Integrating New Pullets into the Flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Joyze172, Dec 14, 2018.

  1. Joyze172

    Joyze172 Chirping

    24
    67
    59
    Nov 11, 2018
    Central Wisconsin
    Sorry for the length....

    I have had chickens for a couple years now. However, this fall it has been a challenge with my flock. We decided to add more to our flock as planned out from a year ago. But it has not gone as planned and I am looking for some advice.

    Our coop is 8x8 on 4 ft stilts and clear pvc paneling around base for winter. A 6’x12’ green house is joined to the pop door on the bottom of the coop to add extra space for the winter during frigid weather when they don’t want to free range. The greenhouse door is almost always open to the 1 acre yard except if it’s cold , windy or snowing ❄️.

    We got our 4 Wyandotte 5-6 month old pullets (born in May and June 2018) and had them in quarantine from October 27 to Dec 2 in a temporary rope fence and tiny coop. Then added them in the top of the main coop behind a fence with the look but no touch method for a week.

    While they were in quarantine I discovered my main flock developed a severe plucking and picking issue. At first thought it was molting but later discovered it was a behavior. At this point I could only go forward with the pullets after resolving the main flock issues as it’s snowing and frigid below zero weather is setting in.

    After a week of look but no touch method I let the pullets out in the yard to free range on a nice sunny day and watched. The Queen hen was aweful, chasing the pullets and pulling feather, looked like aggression. She did not like them in there. The other 3 including the rooster followed suit and the poor pullets cowardly sat in a ball as all of the flock ganged up on them. It got worse the closer to the coop the pullets got. So I took Queen out of the mix and let the pullets sleep in the greenhouse a couple nights. Then it got below zero so I added them to the main coop, looked like all was going ok. The pullets still hang out together and mostly avoid the main flock of 3 but no major bullying in the coop in the morning or at night (all are sleeping on separate sides in the main coop). Rooster pecks them occasionally and runs them off when in the greenhouse or underneath but not much that I can tell.

    Then today I added the Queen back in and it all stated again. At first she minds her own business then out of no where chases them down grabbing tuffs of feathers. Then the others join in. I know “the pecking order” has to be established but when is it bullying vs pecking order integration.

    Does any one have any ideas how I can integrate the Queen hen with the pullets?

    Right now I have Queen and the pullets in the greenhouse together. But separate and in sight of the others in hopes that the 5 of them work this out without the gang up approach. Will this work?
     
    Melky and OldEnglishGameBantam33 like this.
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender

    29,830
    34,365
    1,062
    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Your pullets are pretty old to easily integrate. They are seen as intruders to be driven out. It's gonna take longer than a week or two due to their age. When I integrate chicks 4-6 weeks of age it takes a while, usually a month before I can leave them out with the older birds. There still is a pecking order in the end, which can be worse with a smaller area.

    I would be careful leaving the aggressive hen with the pullets in case it goes bad. I would just keep at it, and not rush things. Make sure there are places to escape to, and multiple feeding and water stations.
     
  3. Joyze172

    Joyze172 Chirping

    24
    67
    59
    Nov 11, 2018
    Central Wisconsin
    Thank you!! I added hay bails to the greenhouse and 1 in the lower part of the coop, a long ramp to a higher perch, a lower perch (2x4) across a couple hay bails and an extra treat block per your advice a couple days ago.

    Update: it has been a beautiful weekend here, in the 40’s during the day. After Queen spent one whole day with the pullets I got up before sunrise and sat in the coop to monitor the morning interaction. I think the pullets knew she did not like them, they stayed on there roost until the main flock when down. There was a bunch of chasing about off and on through out the day but nothing brutal. The main flock love spending time outside and with the break in weather i think it helped a lot.

    Today I did the same, got up before sunrise and monitored interaction. I was so happy, the pullets jumped down and joined Queen on the main roost. All preening together! It didn’t last forever but more than 5 minutes before Queen ran 1 off but not all of them. The pullet just jumped back up in a different order, they are persistent.

    A7B44037-D0EE-432F-8A3B-1ED6B6E7E22D.jpeg

    As I monitor them all together I am seeing 1 pullet wanting to be with the main flock. She keeps sneaking in until noticed or run off. But I am noticing more and more time passing before she has to vacate. The other pullets are starting to slowly integrating as well.

    I am crossing my fingers they work it out peacefully. Oldhenlikesdogs Your advice helped a lot!!
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2018
    Melky and oldhenlikesdogs like this.
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender

    29,830
    34,365
    1,062
    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Holy Mackerel, :eek: I see you are in central Wisconsin too, probably a term only used by us in this area. :frow This sure is nice weather after our early start with the cold and snow already.
     
