Integrating 4 pullets to Single Hen

MrLeeHo

Songster
May 28, 2020
188
829
151
NC
Hi Folks,
I recently lost my Barred Rock Hen which left me with 1 lone lady. Before she passed I was planning to wait until spring to add to the family but now that I am down to 1 knew I couldn't wait. A friend was willing to part with 4 of his ISA Brown pullets that are somwhere between 10-12 weeks old. I picked them up last night after spending the day creating a temporary housing space in my run for them in order to safely integrate. I have pictures below of the setup. My run is fully enclosed and the pop door to the coop stays open 24-7. The coop is on the opposite side of the run from the pullets new/temporary home. I have read many different opinions and theories on integration and now that I am working on it, I am looking for some thoughts on my setup and the best way forward. The corner that the pullets are in is completely enclosed using 2 pallets and a plywood box as the "walls" and chicken wire from the walls to the ceiling of the run. I have 2 openings to the box, one on the inside and one that leads out to the main section of the run. I have covered the opening to the main section with chicken wire for now to keep them separate. I have observed them quite a bit this morning and they seem to be spending a lot of time (the hen and pullets) next to each other near the opening that is fenced. The opening is roughly 10x10 inches and would be a tight fit for the Hen but not the pullets. I am wondering how much time (if any) I should keep the opening secure or if removing the wire and letting them meet each other is best. I believe they have a safe place to retreat if they get picked on too much by going back through into their corner. Any and all thoughts and suggestions are welcome. I really want to do this best for the flock to reduce stress. Part of me wants to move slowly and ease into it but another part feels like the quicker the pullets are able to go into the coop and roost at night and have full access to the space the better. Currently the pullets options for sleeping are either to roost out in the open either on the top of the pallets or the corner roost (that is where they slept last night) or to huddle in the box. Temperatures are not a concern for the next week as the lows are in the mid to upper 40s at night but I felt bad last night that they were not "inside". Thanks!
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Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,298
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Southeast Louisiana
The opening is roughly 10x10 inches and would be a tight fit for the Hen but not the pullets.
I had full sized hens use a nest box opening that was 8" wide and 6" high. I had to raise the lip to stop them from scratching the eggs out. I've never used that method for integration so I don't have a suggestion for what the right size is, but a 10" x 10" opening is not going to slow them down. In your situation I think a "safe haven" is a good idea.

I am wondering how much time (if any) I should keep the opening secure or if removing the wire and letting them meet each other is best.
You can get different opinions on this. My brooder is in the coop so the chicks grow up with the flock, a different situation than yours. I'd personally wait at least a week, partly to get them used to each other but mainly for them to recognize that area as home and a safe place. Longer might be better.

Part of me wants to move slowly and ease into it but another part feels like the quicker the pullets are able to go into the coop and roost at night and have full access to the space the better.
I favor the slow approach. As much as you can let them work it out at their pace. Don't try to force them into a tight space and think they will slug it out and learn to get along. It doesn't work that way, especially with your age difference. My approach would be to house them in that temporary area until they know it as home, then let them out to the run and see how they react, especially your older one. If you do this they will probably spend the night in there. After they have proven they can share the run peacefully with that hen I'd try moving them in the main coop at night after it is too dark for them to see. Be down there at first like to see how that is going.

Don't expect the chicks to immediately hop up on the main roost with that hen. I don't know what the inside of your main coop looks like but my pullets don't usually do that until they start to lay. I have more than one hen, that's different too. I don't care where mine sleep as long as it is not in a nest and is someplace predator safe. Not sure where you are located, you might need to add weather considerations to that.

In the morning after they have all woke up I typically find my chicks on the roosts while the adults are on the coop floor. My roosts are high enough that the adults can't reach up and peck them. I don't know how yours is set up. That's how mine avoid the adults.

That temporary area looks like it is pretty small, not sure how well your four chicks will fit as they grow. And it looks like it could be challenging to clean, especially if they sleep in there. You may want to move faster than I suggest.

Sometimes these things go so smoothly you wonder what all the worry was about. Sometimes you find out what the worry was about. You don't get guarantees with this, a lot will depend on the personality of your single hen. My main suggestion is to try things and go by what you see. Trust what you see more than what a stranger over the internet tells you that you might see. Good luck!
 

MrLeeHo

Songster
May 28, 2020
188
829
151
NC
I had full sized hens use a nest box opening that was 8" wide and 6" high. I had to raise the lip to stop them from scratching the eggs out. I've never used that method for integration so I don't have a suggestion for what the right size is, but a 10" x 10" opening is not going to slow them down. In your situation I think a "safe haven" is a good idea.


You can get different opinions on this. My brooder is in the coop so the chicks grow up with the flock, a different situation than yours. I'd personally wait at least a week, partly to get them used to each other but mainly for them to recognize that area as home and a safe place. Longer might be better.


