Incorporating older birds into my current flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by CountryHeart06, Mar 4, 2015.

  1. CountryHeart06

    CountryHeart06 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So I have heard that if you bring older birds into your current flock that the best way to do it is at night & to just place them in the coop with the others. I've also heard that it works because it's based on whether or not the new birds smell like the flock. So I'm wondering if it would help to change the pine shaving in the coop before I do it to keep the smell in there more neutral. Thoughts? TIA!
     
  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    My chickens have always known that there are strangers when I've done it that way. I still had the pecking order issues. I have read that chickens don't really have that great of a sense of smell.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2015
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Bringing older chickens into the flock is a bit risky as far as possibly introducing a disease into your flock you didn't have before. It's recommended you quarantine them for a period to see if they're healthy. But there are many diseases that are carried and birds can be asymptomatic. So I'm of the opinion quarantines have limited value.

    The second problem you should be aware of is that the new chickens need to imprint on their new coop as home, so if you plan on free-ranging them, they might benefit from being cooped up for a couple of days to learn they're in their new home so they will roost and lay eggs there.

    When I move new chickens into the flock, I do it as early in the day as I can, but after the other hens have finished laying for the day. The new ones will probably be roosting by the time you let the others in at dusk, and there shouldn't be any conflict. Next morning, I would let the current flock out and keep the new ones inside for another day. You'll need to keep an eye on the ones who need to get in to use the nest boxes during that second day, but by the third day, you can let them all out together and there shouldn't be too much in the way of conflict since you've been easing them together.

    You don't mention how many new chickens you plan on integrating and how many are in your current flock. Numbers of each can matter. Chickens find strength and confidence in the number in their social unit, so if one out-numbers the other group, the one with the most members will typically have the upper hand.

    Sense of smell determining familiarity or stranger/outlier as dogs employ is not operational in chickens. They do, however, have a spectacular knack for remembering up to 100 different faces of their own flock as well as members of other animal species, including humans.
     
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  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Here's some notes I've taken on integration that I found to be very helpful.
    See if any of them, or the links provided at the bottom, might offer some tips that will assist you in your situation:

    Integration of new chickens into flock.


    Consider medical quarantine:
    BYC Medical Quarantine Article
    Poultry Biosecurity
    BYC 'medical quarantine' search

    Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact. Integrating new birds of equal size works best.

    For smaller chicks I used a large wire dog crate right in the coop for the smallers. I removed the crate door and put up a piece of wire fencing over the opening and bent up one corner just enough for the smallers to fit thru but the biggers could not. Feed and water inside the crate for the smallers. Make sure the smallers know how to get in and out of the crate opening before exposing them to the olders. this worked out great for me, by the time the crate was too small for the them to roost in there(about 3 weeks), they had pretty much integrated themselves to the olders.

    If you have too many smallers to fit in a crate you can partition off part of the coop with a wire wall and make the same openings for smallers escape.


    The more space, the better. Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

    Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

    Places for the new birds to hide out of line of sight and/or up and away from any bully birds.

    Read up on integration..... BYC advanced search>titles only>integration
    This is good place to start reading:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/adding-to-your-flock
     
  5. CountryHeart06

    CountryHeart06 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have quarantined the new girls. I just purchased 3 Ameraucanas that are 20 weeks old and I will be picking up 2 Golden Comets that are also 20 weeks old today. I currently have 5 that are almost a year old. So when I get the Golden Comets today I was planning on quarantining them by themselves as well. Now I'm wondering how long to quarantine. They lady I bought the Ameraucanas from said a week was sufficient. I'm also wondering if I should do the Golden Comets at the same time or if I should stagger them?
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    @CountryHeart06 For true disease quarantine...I'd go at least 3-4 weeks in a totally separate coop, clothing and equipment.

    Did you read the links I posted on quarantine?
    Take them with a grain of salt.
    You'll have to decide what risk level is acceptable to you for your flock.
     
  7. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    The thing is, quarantine aside, integrating full grown chickens, unless they already know each other, is going to require going through the ritual of sorting out the pecking order, not only with the newcomers and the current flock, but between the newcomers, as well. It's likely to be some circus act, maybe even the full three rings.

    If you were introducing one new chicken to one current chicken, the current one would greet the newcomer with a stern peck on the head, and that would probably settle the pecking order, unless the newcomer wasn't pleased with being #2. Then it could take a few minutes longer.

    When you have multiple chickens, they are going to have to figure out the pecking order in relation to everyone else. It's going to be a complex ordeal. The more chickens, the longer it will take. It could go on for a week.

    The safest method of introducing newcomers is to crate them up in the run with the current flock so everyone can get accustomed to one another before they need to get physical about it. It could soften the process when they do get together.

    There is no way, however, of insuring it's peaceful.
     
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