Integrating Many Pullets to a Small Older Flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by pkarkos, Jun 1, 2019.

  1. pkarkos

    pkarkos Songster

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    Hello All!
    I am looking for some advice on integrating some pullets with my old flock. I have been keeping chickens for 15 years so I have integrated many birds in with a flock, but usually, I would be integrating 3 or 4 pullets with a larger flock (6-8 birds). Currently, however, my flock of adult birds is only four, two hens and two roos (I know this isn't a great balance, it's one of the reasons I'm adding new pullets), and I have 9 pullets to add in. So this is a bit new to me. I'm sure the general rules still apply, but I was interested to hear (or read, I guess?) what other more experienced people know.
    Right now, my pullet flock is in a smaller coop with a run next to the large coop where the old flock lives. I have been letting the old flock free range as normal and been keeping the pullet in the run. The pullets are about 2 months old now and last night was their first night outside. They still have not quite understood the whole roosting in the coop versus on the ground in the run thing, so I am going to keep them in the small coop in the run until they figure it out (maybe 1-2 weeks, hopefully).
    After this, I was hoping to integrate them with the old flock. My idea was to introduce them while free ranging (I was planning on letting the pullets out first and then the older flock) and if it went well, moving the pullets into the large coop at night. I was thinking I would keep everyone at least in the run for a few days so the pullets learn to roost in that coop, but I worry this might cause some trouble.
    3 of my 4 older birds are very docile, but one of my roos (an Ameraucana/Faverolles cross) can be a bit of a demon and he is very large. The pullets are all large fowl and are a mix of breeds (Buff Orp, SL Wyandotte, Black Sex-link, Black Australorp and an Easter Egger).

    What do you all think?

    Thank you!
     
  2. Harmony Fowl

    Harmony Fowl Songster

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    When the new group is large in numbers, those numbers are on your side. I think your plan for integration is good. I agree you should wait on introductions until the pullets are roosting on their own, or at least bedding down reliably, in their small coop. If it were me, I would allow the older flock out to free range first. Once the initial flurry of activity has passed, allow the pullets to free range as well. This way, the introduction is a non-event. The older birds may not even notice immediately, if their free ranging habits take them any ways at all from their coop. The pullets will be nervous and not come streaming out; they will probably stay in their run and work on their courage. What will happen if you let the pullets out first is that they will stick close to home anyway, the older birds will notice the change immediately and the introduction will be much noiser and full of conflict than it needs to be. Once they do notice, I'm sure your existing birds will be keen to investigate, though they may not all notice at once and investigate in ones and twos, which is a plus. This will bring the groups into contact and the usual fuss will ensue. At two months, with nine new birds and only four older ones, and only two of those hens that are likely to be offended by the presence of new girls, I'm not expecting you'll have any serious problems. I would not delay this introduction any longer than another month or the roosters will take a different interest in the new pullets and there's no need to combine interest in new flock members with novel sexual interest. Roosters don't generally care much about chicks, in my experience. They may well have forgotten, by that point, that these are not their chicks and they may already feel protective, or at least neutral, toward them. If I had my guess, your older birds will be way more interested in getting into the run and coop of your younger birds to explore than interested in the birds themselves, which will hardly be unknown to them at that point. I would not feel any particular urgency to get your youngsters sleeping in the real coop so quickly, but that is a matter of personal preference. I'd feed dinner or treats when you want them all in for the day, but do that in the big birds' run so the younger birds are drawn in there. They may not be willing to invade the elders' territory on the first day, or even leave their run, if they have never done so before. When they (or you) are ready, I would shut them all in the real run for the day. My young birds, starting at about that age, always, always try to sleep outside the coop. They perch on whatever they can. There's lots of space inside, way more roosts than the birds need, but they always behave the same way, and I always end up having to take them and shuttle them through the door one by one and close it behind them. I don't take any special care to put them on a roost, just inside the coop. They find their own spots from there. As junior birds, they may feel more comfortable not roosting right next to the older birds right away anyway. Well, I think I rambled a little, but I think you're on the right track, with maybe just a couple small changes I might make.
     
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  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    Their first night ranging or first night out in the small coop/run??

    So are they sleeping in the run part of the coop/run?

    I assume the large coop is big enough for all the birds?
    Is here a separate roost in there for the newbies?
    Is there a run attached to the large coop?

    Pics would help.

    I'd leave the pullets in the small coop/run for a couple weeks,
    then let them out to range an hour before roost time...see what happens with the older birds and if the youngers go back to their 'home' to sleep.
    Can be helpful for newbies to spend time alone in main coop/run while olders are out ranging to become familiar with main coop without being harassed.


    Yes, same 'rules' apply....where applicable. :D

    Integration Basics:

    It's all about territory and resources(space/food/water).
    Existing birds will almost always attack new ones to defend their resources.
    Understanding chicken behaviors is essential to integrating new birds into your flock.

    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.

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

    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 copious blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down and beaten unmercilessly, 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'(but not a dead end trap) and/or up and away from any bully birds. Roosts, pallets or boards leaned up against walls or up on concrete blocks, old chairs tables, branches, logs, stumps out in the run can really help. Lots of diversion and places to 'hide' instead of bare wide open run.
     
  4. Swampgal

    Swampgal Chirping

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    So helpful to me, also dealing with integration of pullets ( six, 18-week golden comets) with old flock of six hens ( all 4-5 years.) Our evening scene, such as you describe moving the pullets from run to coop roost is very labor intensive! After just 8 days of this I am worried this is going to last forever! How long does it take for things to settle down, for the pullets to join the old girls for the night? Am I looking at fashioning a second coop? Thanks!
     
