Increasing flock four fold.....

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by PhiberOptikx, Jan 22, 2016.

  1. PhiberOptikx

    PhiberOptikx Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 3, 2014
    It is going to be my first year adding to my flock and I had a few questions. I currently have 11 birds. nine hens and two roos. I am going to be hatching out roughly 40 birds and purchasing about four turkeys. The current flock has a poultry net but they just hop it to free range during the day. So, never having added new birds to the flock my question is this. How should I go about integrating the new birds? I will brood them far away from the flock until they are at least ten weeks old. At that point would it be best to just slip the new birds in the coop after everyone is asleep? My thinking is that even if they do pick at the newcomers they are outnumbered 4-1 so every bird would be picked on a little bit instead of one bird being severely beaten. I had thought of putting the new birds in a temporary fence next to the existing birds. But what is the point if the other birds just hop it? Any advice?
  2. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    If you were raising human babies would you keep them away from all adult humans until they were almost teenagers? No? You would want the human children to be able to interact and learn from the adults and to fit in with human society and culture. After all, humans are social animals and so are chickens.

    Chicks brooded and raised right alongside adult chickens are accepted into the flock from the very beginning. Chicks raised separately and introduced into the flock when they're almost grown are strangers and will be treated as outsiders.

    Anyone can brood outside in their run or coop. It's easy to fence off a section for the chicks where they will be protected from the adults while they are tiny and vulnerable.

    I have 5 x 7 inch portals in this chick pen that I open up when they reach three weeks. They learn quickly to duck back inside their safe pen, and their food and water is also inside so they don't have to compete with the adults.

    The chick-size openings will accommodate them until they are three months old, and by then, they've become very adept at being chickens. Imagine the problems chicks raised separately have to cope with.

    Just because everyone broods chicks separate from the flock and introduces them only after they're almost grown, doesn't mean it's the best way. If you think about it, it really makes no sense.[​IMG]

    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  3. PhiberOptikx

    PhiberOptikx Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 3, 2014
    True. However, I should have mentioned that I will be purchasing chicks to mix in with my hatch as well. So they would be at least 4 weeks old before putting them into the coop. At which point would seem a little counter productive to me.
  4. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    You could brood with heat in the side pen that was suggested above. Or just brood in the house and put in side pen at 4 weeks. It really doesn't matter, the end result is the birds are together but not actually able to touch one another so there is no injury to small chicks. They will learn some by observation but by no means is it the same as a broody hen raising them. The main point is by having birds side by side separated by fence they are not complete strangers when the fence comes down. Normal minor pecking would ensue but wouldn't be a hard integration like birnging in older never seen birds.
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    azygous and egghead make some very good points on integration.

    My first thought when I saw the title of this thread, 'Increasing flock four fold.....' ,
    was do you have room in your coop for that many birds?
    You may mostly free range or have a huge run/pen area,
    but there still will be times when all the bird will need the coop as shelter at the same time,
    extreme weather(you don't state your location) or predator events.

    Another thing that stood out was 'to just slip the new birds in the coop after everyone is asleep'.
    This can work, but often does not, because as
    bobbie-j sez "chickens aren't the brightest animals on this planet, but they're not that stupid."
    Not quite the case here with the large numbers, but I think it would create chaos and monumental stress for all involved.

    The side by side thing, starting as early as possible, really has great merit.
    You may also need yet another separate enclosure the integrate the different groups of chicks before integrating all in with the main flock.
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Chickens are social animals and get to know each member of their flock. They know how they rank socially (the pecking order) so they know how to interact peacefully. Chicken society can be fairly complex in how they interact, plus each chicken is an individual with its own personality. Different chickens react differently. Sometimes, not always and maybe not that often, a chicken will attack a stranger that is invading their territory. This is where housing them side by side really helps. It lets them get to know each other so they are more likely to accept that the other chickens have a right to be there.

    That still does not take care of the pecking order. Each chicken in the flock needs to know where they rank socially, otherwise they don’t know who to defer to and who better defer to them. When two chickens that don’t know where they stand meet, one usually tries to intimidate the other, often by pecking. If one runs away, and one usually does run away, there may be some chasing and maybe even a repeat performance, but they get this sorted. If one does not run away, there may be a fight but it usually doesn’t take one long to decide it’s better to run instead of fight. As long as they have enough room to run away and get away it usually ends peacefully. On rare occasions a chicken can still get injured or even killed in one of these fights, even with room, but if room is tight the possibility of injury or death goes way up. The biggest thing you can do to make integration go smoother is to give them as much room as you possibly can.

