Integrating a white pullet into a dark flock?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by SixpenceFarm, Oct 18, 2015.

  1. SixpenceFarm

    SixpenceFarm New Egg

    May 15, 2013
    I just got two new pullets (supposed to be blue partridge Brahmas - one is almost all white though.) They've been through their quarantine period and I'm trying to integrate them into a four hen flock of dark grey (3) and black (1) Orpingtons. The grey hens are attacking the white pullet. The black hen shows no particular interest in either of the new girls. The first attempt at integration was to put the new girls onto the roost after everyone had gone to bed. All was well until I let them out the next morning when the attacks began. It's not just one of the greys trying to prove she's top dog, it's all of them in a gang. Also if the white girl loses a feather, the grey girls fight over it like it's a prize treat. I've actually seen them eat her feathers. The new girls are separated from the original flock now although they are inside the same run and can see each other. I'm wondering if it's her color that is making her a target. Can I do anything to make this work? I wondered if a coat or temporary coloring might work. Any suggestions?
  2. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Firstly, chances are you do have pure blue birds. A blue bird X a blue bird will result in 1/3 black offspring, 1/3 true blue, and 1/3 splash (off white). Blue is a diluter gene - all blue and splash birds are actually black underneath, and the blue gene acts as a sort of "paint" - 1 coat of paint (1 copy of the gene) turns black into Blue, and two coats (2 copies of the gene) makes it even lighter, and the bird becomes a Splash.

    I highly doubt that the aggression is the result of the hen's color. More than likely, she is just less dominant than the other birds. I suggest doing a separated introduction, of all the pullets. You should use chicken wire or a similar material to fashion a separate pen in one corner or end of your run, and leave the girls in there for the daytime. If your coop allows it, you should place a small dog crate or cage inside it, and keep them in there during the night. If they are older (closer to 16 weeks) a week of separated introduction should be fine; if they are younger (closer to 8) than I would suggest 2 weeks to be safe.

    Mind that feather eating can be a sign your birds need protein. What kind of diet are they on right now? How many treats/table scraps are they fed? Are they molting? Since any pullets under 16 weeks of age should be on a grower feed anyways, (preferably 18-20% protein), I suggest switching the whole flock over for the time being. This will fix any protein deficiencies, is important for the healthy growth of pullets, and will help any of your older girls who may be molting.
  3. SixpenceFarm

    SixpenceFarm New Egg

    May 15, 2013
    What a great response! I actually put a dog crate in the run this afternoon, so I'm pleased my instincts were taking me in the right direction. I'll put up some chicken wire tomorrow to give the new girls their own space for a week or two. The pullets are 24 weeks and are as tall (although not as stout) as the hens. Both pullets are very docile, but the white girl is moreso than her darker sister. Apparently they have been very attached to one another since hatching and they murmur quietly to each other almost constantly. The white girl has a higher voice and almost sounds like a chick. I will also get some higher protein feed for the flock. I do have two hens molting.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Yeah, it's not about color, or age, or size, it's about territory and resources(food/water)......
    ......newcomers are a threat to those things and the existing birds will try to protect it.

    You might want to try some 'musical chickens', after a week or so of side by side but separated by wire existence.
    Put 1 of the existing birds in with the 2 new ones for a couple hours, see how it goes.
    Then do it again the next day and/or try another 1 of the existing.
    This shakes up the territory thing and balances the numbers.

    Oh and feeding some scratch or treats right at the separation fence line can get them used to eating very close to one another.

    Here's some notes I've taken on integration that I found to be very helpful.......
    ......take what applies or might help and ignore the rest.
    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.

    In adjacent runs, spread scratch grains along the dividing mesh, best of mesh is just big enough for birds to stick their head thru, so they get used to eating together.

    Another option, if possible, is to put all birds in a new coop and run, this takes the territoriality issues away.

    Read up on integration..... BYC advanced search>titles only>integration
    This is good place to start reading:

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