Integrating chicks before 12 weeks


May 25, 2022
I will be going on a trip in 4 weeks, when my chicks are 11 1/2 weeks old - 2 days from 12 weeks. I have been hoping to integrate before I go so that my chicken babysitter can easily take care of them all and I don’t have to make special arrangements and worry about while I’m gone (I have 3 chicks and 3 grown hens). The chicks are 8 weeks now.

We have let the littles stay in a “playpen” in the yard during the day for the past week. The big girls come around and sometimes stalk them but they are protected. Now and then they have been accidentally out together and especially one of the big girls will harass and peck a little one. The littles have been in an outdoor small hutch since 4 weeks so they have been able to see each other for a month but the littles were not allowed out into the playpen before last week at 7 weeks.
I have a small coop with a small run. The run is 14 feet by 3.5 feet plus the area under the coop. The coop is 5 ft by 3.5 feet. I would like suggestions on integrating them soon so that I can be comfortable leaving them together at (almost) 12 weeks.

We are in Texas and it’s been extremely hot lately! Adding pics of my coop and run. Thank you all!!

(I posted this as a comment earlier and went to delete that comment and can’t find it. My apologies for posting this twice).

Nice coop! Can you screen off that are under the coop for the younger ones? can you add thing tjat only the young ones can fit into/under? At 7 weeks old they should be able to hold their own.
By screen off do you mean they would stay there instead of the upstairs coop?

Or just something to keep them in or just something they can escape to?

I’m new to chickens (got the hens and coop at Christmas).

Do you think we should go ahead and let them out in the yard together some during the day? Even if they are “attacked”? — without blood.
That coop and run are too small for 6 chickens, and it will make integration extra hard. When you want to integrate, you need to have extra space, for the chicks to get away from the big hens. Dimensions matter, too - 3.5 feet is not enough room for them to pass each other without getting into each other's personal space. The tighter they are crammed, the more friction there will be and more causes for harassment. If the chickens are spaced farther apart when hanging out, they are less likely to harass the chicks, but if the chicks get into their immediate personal space - as they will be forced to, with tight quarters - it will provoke pecking that may not have happened in a larger space. Especially when the chicks have nowhere to hide - your run looks completely empty, no escape spots and hideaway spots or perches etc. for the chicks to evade the hens.

You need 4 square feet of unobstructed floor space in the coop per chicken, and at least 10 in the run, and more when you're dealing with integration. You're getting hung up on numbers but in the wrong area. It doesn't matter if they'll be 2 days away from 12 weeks. It doesn't matter how many weeks old they are, at all. What matters is if they've had a long and gradual introduction (including being in the same space), and if the space is big enough for them not to be forced into the hens' personal space. And with a setup this small, especially inside the coop, they're gonna get beat up. If there's no way to expand their living quarters before you go, at least add some clutter to the run - places where the chicks can get away from the hens (up high, behind things, under things), and start integrating them into the space now, gradually, under observation. Make sure there is a separate roost for the chicks in the coop, and that it's far away enough from the hens' roost that they can't reach them and peck them while roosting. Instruct your chicken helper how to do first aid if there are any bullying injuries while you are gone (stock up on supplies beforehand). And when you get back from your trip, start thinking about how to expand your setup to properly hold the number of chickens you want.
By screen off do you mean they would stay there instead of the upstairs coop?

Or just something to keep them in or just something they can escape to?

I’m new to chickens (got the hens and coop at Christmas).

Do you think we should go ahead and let them out in the yard together some during the day? Even if they are “attacked”? — without blood.
Either way, for them to stay or leave the screen low enough to the ground for them to escape to.
I'd say start letting them out in the yard together is a good plan, they're likely faster than the big girls. I'm integrating right now, I have some 10 week olds with 4 week old and theyre just now starting to calm down, but there's still a few big girls that feel like harassing them.
I routinely integrate at those ages, using a process like you are. My hatchlings come out of the brooder at 2-3 weeks, and into a fenced grow out pen and house for the next six weeks, where they are surrounded by the adult birds - see and be seen. By 8-9 weeks, they are big enough, and familiar enough with one another, that the flocks can be merged. Yes, there's still some pecking (originis of pecking order) but its not bad, and certainly not dangerous.

