Integrating chickens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by moodlymoo, Sep 24, 2011.

  1. moodlymoo

    moodlymoo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    2 days ago I got 3 younger pullets who are Millie Fleur Cochin Bantams and added them to my flock of 14 girls who are about 3 weeks - 8 weeks old. I added them at night and the "big" girls are so mean to my "little" girls. They wont let the littles get to the water sometimes, if they are outside, wont let them back into the coop. How do I get the big girls to play nicely with my little girls?
     
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    It is better to have them separated for a few weeks, side by side, where they see each other, but be "introduced" through a screen or mesh. Integration is never simple, as the entire pecking order has to get sorted out all over again.

    Usually the difficulties slow down after a few days, but chicken politics is tough.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2011
  3. moodlymoo

    moodlymoo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I cant separate them sadly. It just wont work out with the coop/run set up. I hadn't planned on getting more chickens after the little girls but these ladies were way to amazing to pass up
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I can't tell you exactly what to do with your set-up, but maybe I can tell you a bit about their behavior. You have two different kinds of aggression to worry about,

    One type of aggression is pure integration. This is where a flock does not recognize the others as part of the flock. They tend to guard their territory from intruders. Not always, and usually it is a hen but it can be a rooster, but sometimes they will attack and try to kill the others if they won't leave the territory. That's where housing them side by side for a while comes in. They see each other enough to recognize the others as part of the flock. At the age of your chicks, that is probably not an issue from their side. They are not mature enough to try to defend their territory. The older pullets' behavior could be affected by this some, though.

    The other issue, and your main problem, is the pecking order. Like other social animals such as a pack of wolves or a herd of cattle, each chicken has its own social place in the group. That allows them to live and work together peacefully. But that social position is determined by fighting and intimidation. Size really has little to do with it. It is more the spirit in the chicken. You will often see bantams ranked higher than full sized fowl in a mature flock.

    More mature chickens automatically rank higher than less mature chickens. If a chicken lower in the pecking order invades the personal space of a higher ranking member of the flock, that higher ranked chicken is perfectly within their rights to enforce their pecking order rights, which they usually do by pecking. As long as the weaker runs away, everything is back to normal in the flock. Intimidation worked. But if the younger does not run run away, it is a challenge for a better position and a fight can break out. The higher one does not always peck when their personal space is invaded, but they have the right to peck if they feel like enforcing their rights. And sometimes they keep the lower ones away from the food and water as part of that intimidation.

    My most recent broody raised her chicks with the flock. She took care of the integration issues. But she weaned them at 3-1/2 weeks so they had to make it on their own with the flock. Those chicks, while fully integrated, are still at the bottom of the pecking order. If they invade the space of older chickens, they get pecked. So the chicks spend their days as far away from the older chickens as they can. As long as they can stay away, life is pretty peaceful, but if they are forced to stay in the same area as the older chickens, it can get ugly. This happens with mine on the roosts at night as they are settling in to sleep. Certain older birds will actively position themselves to peck the younger birds. In my flock it is almost always a lower ranking member that does this, not the dominant rooster or the more dominant hens. I set up a roost lower down and separated from the roosts to give those chicks a place to sleep. I have had it so bad that the chicks started sleeping outside the coop to get away from the bullies.

    I don't know what your set-up is like, but some of the things that can help if you can manage them. Set up separate feeding and watering stations, in the run and in the coop. The older ones will have more trouble guarding both, plus it allows the younger ones to eat and drink without challenging the older ones.

    Give them as much space as you can. I free range mine so they really don't have conflicts during the day. You may not have that possibility.

    Give the younger ones ways to hide and get away from the older ones. Try not to set it up where they will not become trapped and can't escape of an older one corners them, but give them things to hide under or behind. Maybe a piece of plywood or something a foot or so wide and about 6" above the floor of the coop or run. Or something in there vertical where they can stay out of sight.

    You can expect the pecking order stuff to continue until the younger ones are mature enough to establish their position in the flock. That could be when they are as young as 14 or 15 weeks, but more likely a month or two later.
    Additional perches and roosts come in real handy, during the day as well as at night. Your younger ones may not be roosting at night yet but they can use perches.

    Good luck! It is not always easy and there is some danger for the younger chicks but it is not always a disaster either.
     
  5. moodlymoo

    moodlymoo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have a serious hawk issue and cant let the girls free range right now. My coop is 10x10 and it has 2 full length roosting poles one of which is lower so the "littles" can get on it. I did pick up additional feed and water dishes today to put in the run and I think I will build some toys and hiding things in the coop and run.

    Thanks for all the info it was very helpful
     
  6. ECBW

    ECBW Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Integration and pecking order are to be distinguished. I integrated (at night) my young (10-week) with my mature flock. There was definitely pecking but not duel to the death. The bigger birds pecked at the smaller one just because they are within reach. The bigger birds would not hare when they are eating. The smaller ones will just wait till the bigger ones finish. They do spend a lot of time grooming, pacing and napping.

    Eventually, the little ones grew up. The formerly bigger ones are better known now as the older ones still try to dominate. Guess what happens? The Youngblood just tilt their heads as to say "really".

    I have some bantams. They will forever be running guerrilla warfare for food.
     
  7. meowteri2

    meowteri2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I tried putting my 2 australorps about 22 weeks old in the run with the 3 older birds. They attacked them in kill mode. The australorps kinda just stood there or walked up to them like whats going on. They did not try to avoid the older ones and got beat up. So I divided my coop in half with a screen panel and screen sliding door. I let the older ones see them for about 2 months. Now I can let them out in the run and they get a normal peck like get out of my way. It has really gotten better. They walk into each others half of the coop and even lay eggs in each others nest boxes. This was my first time integrating and it was really scared for them. The australorps also have learned when to move away from the older birds.
     
  8. kevinhannan

    kevinhannan Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for your post, RR, I got a lot from that as I'm sure others will.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge ;-)
     
  9. moodlymoo

    moodlymoo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 23, 2011
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    This is all very helpful. I am letting the big girls free range this morning to give the little girls a bit of a break. Its really all I can do right now. None of the little girls have been hurt but get a frequent peck. Can I try to "peck" the big girls back with my finger when they get rough with the little girls or will that just make things worse
     
  10. ECBW

    ECBW Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Speaking of "pecking" the bigger birds, try squirting water. I used a water bottle set on jet, not spray. I can hit target from 6 feet. Stopped the aggressor cold.
     

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