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  5. Harmony Fowl

    Harmony Fowl Songster

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    My experience has been that it lasts awhile. I have some 19 week old pullets and some 10 week old pullets in my flock right now. The older set has been going into the coop to roost with the adults for a long time now. I can't remember when I last had to move any of them in. The younger set I move every night. I never seem to notice when they stop doing that, there are always more young ones needing encouragement. Assuming you have enough space in your coop, is the coop lit? I have always had trouble getting birds to enter a dark space, even when it was a lot safer/warmer/sheltered than outside. Maybe try putting a light in your coop that you could turn on in the evening and leave on just until you shut the door? Even a flash light left on the ground would provide enough light to make the coop seem a safe place to go into, safer than the dark outside. I also wouldn't worry about putting them on the roost too much. I think this can lead to unnecessary conflict with the older chickens. They are junior and need to figure out their spot for themselves. I know in my coop there are all kinds of politics involved in who roosts where. The turkey gets the front and center roost, senior hens take the door and the railroad ties behind it, the turkey hen and the rooster get the highest roost, the rest are all over the place. I think you may be making entering the coop an unpleasant association by automatically placing them willy nilly on a roost. I just shove mine in the door one by one and close it again. Then they can figure out where they are allowed to be without treading on anyone's toes. Just another suggestion to see if it helps.
     
  6. Swampgal

    Swampgal Chirping

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    Thank you! The flashlight idea is terrific. We will persist in this thanks to your encouragement!
     
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  7. Harmony Fowl

    Harmony Fowl Songster

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    I also thought to add, I think this is a maturity thing and not an age thing. One of my 19 week olds is already laying. If yours are further out from that point, they may put up resistance for longer. But be assured, it will end someday. I'd be very surprised if you find yourself doing this in a month, though it may still take a matter of weeks.
     
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  8. BY Bob

    BY Bob Proprietor, Fluffy Butt Acres

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    I will add my endorsement to this method. I use a lantern on a low light setting. It has worked wonderfully in relocating my new pullets to roost in the main coop. I take away their old coop and light up the new one with the lantern. They see the main flock go in, see the light, get curious and go in. This last time it only took 3 nights until they figured out this was their new home.
     
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  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    I think you are on the right track and there are several good suggestions above. I have had brooder-raised birds start roosting as early as 5-1/2 weeks with no adults present but that's rare. Mine typically start to roost at 10 to 12 weeks, though some have gone even later. If older birds are present the pullets will not roost on the main roosts with them until much later, usually around the time they start to lay. I've had broody hens take their chicks to the roost at two weeks. It's not a case of physical ability, it's a case of "want to". Each brood is different. I think what the coop and roosts look like can make a difference. Anyway, I would not worry about yours not roosting yet and still sleeping on the coop floor. Yours will probably start sleeping on the roosts soon.

    I do something similar to what you are talking about every year. Sometimes it is about 7 or 8 adults and around 20 chicks. My brooder is in the coop so they grow up with the flock. If the main coop isn't very crowded I just open the brooder door at 5 weeks and walk away. But sometimes I move the 5 week old chicks to my grow-out coop/run at the far end of the 12' x 32' main run. I also have a 45' x 70' area in electric netting that stays green in season, not free range but lots of room.

    I typically have trouble getting them to sleep in that grow-out coop, they want to sleep in the run. So I toss them in the grow-out coop every night and lock them in there until I'm comfortable that they are going to go into that coop to sleep every night, whether on the floor or on the roosts. One batch, they all went in after only one night of tossing them in, another batch it took three weeks before the last three decided to go inside. Typically it takes about a week with about 20 chicks but each brood is different.

    Once i'm comfortable they will return to that grow-out coop every night, often around 8 weeks of age, I open the door to the electric netting area and the door to the main run and let them mingle with the adults. That has never been a problem.

    Often around 12 weeks of age I move the pullets into the main coop, after they have roamed with the adults for about a month. I shut the door to the grow-out coop so all the young ones try to sleep right next to it. After dark I pick the pullets up and toss them into the main coop. I let the cockerels sleep in the grow-out coop and lock them back in the run portion associated with that to lock the pullets out. Often the pullets will go into the main coop on their own the next night (they are locked out of the grow-out coop) but occasionally I have to toss them in a few nights before they all get the message. They typically do not roost on the main roosts with the adults, often the adults beat hem up if they try. They may sleep on the floor again or they may look for a safe place to roost. That can be the nests. I put in a juvenile roost, lower than the main roosts, higher than the nests, and horizontally separated from the main roots a few feet. About the time my pullets start to lay they have matured enough to force heir way into the pecking order. That's when they move themselves to the main roosts with the adults.

    Your situation is different from mine. Hopefully you can get something out of this that helps you. One main point is to not get hung up on them following a rigid schedule, each group is different. I don't expect you to have any serious problems with the other chickens but some broods are more work than others. You will eventually get there.
     
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  10. pkarkos

    pkarkos Songster

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    The night before last was their first night outside, but I have been keeping them in the run. I don't trust them to go back to the coop on their own yet. I know they are kind of old for that to be their first night outside, but about a few of the birds seemed a bit off so I wanted to keep them inside and away from the other birds to make sure they weren't really ill (they perked back up after I gave them an electrolyte supplement).
    Yes, the larger coop is big enough for 15 large fowl, so the 4 plus the 9 should be all set in there. The large coop has 3 roosts and the older ones only use 1 right now (it still gets a bit chilly at night here). But the chicks are in my other smaller coop (the chicken halfway house/love shack) that has two roosts. The first night the chicks were in there, all nine of them were nesting on the ground in the run. But last night 3 of them were nesting in the coop (not on the roosts, but I'm not too worried about that).

    Thank you for the suggestions! It seems like a really good idea to let them get used to the large coop on their own.
     

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