The difference between us is that I have SPACE. LOTS of space - far more than the typical. Abundance is a social lubricant. Abundance of space, abundance of feed (and feeding locations), waterers, things to play on (or hide under/behind), etc. Which makes everything about integrating so so much easier.

While your set up is very attractive (FAR more attractive than my own), its relatively small dimensions means you will have far more behavioral and integration problems than I will. An aggressive hen can easily cover a run 6' wide, allowing no birds past her, and push a less dominant bird into a corner from which there is no escape in order to attack. My adult run, when the gates are closed, is 30'+ across in the narrow dimension. No bird, no matter how dominant, can control that much space - if it gets aggressive, the rest of the flock can flow over, around, and behind it - it simply can't control the physical area in the same way.

and even that space is small for some of my male Pekin ducks - who are quite fast and show considerable stamina in the chase.

Tip for those reading and considering - don't keep chickens and ducks together - its not wise. Yes, I do it, but they have acres, which greatly reduces the relative dangers.
I really appreciate these replies. Hearing that my space is too small for 6 chickens is a bit devastating. I have been researching this for the past 6 months (but apparently not enough). The coop is 18 sq feet (plus the two nests on the end) and I thought 3 sq ft per bird is perfect. The run is actually 19.5 ft long if you count under the coop and that comes to 68.25 sq ft which I also thought was perfect for 6 chickens.

I will start today with having them in the yard together while being supervised (we live on one acre). Will see how that goes and try not to intervene unless necessary. That will be hard!

I will definitely put places to hide in the run — possibly in the coop too? I also have read to let them in the coop alone with the big girls unable to get in for some time so they can get used to where food and water are. I’m glad for the suggestion of a roost on a different side. We can do that. Should the roost for the chicks be narrower than for the grown ones? I think theirs is 2.5 inches.

This is how we got our setup: My husband called someone we were referred to who builds chicken coops. He had one already made and he delivered it on Christmas Eve for my present, including 3 laying chickens - one RIR and two RIR production hens. We knew nothing about chickens at that time except that we wanted eggs. I was shocked at how much I grew to love my chickens! Since then I became obsessed in learning what I could and in searching for the right chicks to add — friendly and some who lay blue eggs. Before a trip in May we had him come out and add the run on the side.

Thanks for all of these tips. I got the babies at 2 1/2 weeks and sure don’t want anything to happen to them. It will be hard to leave them and go on a trip.

I am going to attach a pic of the inside of the coop taken by my ring video camera. My girls roost on the top by the camera. There is a roost on the other side nearer the nest that we can lower for the little ones.
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Hearing that my space is too small for 6 chickens is a bit devastating. I have been researching this for the past 6 months (but apparently not enough).

Some people use the 3 square foot per chicken figure. Most of us here use these numbers:

For each adult, standard-sized hen you need:

  • 4 square feet in the coop (.37 square meters)
  • 10 square feet in the run (.93 square meters),
  • 1 linear foot of roost (.3 meters),
  • 1/4 of a nest box,
  • And 1 square foot (.09 square meters) of permanent, 24/7/365 ventilation, preferably located over the birds' heads when they're sitting on the roost.
6 hens
  • 24 square feet in the coop. 4'x6' is the only really practical build for this given the common dimensions of lumber. If you can't walk into it, put the access door in the middle of the long side to make sure you can reach all areas of the coop because a stubborn chicken WILL press itself into/lay an egg in the back corner where you can't reach.
  • 6 feet of roost
  • 60 square feet in the run. 6'x10' or 8'x8'.
  • 6 square feet of ventilation.
  • 2 nest boxes, to give the hens a choice
As this article explains, there really are no magic numbers. The chickens' behavior will tell you if what you've got is or isn't working:

If you find that it's not working, in re: health, behavior, or sanitation, the first thing to consider will be adding more space. :)

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