Integrating chickens trouble!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Lb4paws, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. Lb4paws

    Lb4paws Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 7, 2015
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    Hi all-
    This going to be long winded so I apologize in advance. But we are having a hard time integrating 2 younger chickens in with our original flock. So if you'll bare with me......here's the story.......

    We are new to chickens this year. Got our first 5 chicks April 2nd (2 days old). Then on July 7th we got 2 more (2 days old). So they are about 3 months apart in age. Due to sizes they were housed separately. When the little ones got bigger we put their pen next to the big girls in their little coop (tractor supply purchase)....all in the garage. We were working on building their deluxe accommodations outside. As we got nearer to coop completion outside, we would open both the pen and little coop in the garage and let them intermingle.....which went fine. We were waiting for the little ones to be about the same size before putting them together as I read that that was what we should do.....plus they were eating different food.....grower vs layer.

    Anyway, we got the big girls outside to their new palace and put the little ones in the small coop in the garage. Then we started putting them out in their run together........outside palace has an attached 8' x 16' run. Well, things have not gone well. The little ones are being bullied and picked on. They appeared very stressed, getting chased into corners, not allowed in the big coop, look to us for help whenever we were in sight. We did this for a few hours per day one weekend....separating them back in to their own coops at night. Well, on Sunday evening when I separated them, one of the little ones had a little blood on her head. So we stopped doing that for a it and thought maybe they needed to be a little bigger yet.

    Then we decided to put one of the older ones in the little coop with the younger ones. We chose one that doesn't seem to mind them. And that went fine. And we tried shutting them in the roosting/nesting area over night after dark. That went fine also. Then we added another chicken one night, again shutting them in the small area overnight. That went fine but then during the day, the older one chased the little ones and kept them away from food and water. We did the overnight thing a few times and all went well and then separated them during the day.

    But as we try to put them together in the run, they get very bullied. I know they have to work out their pecking order but I don't want an injured (or dead) chicken. Nor do I want them miserable/terrified. But what I'm seeing from a couple of the older birds seems aggressive to me. Not just chasing and pecking but really grabbing (biting?) hard at the little ones. No blood yet this time around but I'm afraid there will be if I leave them together.

    I don't have enough room in the big coop to partition them off. To make matters worse, it's November in Wisconsin so it's gong to be quite cold soon. So while I could figure out a way to partition the run, I'm not sure how feasible this is as winter approaches.

    Do I wait until spring when the weather will be more accommodating? Any different ideas? Bite the bullet and risk a blood bath?

    Any thoughts are welcome.
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Your biggest challenge is the age of your hens, the older ones aren't old enough and the younger are not young enough. You are trying to integrate two separate flocks as opposed to adding young ones to a flock, which is a lot easier. Without seeing your setup it's hard to give advice. Normally older ones will peck at a passing younger one and the young one runs, yours are trying to drive the young ones out.

    The normal advice would be to house them next to each other letting them mingle in the run or while free ranging. It's going to take a while for everyone to accept the younger ones, and even after that they will still be two separate groups. Don't leave them together if they are running them down, separate for the day and try the next day. You should also provide places for the youngsters to hide in, under, on top of and behind.

    I'm also in Wisconsin, so far we have had mild weather, you have a bit of time before it gets really cold. Keep trying, eventually it will settle down.
     
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    Do you have places to hide 'out of line of sight' but not a dead end trap and/or up and away from aggressors?
    Boards leaned up against walls of run and/or coop...or up on concrete blocks, multiple roosts, stumps, logs. etc...all can help.

    Do you have multiple feed/water stations?

    Seeing your coop and run might help us make suggestions.
     
  4. Lb4paws

    Lb4paws Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 7, 2015
    Wisconsin
    when you say "the older ones aren't old enough and the younger ones aren't young enough"......can you elaborate? I was told that we shouldn't put them together until the little ones were the same size as the bigger ones. Was that the wrong information??

    I'll try to get pics attached when I can.
     