I favor the slow approach. As much as you can let them work it out at their pace. Don't try to force them into a tight space and think they will slug it out and learn to get along. It doesn't work that way, especially with your age difference. My approach would be to house them in that temporary area until they know it as home, then let them out to the run and see how they react, especially your older one. If you do this they will probably spend the night in there. After they have proven they can share the run peacefully with that hen I'd try moving them in the main coop at night after it is too dark for them to see. Be down there at first like to see how that is going.

Don't expect the chicks to immediately hop up on the main roost with that hen. I don't know what the inside of your main coop looks like but my pullets don't usually do that until they start to lay. I have more than one hen, that's different too. I don't care where mine sleep as long as it is not in a nest and is someplace predator safe. Not sure where you are located, you might need to add weather considerations to that.

In the morning after they have all woke up I typically find my chicks on the roosts while the adults are on the coop floor. My roosts are high enough that the adults can't reach up and peck them. I don't know how yours is set up. That's how mine avoid the adults.

That temporary area looks like it is pretty small, not sure how well your four chicks will fit as they grow. And it looks like it could be challenging to clean, especially if they sleep in there. You may want to move faster than I suggest.

Sometimes these things go so smoothly you wonder what all the worry was about. Sometimes you find out what the worry was about. You don't get guarantees with this, a lot will depend on the personality of your single hen. My main suggestion is to try things and go by what you see. Trust what you see more than what a stranger over the internet tells you that you might see. Good luck!
Thank you, this all makes perfect sense. I only have one roost in the main coop going all the way across the long side. Good input on the opening not being small enough to deter, that was my fear, if she chases them into the smaller area there could be issues with someone getting cornered. As for the smaller area, it is about 24 sq ft excluding the inside of the box which is an additional 2x3ft which I am aware is not large however I was planning for it to be very temporary. I can re-jig it to be the full width of the run which would make it more like 40sq ft if it seems this it going to take longer. I really used the box just so they would have a place inside in case they still prefered to sleep huddled in a corner as some of my previous pullets have.

Weather should not be an issue atleast for the next 10 days. We are not forecasted to be below freezing in the 10 day forecast and most lows are above 45 with highs between 55-70.

i don't have any plans away from the house Saturday and was exporing the idea of opening the "door" and sitting outside with them to see how it goes. Being able to separate again if $%&# hits the fan.

Inputs from others are still welcome.
 

MrLeeHo

Songster
May 28, 2020
188
829
151
NC
Id just let them all run together today and observe them, you'll know pretty quick if the hen is going to attack them or if shes going to accept them 🤟 I try not to over think it, if she doesnt accept them Id try again next week. 👍
Unfortunately today I am not able to sit outside with them for an extended period of time because of work. I am able to go out every hr or so for a few mins just to check in. I am thinking about doing your suggestion on Saturday when I have the ability to be there.
 

ChickenLeg

Crowing
9 Years
Feb 15, 2012
1,897
2,618
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Unfortunately today I am not able to sit outside with them for an extended period of time because of work. I am able to go out every hr or so for a few mins just to check in. I am thinking about doing your suggestion on Saturday when I have the ability to be there.
Keep us posted, usually if I have a pen with a handful of hens I wait til the new birds are around 4 months before I bring them in, but Ive found when you only have 1 older bird she'll be more accepting of others. Best of luck, hope it goes well 🤟
 

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
8,663
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I would probably put the hen in that smaller area, and let the 4 new pullets have access to the main coop and run.

Then on Saturday, when you have time to watch, let the hen back out and watch what happens. Hopefully everything will be peaceful, but you will be there to intervene if it isn't.

The reasons for penning up the hen instead of the pullets:
--the larger number of birds will have the larger space
--the new birds will learn one new home (the coop) and not two (temporary pen and then coop.)
--the new birds will be comfortable in the new space before they meet the older bird, instead of trying to learn their way around while also watching out for the older hen who might chase them a bit. By the time you let her out, they will already know the location of the food, water, roost, hiding spots, and so forth.
 

3KillerBs

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@3KillerBs

I believe i have read a post in the past where you use a similar setup to what I have attempted. Do you have any suggestions on what I am attempting here?
Thanks

I have 2 integration threads:

https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/integrating-the-splits-documenting-the-process.1469700/

https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/setting-up-an-integration-facility.1496470/

One thing I made sure of when setting up the safe-space and creating the little openings was that I put in TWO openings instead of just one. That way if I'd miscalculated and one of my smaller adults decided to squeeze into the little ones' place the little ones could get out.

I've had three quite smooth integrations -- oversized facilities and NC's mild weather helped because I didn't have to force them into close proximity.

At this point, when I'm pulling the 10-week-olds out of the nest boxes I stick as many as will conveniently fit onto the roosts with the big girls and nobody gets pecked.
 

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