    Melky likes this.
  5. Joyze172

    Joyze172 Chirping

    24
    67
    59
    Nov 11, 2018
    Central Wisconsin
    :frow Hello fellow Wisconsinite!! This weather IMO is fabulous. :ya

    I am a bit nervous for tomorrow (Monday). After my last post today it seems things went down hill. The main flock decided to turn on the pullets. I noticed the pullets were more skiddish and “worried”. In the yard they were chased by the Queen and rooster if they got close to the flock so they stayed in greenhouse and lower part of the coop most of the day. I did get them to venture outside more due to the good weather but at bedtime they did not head up to the coop as usual due to the main flock blocking the way up. So they roosted in the greenhouse. With the weather as nice as it is, it would have been ok but I did coax them up anyway. Plan to get up early and supervise them in the coop again before work.
    20181216_151333.jpg

    I can’t believe adding 1 chicken (Queen) can change the whole dynamic. Seems the rooster gets territorial with his favorite hen back in the mix..:he
     
    Melky and oldhenlikesdogs like this.
  6. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender

    29,830
    34,365
    1,062
    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    It's often the head hen that controls everything. A good rooster will often protect new ones, but not always. In my large flock it often can takes up to a whole year before this year's kids are a part of the flock and no longer kids to be chased and pecked. Even than the ones raised together with often stick together, so you still can see those divisions. Chicken politics can be quite complicated at times, depending on individual birds personalities and how big of an area they have.

    I generally stay out of stuff as long as there's no real aggression where there's blood, and cornering, but I do spend so time observing to make sure. I do step in and remove aggressive birds if it's too much, but generally it's all noise. Young ones will often just try to leave and find somewhere else to go as you are seeing. They can hang by themselves all day, mine young ones do, but at night they should go in the coop.
     
    Melky and Joyze172 like this.
  7. Joyze172

    Joyze172 Chirping

    24
    67
    59
    Nov 11, 2018
    Central Wisconsin
    So glad I am on this forum! You have such great wisdom and chicken knowledge! Chicken politics are so stressful on humans that don’t understand like myself. Learning is so valuable.



    Latest Update:

    I had to remove Queen again. She was stirring up nothing but trouble for the pullets. Decided to let the 2 hens and rooster sort it out with the pullets.

    Yesterday was aweful. Morning didn’t go as I had hoped! I sat in the coop in the morning. All of the main flock was just ganging up on the poor pullets even without Queen. The main flock went down and out only to sit at the bottom, terrorize the pullets and block the exits. I couldn’t get under the coop fast enough to save them. They were chased into a corner then into the green house and outside. Then the rooster guarded the greenhouse door what a little snot. I quickly caught him and reminded him who was boss, mostly just made him sit on my lap or on the ground (not his favorite thing but he doesn’t struggle and is gentle to us). The pullets were intrigued and came by to check the situation out. I gently let him go after about 15 min and he seemed to settle down. Which helped the rest of the main flock too. All seemed good so I thought. But now I changed something....

    The pullets started testing the waters after that. Following the main flock around and getting really close, not avoiding. Not attacking just moving in a bit.

    Coop at night got really ugly when the pullets decided to go to bed early and roost on the main roost now, not the one on the other side of the coop but the one the main flock uses. Of course it was a night I was running late from work so I had my hubby trying to chicken mom before it got dark. The pullets decided they were not going to budge either. Rooster was pecking there face and feet, the other hens were doing there best to get the pullets off. But nope the pullets just buried there heads and held strong pecking back when possible. My hubby grabbed the rooster and put him in the greenhouse until I got home cuz he didn’t know what to do and let the hens figure out the pecking order (they weren’t as brutal as the rooster was getting) when I got home the hens were settled, thank goodness. It was dark but I added the rooster to the coop for the night. There was a few casualties but not much. One pullet got it good where the flesh ends ( a chunk was missing ) on the top of the beak and was bleeding slightly. I doctored the pullet up and put her back. A few of the main flock got minor injuries to there combs but no bleeding or serious injury.



    Today I got up early ready for chicken shenanigans! But not much went on. One older hen had 1 peck on a pullet by the feeder. Rooster went really close to the pullets, cocked his head and was checking them out but no pecking. I think he thought about it but didn’t. I encouraged the pullets to go down first at day break. The main flock stayed up top for 1/2 hour. The rest of the day all was good. The chasing and brutality decreased again.

    At evening roost I decided to separate the pullets and main flock at 3:30. Pullets had the coop and under neath, main flock was out in the yard and greenhouse. Weather has been fabulous, it was almost 40 again today. At 4:30 I let the main coop up to join the pullets who decided again to be on the main roost. But this time I was ready! I had installed a clear shower curtain down the center of the roost. Pullets were on one side and the main flock on the other side. They put themselves on the roost like that. It was civil and uneventful. By 4:45 it was pretty dark and the rooster went into his purring noise as they all settled in, so my supervising was over for the night.

    I am guessing this is the beginning of the “pecking order”.......
     
    Melky likes this.
  8. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender

    29,830
    34,365
    1,062
    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Whew, what a couple of days. It will take a while, but your pullets holding their own helps. Once your pullets are ready to lay and mate your rooster should change his mind about them too. It's good to keep an eye on things, and intervene when necessary. Hopefully soon it will get less stressful on you.
     
    Melky and Joyze172 like this.
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    53,533
    37,037
    1,237
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    How old is this male, in months, and the rest of the older birds?
     
    Melky, Joyze172 and oldhenlikesdogs like this.
  10. Joyze172

    Joyze172 Chirping

    24
    67
    59
    Nov 11, 2018
    Central Wisconsin
    Thanks again for the reassurance! I am looking forward to that someday.

    The rooster and older birds are 19 months (May 2017), aprox 1 year older then the pullets. I got them as day old chicks.

    What is a good age to integrate chickens? Say I try this again some day.
     
    oldhenlikesdogs likes this.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: