Integrating chicks into flock at 4 weeks old.

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by aart, Mar 17, 2017.

  1. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Wasn't sure where to put this, thought it might do the most good here in the chick forum.
    Yes, you can integrate your little fluff balls at a much younger age than you might think.

    Prior thinking was to wait until chicks were at least 8 weeks old or of a size almost equal to the older birds,
    so they would have a 'fighting' chance against the usual aggressive rejection of new birds by an established flock.
    It has come to pass that many folks are now finding that integrating much younger is easier for all involved.

    One thing has stayed the same tho, the new birds are kept in a 'see but no touch' adjacent pen for a few weeks prior to allowing physical contact.
    This allows everyone to get used to seeing and hearing each other without having to share physical space and feed/water.

    Here's a couple of key reasons why it works:
    Tiny chicks are less of threat to the older birds and their resources(space, food, water).
    Tiny chicks are a small target for pecking and fast as all get out - so harder to 'catch'.

    For easier composition/editing/linking I wrote and illustrated with pics how I integrate chicks in an 'article' found here:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/integrating-new-birds-at-4-weeks-old
    Post any questions here in this thread as I don't get notifications of comments made on articles.
     
  2. lpyrbby

    lpyrbby Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks for starting this discussion :)

    I was not prepared at all for how long my chicks would be indoors so I messed my first "batch to keep" up [​IMG] I didn't start getting them outside until 4 weeks of age and now, at 11 weeks old, they're still in their own intro pen, but I've finally gotten to the point of trying to integrate them all by letting everyone out in the yard at the same time. The chicks are still a sub flock for sure and the bigs, for the most part, don't want to kill them, but it's still not close to being able to pair them in the same coop/run with one another.

    I'm optimistic that the big coop will be ready for occupancy soon as I have another batch of eggs in the incubator that are due in two weeks. That probably isn't going to go as I hope, but the *thought* is that they'll be able to go into the in-coop brooder with all the other 20 something birds after they hatch.

    I have some catching up to do...
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
  3. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    Hello....

    I have a Hen who hatched out two Chicks and I needed the Garage brooder for another Hen and her 7 Chicks....I put my Hen and the two Chicks directly back into the flock at 4 weeks old.....Nothing happened in a negative way...My Other Birds and my Rooster were intrigued by the Chicks....The Rooster tidbits for them and my one Speckled Sussex who has never been Broody was allowing the Chicks to huddle under her for warmth... If the now 8 week old Chicks cry my Rooster runs to look after them...It is amazing to see how natural it all is for them.....I just put together a prefab coop/run yesterday and have it next to my big coop/run and have the other Hen and her 7 inside it....I will after a couple of weeks put them into the flock also being I have another Broody due to hatch out 12 next week.....
    In my case I have the Hen to protect her Chicks....I would do a look no touch with Chicks that have no Mother to protect them.....

    Interesting conversation starter...;)


    Cheers!
     
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  4. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    Nice job, @aart with good photos! I've been a fan of super early integration for a long time as well. Mine are fully integrated and the brooder pen taken down and removed from the run by the time they are 4 weeks old. Hiding places are always good - in addition to the portal doors in the brooder pen I have a huge log (cut lengthwise) out in there that's away from the brooder. It's hollow, so the cut side is down, forming a big dark cave. So if they get spooked they can run under there as well. I have photo somewhere of 8 older Buff Brahma chicks tucked underneath it...they weren't being harassed - they just liked it! Silly chickens!

    One thing I do is when I give the chickens scratch, I run it in 2 lines right at the edge of the brooder. One line is inside the brooder, the other just outside it. Separated by the hardware cloth like they are, the Bigs and the Littles are actually feeding head-to-head but can't get to each other. They don't even realize how it happened but they are eating peacefully together!! So when the Littles show up at the Bigs' feeder during and after integration, it barely even fazes them. Competition over food can get ugly for new flock members, but this way seems to eliminate most of that. Also their feeders are hung so that they are only separated by the brooder wire.

    You sound so much like me - I don't panic and stress over every little peck on the noggin that the Littles get when they've overstepped their bounds either. They have learned about being chickens by watching the older birds from the safety of their brooder - eventually they have to learn their place in the coop/run as well. But it's nice that the older birds don't see the little ones as a threat the way they do if we wait to integrate until the chicks are closer in size and fully feathered. Even using the "see, no touch method," that always seemed to me like putting targets in there and telling the flock, "Here ya go, now be nice." knowing it most cases it ain't gonna happen!

    Again, very helpful article!
     
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  5. lpyrbby

    lpyrbby Chillin' With My Peeps

    Does anyone have any insight to how integration went before and after using the in coop brooders?

    For instance, what behaviors were typically seen prior to brooding in the coop, vs things when brooding in the coop from a young age?
     
  6. haunani

    haunani Out Of The Brooder

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    Do numbers of birds in each age group change how they'll integrate?

    Batch #1 is currently 3 chicks, that will be going out to the coop at 7 weeks old, when batch #2 comes in. Batch #2 will be 7 chicks, and due to the brooder size, they'll need to go out at 4-5 weeks.

    Since the older set (only by 7 weeks) will only have 3 birds and the younger set will have 7, will I need to worry as much about their integration?
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Much more agitation, aggression, and defensive actions on the part of the existing flock when chicks are NOT brooded in coop.
    I think the real key is the size of the chicks, smaller newbies are less threatening to the existing adult flock.
    But the general principles of integration....a 'see no touch' period, lots of space, multiple feed/water stations, places to 'hide'....still all apply.

    Not sure about this....my take on this technique is about much younger chicks(4 weeks) that were fully sharing the main space with adult birds by 6 weeks.
    It's also about brooding IN the coop by one week old, and doesn't include multiple age groups of chicks(been there, done that, won't do it again).
    I also have a pretty large coop(~125 sqft) and runs(500sqft).
     
  8. debid

    debid Overrun With Chickens

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    I use roosts in the run for hiding places. Getting out of line of sight gives them a much-needed break. But the difference between the first integration where I tried to add POL pullets and the subsequent integrations using side-by-side brooding and shared range time was huge. So much better that I happily started younger this time. And curiously, the younger chicks are bolder.

    I have noticed that the biggest threat to the chicks is not the top of the order but rather the bottom. The hens most likely to be challenged for position by new arrivals are the most interested in establishing their position over the littles. So, those are the ones I watch most carefully to see how things are progressing.
     
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  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Indeed...the lower ranking in the main flock, the more likely they will lord it over the newbies no matter what ages are involved.
    Always think of it as 'the $hit rolls downhill'...hahaha!
     
  10. haunani

    haunani Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you for replying.

    I don't currently have any adult birds, so it'll just be the three 11wk olds and the seven 4wk olds integrating together.
     

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