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integrating new flock into coup with the adults?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by LisaChick1, Oct 25, 2014.

  1. LisaChick1

    LisaChick1 Chirping

    Jul 10, 2014
    Carmel Valley
    Hi everyone. I've been looking to find this question...I apologize if I'm repeating a forum.

    I have 6 chicks that are all 2 1/2 month old EE's and black austrolorps... I know 1 EE is a cockerel... Possibly 2.. [​IMG]
    They have been kept in a run and coup right next to my older 5 chickens run. They are 5 month old- 1 Buff Orp, 2 light brahmas, 1 GLW and 1 GLW Rooster
    They've been next to each other for a couple of weeks. I recently introduced them in my yard. went great... Even the roost was nice... BUT one of my light brahmas-bottom of the pecking order-was sneaking and pecking them every chance she had..She's our only chicken I've seen constantly mean behavior towards the flock and me... Not a nice girl.... So...
    What age and or size is it safe to start putting the smaller ones in the coup with my older ones if they are already getting along in the yard (minus my LB)... Should I remove the LB first (we've been debating rehoming, stew or seeing how it goes)
    My other concern is integrating the 1 maybe 2 EE cockerel chicks...
    AND will this affect my girls who are about to lay... Stressful?
    Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated!!
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2014
  2. Skye727

    Skye727 Chirping

    Jun 20, 2014
    Sandy, oregon
    I have never had a problem with my chickens once they establish the pecking order. I would put them all together and let them get bullied just a little. They have to show who is boss. Once that is established they should be fine. I have at least one little roo with an older roo and they are fine. Everyone gets along great! They don't even mind the ducks I added a month ago.
  3. LisaChick1

    LisaChick1 Chirping

    Jul 10, 2014
    Carmel Valley
    Thank you so much for the reassurance... The little Roos seemed fine with the big guy when they were out... I'm sure they aren't a challenge to him quite yet. [​IMG]. We have 3 pekin ducks as well that are around the same age as the chicks and for the most part they all do great. I will be putting them together today for a test run. Thank you so much!!!
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging 9 Years

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    First some general information. You have different things to be concerned about when integrating chickens. One is that they are flock animals and learn to recognize which chickens belong in their flock. Some, certainly not all and probably not most, will attack other chickens that invade their flock territory. That is where housing them next to each other for while can pay big dividends. Once they recognize each other you take away this form of potential aggression.

    Another issue though is that they still have to settle the pecking order. Each chicken has to know where it ranks in the flock so they know which has privileges when they share personal space or maybe when they eat or where they roost. What normally happens when two chickens share personal space and the pecking order is not settled, one pecks the other or somehow tries to intimidate it. If one runs away, they are well on their way to settling the pecking order, though there may be some chasing and repeat lessons. If one does not run away, well that is a challenge and challenges must be answered. Even if they fight it usually takes almost no time for one to decide they are better off running away than continuing to fight, but sometimes they are pretty evenly matched and those fights can get pretty vicious. If one gets hurt, they have no mercy but get even more vicious. Or if one is trapped where it can’t get away, the winner does not know it has won and keeps fighting, usually going for the more vulnerable head. It’s important that they have room to run away and then avoid the stronger so there are not challenges.

    More mature chickens automatically outrank immature chickens. It usually doesn’t take long for the immature chickens to learn to avoid the mature ones. That’s why you usually see the younger chickens form a flock of their own. Again they need room to avoid. Usually that is all it takes, but occasionally you get a chicken that is just brutal to the younger ones, seeking them out to do damage to them. This is usually a hen at the bottom of the older chicken’s pecking order. It’s as if she is going all out to maintain her place at the bottom of the pecking order so she doesn’t get pushed even further down.

    Then you have the flock dominance thing. Even in a flock of all hens, one will become flock master. With hens that’s usually not a major cause for fighting but occasionally it is. With cockerels and roosters, it is often a cause for fights. Once the hormones hit, the cockerels will want to be the boss rooster. Sometimes they will settle this without you seeing anything, sometimes they will fight to the death, especially of one gets injured. Usually there is a lot of fighting and face-offs, no one gets seriously hurt, and they settle all this.

    A side-light to this, and the one that probably causes most of the concern on this forum, when the hormones hit the cockerels, they start mating the pullets. This is not really a sexual thing, it’s dominance. The one on bottom is accepting the dominance of the one on top, either willingly or by force. The cockerels normally mature earlier than the pullets, the pullets don’t understand what is going on, and the cockerels are bigger so they force the pullets. Things get really exciting when the cockerels and pullets hit puberty. Each flock is different, each flock has its own dynamics. I’ve never had a pullet injured during this phase and I go through this phase a few times each season. But sometimes pullets do get injured. A lot of people that have never kept chickens don’t understand what is going on and get really concerned for their pullets. If given time they will mature out of this adolescent phase, but many a cockerel has literally lost his head during this phase. It looks rough because it is. You should have seen some of this with your older chicks.

    One way chickens have learned to live together and grow up in the flock is that if there is a conflict, the weaker runs away from the stronger or just avoids them to start with. It’s really important they have room to run away or avoid. I think the lack of room to run away or avoid causes a vast majority of the behavioral problems you read about on this forum.

    Now, what is going to happen with your flock? I predict it is going to get pretty exciting. At 5 months the GLW male has probably established himself as flock master. It’s possible one of the pullets is still in that role but not likely. When your younger cockerels hit puberty, he will probably see them as a rival. That doesn’t mean he will seek them out to kill them. With that age difference they will do their best to run away from him. But once they reach a certain level of maturity they are likely to challenge him for the flock master position. When will that be? Who knows? It could be anywhere from 4 months to 12 months. It may never happen, at least where you see it. If they have a lot of room, they normally work this out. But if room is tight, things can turn deadly.

    When the younger hit puberty, they will start trying to mate with the pullets, younger and older. The GLW will not put up with that. He will break that up and chase the younger cockerels. He probably won’t catch them but he will certainly do some chasing. When the younger cockerels start bothering the older pullets, they are very likely to run toward the GLW so he can take care of it. It’s often fun to watch the flock interact.

    When can you integrate the two flocks? A lot of that depends on how much room you have. I’ve had a broody hen wean her chicks at three weeks of age. They were integrated into the flock but at the bottom of the pecking order. They avoided the older chickens but I’ve got lots of space. They were fine.

    I normally integrate my brooder-raised chicks at 8 weeks of age. I’ve never lost one so I’m plenty safe here. But my brooder is in the coop. They’ve seen each other since Day 1. And I’ve got lots of room. Some people do this at a younger age. If your space is tight you might need to wait until the younger ones are laying and can force their way into the pecking order. There is no one set age that covers us all. If you wait to integrate them so that the younger cockerels are pretty mature, you will almost certainly see some serious fighting.

    There is no magic hen to rooster ratio that solves all problems. You can have the same problems with high ratios as you do with low. I always suggest you keep as few roosters with you flock as you can and still meet your goals. It’s not that you are guaranteed problems but that problems are more likely with more roosters. I don’t know how much space you do have, but with your numbers I’d be really hard-pressed to even consider keeping more than one rooster with the flock unless I has basically no fences, they have a tremendous amount of room. You can either get rid of the excess or keep them in a separate bachelor pad together but where they never mix with your hens.

    Good luck with it.
  5. LisaChick1

    LisaChick1 Chirping

    Jul 10, 2014
    Carmel Valley
    Wow you are so awesome to share so much knowledge!
    My GLW Roo has definitely established his dominance in the pack mating every hen in sight:.. The only one that fights him is of course my dear Light brahma girl. My Buff orpington is next in the ranking and is such a sweet chicken.... She's been showing signs of laying and what do you know... 20 minutes after putting my younger flock in with them, I hear a dramatic and loud egg song and poof... Our first egg!!! [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    So.... I have them all in one run now and things are going very well, little squawk here and there but nothing too alarming. We have a coup inside our run and a run that is about 12 x 15ft.... But we let them out into our fenced yard for the day which is very very large..... I assume we will be rehoming or doing something with the little roo(s) when they get a little older and all the ruckus begins... As for now, the flocks did as you said... The little ones all stick together and avoid the larger ones but Im seeing them eat and drink next to each other and no ones fighting... I think good all signs.
    Thank youuuu!!! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2014

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