    You will have a different situation though because a more mature chicken always outranks an immature chicken. Pullets normally mature enough to join the pecking order about the time they start laying. Cockerels are a whole other matter. This post is long enough without me writing that book. Normally what happens with chicks that are raised with the flock or integrated at an older age but before they are mature the older hens peck them when they invade their personal space so the newcomers form a separate sub-flock. They quickly learn to avoid the older chickens as much as they can. Again space is important. They need enough room to run away if pecked and room to avoid.

    Occasionally you get a more mature chicken that is just a brute. They go out of their way to attack the younger chickens. This is practically never a mature dominant rooster. If the chicks are introduced to him when they are still chicks, he will accept them as his kids and might even help take care of him. Not always but sometimes. Most older hens aren’t that bad but if you have one like this a mature hen can go out of her way to attack and kill chicks. Adolescent pullets and cockerels can be dangerous too. As long as the chicks avoid the older chickens this is hardly ever a problem, but it can happen. Give them room to avoid.

    What sometimes happens that cause chickens to lose their lives is that they don’t always run away. If they are trapped against a fence or in a corner, they may not run but hunker down and try to protect their head. The winner doesn’t realize they have won so they keep attacking, usually going for the head where they are most vulnerable. This can be an older chicken as well as a younger chick. When this happens numbers don’t matter. She is not going to peck this chick then go looking for another. She is going to keep attacking this chick until it runs away or is dead. There are advantages in having numbers of the new chickens but it does not add that much safety. The pecking order is between individual chickens.

    I don’t know where you are purchasing those chicks you are not hatching. If they are coming from a major hatchery I don’t worry about quarantine. The eggs are hatched in total isolation from other chickens. They just don’t have an opportunity to catch any diseases as long as that hatchery follows correct biosecurity procedures and they will if they want to be a major hatchery for long. If they are from someone local, yes I’d be a lot more concerned.

    My brooder is built into the coop. My incubator or hatchery chicks go straight in there and the chicks are raised with the flock from Day 1. I have absolutely no problems just turning them loose with the flock at 5 weeks. I’ve never lost a chick to another adult flock member doing this, but as you may be able to guess I have a lot of room. Whether you do decide to quarantine or not and whenever you are ready to put the chicks outside, build an enclosure with a top so the adults can get used to the younger chicks and keep them there for a couple of weeks. When you turn them loose there will probably be a bit of pecking by the older birds when their personal space is invaded but they should very quickly learn to avoid the older birds as much as possible. They should return to their enclosure to sleep at night, separate from the adults. Eventually they might move into the main coop on their own but more likely you will have to move them yourself.

    Don’t expect them to sleep up on the main roosts with the adults until they are old enough to force their way into the pecking order. They will find other places to sleep. That could easily be your nests. To me a big part of a successful integration and keeping them from sleeping in your nests is to have a lot of roost space so they can avoid the adults. That is not a certain number of inches per bird, it’s spreading them out so the younger can avoid the older. I put up a separate roost, a foot below the main roosts but a foot above the nests and horizontally separated from the main roosts to give them a safe place to go that is not my nests. I have eleven 18-week-olds using it now.

    I know I’ve made this sound really impossible. It’s not, quite often these integrations go so smoothly you wonder what all the worry was about, even if you don’t do everything we recommend. But your odds of success go way up if you take it easy and do as much of this as you reasonably can.

    A lot of times people can just dump strange chickens in the coop at night and they haven’t killed each other in the morning. Some of that is dependent on the personality of the individual chickens, not all are brutes. Part of it may be that the new chickens avoid the older ones by going up to the roosts when the older ones are on the floor. A lot of times this does go pretty smoothly. But if they cannot run away it can end in disaster. Whenever I move chickens into the main coop, I make sure I’m down there by sunrise to let them out until I’m sure they won’t kill each other. That’s normally just a day or two.

    Good luck!

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