  5. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    You were correct not to put the youngsters in with the older birds until they were about the same size. You may be in for a bit of a long haul trying to integrate these birds. It can be very difficult to integrate very small groups of birds like this. You started off on the right foot by keeping them next to each other, they probably just need more of that. I put youngsters out in their grow out pen right alongside the older girls when they are 5 weeks old. They stay there until they are 10 to 12 weeks old, that gives the older girls lots of time to get used to them and settle down. There is even some pecking order business worked out through the fence and everyone is safe. At 10+ weeks then the youngsters are allowed out to roam the pasture with the older flock. There is lots of room to get away from a cranky older bird and lots of places to hide. I also have the benefit of having a mature rooster who puts a stop to any older hen getting out of hand with the pecking.

    Once older chickens get it in their heads to go after one or two new birds they may not get out of the habit. All you can do is keep trying but don't leave the new birds with them unsupervised until it's clear things are settling down. They may also never share a coop, I've had that situation occur as well. But the more time they can spend next to each other and especially free ranging together the better.
     
  6. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    the easiest integration scenario is younger birds, 6-10 weeks, to adult birds, over a year. It is quite normal for chicks to show up into an established flock, so integrating can be done within a week or two. But when both batches are still immature, or close to the same age, they see each other as intruders as opposed to new additions, now your job is to wait out the period of time it takes for the older ones to forget that the younger ones were at one time, not there. That's why it will take longer, and you shouldn't try to rush it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2015
  7. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What has worked for me, and it seems like I am always adding somebody, is to have the young ones to be added in a coop and run right next to the main coop and run for a while. Then I allow them to free range together rather than putting them into the same coop or run initially. They seem to do that, well. Each group has their own coop and runs but they are in the common area. Finally I just decide to move them into whichever coop I want. I have one grow out coop and by that time they are used to each other.
    Right now I have three coops with runs, the main flock, the adult bantam flock, and the grow out coop which currently houses 3 month old bantams. All the coops and runs are in close proximity to each other. When they are free ranging the large fowl hens often sneak into the bantam coop to lay or the bantams run into the big coop to eat or drink, although they have their own feed and water. The large fowl are even going into the small bantam run to eat their food. One of these days we'll move the young bantams over to the main bantam coop and run (at night) and hopefully we'll have no problems since they're in and out of each other's coops and runs with no problems.
     
  8. Lb4paws

    Lb4paws Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 7, 2015
    Wisconsin
    So, for these guys, we just keep trying? we have been really lucky with the weather here so far. The problem with putting them in the run together is that by the time we get home from work it's dark now and they are wanting to go in. I'm afraid to put them all in the big coop together at night for fear of bloodshed and it seems you all agree with that. So that leaves weekends. I have an expansion pen that I can put in the big run to separate and perhaps I should have done that sooner....my bad [​IMG]

    But the problem now is that the weather will not cooperate soon........the expansion pen won't have enough room to give them shelter.

    We can continue to put less aggressive ones in the little coop with them overnight.....the closed-in nesting box/roosting area is fairly small. That's seems to go well. I was told by someone that closing them in a small space overnight in the dark will help bonding.............is that true?

    Is there any benefit to waiting until spring?........once the weather is better they can be outside more together and I could even put the small (tractor supply) coop inside their outdoor run......but in winter the small coop will not be warm enough here in WI.

    Or will it be even harder next spring?

    I appreciate all the advice! My sister and I got chickens for fun and stress relief (while caring for elderly parents)..........not for even more stress as I REALLY want happy chickens!.......[​IMG]
     
  9. Lb4paws

    Lb4paws Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 7, 2015
    Wisconsin
    I should add that we have not allowed them to free range out of the enclosure because we live in the country with LOTS of predators. But we could consider that we when are able to sit and watch. (The yard they are in isn't that close to either house so I wouldn't be able to see them out my window.)
     
  10. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    central Wisconsin
    Something I might try when you have a bit of time to watch them, put them in the big coop together, any hens making trouble remove and put where you are currently keeping the young ones, hopefully it will just be a couple of them, leave them out for a couple of days, than start adding them back, starting with the least aggressive ending with the most, by then the new chicks may feel more comfortable.
     

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