like they are so afraid that sometimes they won't even come out of the coop and into the run.

I understand that they are rubbed completely raw from the old rooster, so I wonder if that could be leading to their fear?

Yes, animals of all types can be severely traumatized by abuse from the other gender, sometimes they remain averse to the other gender for life.

Chickens generally will come round to a good rooster, though; a nice rooster is generally very skilled at wooing the hens, but it does take some time for them to come out of their shells after they've had to live under a vicious rooster's abuse.

My question really has to do with making sure that I'm doing the right thing by just letting them be together in the coop and run and letting them mix on their own, or should I separate the rooster for a while to let the hens work it out? I just expected a big loud ruckus yesterday morning when they all woke up together and just never got it.

Your problem there is that you didn't separate them all for a longer period to begin with.

Just putting new animals all together into a cage is a very bad idea, it's basically how you bait animals into extreme violence, when under other conditions, with a gradual introduction, they would never have responded that way. You should never introduce animals to one another that way, generally; there's only some rare circumstances when it's ok, and you should always be on hand to intervene if necessary (but not if not completely necessary, which is a topic for another day, bit lengthy and specific for now).

Given a week to see one another without being able to harm one another, introductions should have been seamless and peaceful, as they all have a chance to visually identify gender, age, hierarchy etc without harm being done. Unfortunately this sort of forcible and without-warning introduction can permanently mess things up, since they all get off to a bad start by being put into one anothers' personal spaces and territories, which makes them all automatically in breach of chicken social laws, without it being any of their faults; it's kind of like making a mosh pit of chooks, lol.

But, since your pullets are still young, rather than mature, you stand a better chance of reintegrating them peacefully than someone who's combined two mature flocks.

You should probably separate all the new birds into a run where they can see all the resident birds and communicate via body language etc without being able to harm one another, and after a week, there's a good chance that the younger ones will already have shown submission to the dominant older ones and they should integrate well, provided there are no bullies among them. Just because there wasn't a ruckus doesn't mean harm wasn't done. It sounds like they were harmed, for them to be remaining separate like that; not a happy state of affairs, and can start a very negative pattern.

Help! (And Thanks in advance!)
Holly

Hope this helps. Please don't feel like I'm criticizing you, plenty of people are given the advice to "just put them together and let them sort it out" which is bad advice based on a callous disregard for the fact that it causes unnecessary stress and conflict. It's the mantra of the sort of farmer who doesn't care if their flock commits killings amongst itself pretty regularly, and lives under incredible stress and abuse; every other farmer takes more care when introducing animals to one another.

It's not impossible to have such peaceful animals that you can introduce them immediately without harm being the direct result, but it's not too common either, and it's rare that someone knows a new animal's nature so well that they can bank on things going so smoothly. Just like us, chooks are individuals and there can be those who just will not get along with one another even if they get along with all others.

Best wishes.
 

Ehlena99

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 6, 2013
30
1
24
My heavens, no, I don't take it as criticism- I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want to know!

I think they are being kept separate because if I throw scraps or scratch everyone rushes out to get it. The new Roo gets in between the young and the old and soon the old run away back into the coop. Or vice versa, the new all run back into the coop. I don't see them being chased, but it's almost like they are.

I hope that this one is a good rooster. I know he's nicer than the other (that wouldn't take much) but just isn't old enough to make that judgment yet.

They have been able to see and hear each other for the last 8 weeks or so- not right next door, but within view. I read a lot about how to incorporate them, and just tried the "put them in at night and when they wake up no one knows what's different" this time. I know they could hear the roosters leaving- they were a little upset- and thought maybe just the stress of one leaving and 4 new chickens moving in was just a bit too much.

Would it be more upsetting if I take them out again and put them into a cage in the coop? I was trying to make the least amount of crazy, but maybe that was the mistake....

THanks again!
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,902
678
296
Australia
My heavens, no, I don't take it as criticism- I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want to know!

That's good, I hoped I wouldn't offend you.

I think they are being kept separate because if I throw scraps or scratch everyone rushes out to get it. The new Roo gets in between the young and the old and soon the old run away back into the coop. Or vice versa, the new all run back into the coop. I don't see them being chased, but it's almost like they are.

Sounds like they're showing a bit of left-over fear from the last rooster, then.

I hope that this one is a good rooster. I know he's nicer than the other (that wouldn't take much) but just isn't old enough to make that judgment yet.

They have been able to see and hear each other for the last 8 weeks or so- not right next door, but within view.

Oh, well that's alright then, as long as they're close enough to observe one another that's most of the potential problems taken care of.

I read a lot about how to incorporate them, and just tried the "put them in at night and when they wake up no one knows what's different" this time.

I thought that might be the case, but the wording in the original post confused me, sorry.

I know they could hear the roosters leaving- they were a little upset- and thought maybe just the stress of one leaving and 4 new chickens moving in was just a bit too much.

Would it be more upsetting if I take them out again and put them into a cage in the coop? I was trying to make the least amount of crazy, but maybe that was the mistake....

If you're not seeing him using physical violence to keep them separate then I would not separate them again; just the fact that some were hiding in the coop made me wonder if they are attacked when they come out, but if you haven't seen this happen, then best to leave them together and hopefully it will work out well.

THanks again!

Best wishes with them. :)
 

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