Integrating a "new" bird -- not sure which route to take?

Grey Gables

Songster
Dec 30, 2019
123
173
136
Ohio
Hello!


Would love to get some opinions on a situation with my chickens. I'm not sure if this post fits best in 'Chicken Behaviors' or if it's better off in the coop design thread.

I have four chickens from my original group. I got four new chicks this past spring and had my worst chicken experience yet - two died very young of mysterious illness, another died over the summer of yet another mysterious illness (or failure to thrive?). I guess I just got a bad batch of chicks. Vets were involved, chicks were kept quarantined from older chickens, etc. Anyway, that left me with only one from this new batch. She's doing great! A very smart and friendly chicken. I had considered getting her a friend but after my bad luck this year, wasn't sure if I wanted to take any chances on introducing a new bird. So I took my time very slowly integrating my young one in with the older birds.

First she lived in her own "mini coop" (converted dog house) next to the main coop. I fenced off a portion of yard for her to go in and out of the mini coop, with some room roam. The older chickens could graze/roam around this area, seeing the young one, but couldn't actually get to her.

When they seemed to not care about her anymore, I started letting her out with the older chickens if I was outside supervising. A few chases/pecks, but nothing crazy happened. Eventually I felt comfortable letting them all out together during the day. Occasionally I'd see the older hens go after the young one, but nothing too concerning. No one was being violent. And there was plenty of room for her to run if she needed to get away from anyone. Usually they would just chase her off if food was involved (I have two different "food stations" so no one will starve/be bullied away from food). At this point, the young chicken was still sleeping in her mini coop at night, but as I said, out with the other four during the day. This fall, I tried placing her on the roost at dusk in the main coop but she'd freak out, obviously afraid of the older birds. So I made a makeshift wall/separator out of wire fencing to put up on one end of the coop, near the chicken door. The older birds always roost at the opposite end, so it gave the young bird her own space and allowed her to feel protected. This seemed to work. I guess at this point, I was hoping they'd all be getting along well enough that I could take the divider out, but when I did, the young chicken definitely seemed to not want to sleep in the main coop. I have a covered run attached to my main coop, and in the winter, I'm sure there will be times that I won't let the chickens out due to cold/weather. But at this point, I don't have confidence that my young bird can hang with the older ones in the run, with no where to escape if they go after her. Ideally they could all live together, especially during winter for warmth.


The only solutions I can think of:
1. Add onto the run to give even more space? (cons: $$$, finding materials, finding time)
2. Try to make some roosts to fit in the run where the young chicken could roost/escape if needed? Not convinced this will do the trick but it's the easiest solution.
3. Get her a friend and let them live in their own run (which would need built) off of the mini coop.

Attaching a sketch and photo of my main coop. It's 4x6 with an attached covered run. The coop is raised off the ground, so the chickens also have space to hang out under the coop. I don't believe I have a space issue. It's just unfortunate that I have four original chickens who were raised together, plus one new one.

Also Attaching photos of my "mini-coop," which was a dog house I bought and converted into a little coop for the babies. I intended to build an attached run off of this coop at some point, but it felt less and less necessary as my chicken numbers went down. Used a spare umbrella for some additional shade/rain cover for now.

Now that I've rambled on and on.... thoughts? Is there hope for my young chicken to mesh with the older girls? They've been around each other several months now. Or should I be looking into either a friend or some sort of construction/additional room? Any thoughts or help would be appreciated! Thank you!
 

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DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
Premium Feather Member
Jul 23, 2018
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I would try to add some pallets leaning against the walls of the run to offer places for her to get out of the line of sight of the older girls.
Do you have any litter on the run floor? If not, I would put down a thick layer of wood chips.
Is there a predator apron around the entire run area, including under the coop? Are the run and all the window openings covered in 1/2" hardware cloth? If so, there should be no reason not to leave the pop door open and let the birds come and go from the coop at will. For winter, cover the walls of the run with clear plastic shower liners leaving the upper gable peaks open for ventilation.
 

Ebony Rose

Crowing
12 Years
May 26, 2009
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David, Chiriquí, Panama
If it were me, I'd take the lowest on the pecking order of your four older girls (most docile) and place your young girl and the older low-ranking girl in the same see-don't-touch enclosure you had the young one in while attempting integration. Leave them in this living condition for two to four weeks to build a bond between your young girl and the older gal.
This living situation will give your young girl a friend when integration occurs AND because they will still be seen and heard by the original flock members, your low ranking, older hen won't lose her status and will still be considered 'family'.
A cheap-o dollar store plastic laundry basket (preferably the type that has holes or slats that you can see through but still offer some privacy) placed upside down & with a hole cut in a side or two will provide a 'duck and cover' hidey-hole for when a bird just wants to be out of sight, out of mind.
 

Grey Gables

Songster
Dec 30, 2019
123
173
136
Ohio
I would try to add some pallets leaning against the walls of the run to offer places for her to get out of the line of sight of the older girls.
Yes, definitely think some hiding places or roosts could be helpful!

Do you have any litter on the run floor? If not, I would put down a thick layer of wood chips.
Yes, my entire run is sand.

Is there a predator apron around the entire run area, including under the coop? Are the run and all the window openings covered in 1/2" hardware cloth? If so, there should be no reason not to leave the pop door open and let the birds come and go from the coop at will.
Yup, I have a predator apron around the main coop and run. All windows have 1/2" hardware cloth. The run has 1/2" hardware cloth. No worries about the coop and run being predator proof -- it's solid. I have an automatic door on the coop so they can go in and out of the run/coop. I was trying to say there may be times I don't let them out of the run if the weather is bad. Sorry, if I wasn't clear! I've never had to lock them in the coop due to weather.

For winter, cover the walls of the run with clear plastic shower liners leaving the upper gable peaks open for ventilation.
I have marine vinyl panels I made with snaps that go all along the run! Lots of work but they turned out great and were awesome last winter. :)
 

Grey Gables

Songster
Dec 30, 2019
123
173
136
Ohio
If it were me, I'd take the lowest on the pecking order of your four older girls (most docile) and place your young girl and the older low-ranking girl in the same see-don't-touch enclosure you had the young one in while attempting integration. Leave them in this living condition for two to four weeks to build a bond between your young girl and the older gal.
This living situation will give your young girl a friend when integration occurs AND because they will still be seen and heard by the original flock members, your low ranking, older hen won't lose her status and will still be considered 'family'.
A cheap-o dollar store plastic laundry basket (preferably the type that has holes or slats that you can see through but still offer some privacy) placed upside down & with a hole cut in a side or two will provide a 'duck and cover' hidey-hole for when a bird just wants to be out of sight, out of mind.

That's a great idea! My most docile/lowest on the pecking order does still go after her, but, I do think they'd have the greatest chance of co-existing. Also like the laundry basket idea. Thank you!
 

DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
Premium Feather Member
Jul 23, 2018
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NY Southern Tier
My Coop
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Yes, my entire run is sand.
That's not a great substrate for the birds to dig around in. It's good if you want to scoop poop instead of having it cold compost.
Add more clutter to the run and see how it goes. Has the younger pullet started laying yet?
 
Last edited:

Grey Gables

Songster
Dec 30, 2019
123
173
136
Ohio
That's not a great substrate for the birds to dig around in. It's good if you want to scoop poop instead of having it cold compost.
Add more clutter to the run and see how it goes. Has the younger pullet started laying yet?
Yes, I do scoop poop daily. They seem to like the sand. I till it if it starts to pack down at all, so it's pretty loose for them to dig holes and dust bathe. The section under the coop is a mixture of dirt/sand, as we didn't dig that area out. They still have access to a large fenced grassy area during the day.

And no, my young one has not started laying yet. She's started getting very red in the comb/wattle, but I haven't really seen any of the other signs. She's been slow to develop overall.
 

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