Integrating young chickens with older ones

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by kre8ive1, May 24, 2016.

  1. kre8ive1

    kre8ive1 Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 9, 2015
    Woodland Park, CO
    I have 3 SLW that are 25 weeks old and 4 ten-week old chicks (2 Calif Whites and 2 Black Sexlinks). Our coop is pretty big as it is an old horse stall. We have a brooder in the coop that is 18 sq ft that the younger ones are in. They have been in there since they were two weeks old. So both ages of chickens have been able to see each other for 8 weeks now. I've let the little ones out with the older ones a couple of times but the older ones pick on the little ones so bad I have to separate them.

    I've read where some people just put the little ones where the bigger ones can see them for only a week and then let them out together and it seems like everything is fine. I thought especially since the two groups have been able to see one another for 8 weeks that they would be used to each other and be ok, but that's not the case. I tried it again today and it wasn't as bad as it's been but I still wouldn't leave them alone together for fear the older ones might kill one of the little ones.

    Some things I've read are:
    *that you should try a completely neutral place to put them together and then the older ones aren't territorial and get along better and then you can put them together in the coop (I might try that, has anyone had success with that?)
    *let them out but leave a small space where the older ones can't get to them but they can get back in (that didn't work, the little ones just wedged themselves behind the brooder instead of escaping back into it)
    *sneak them onto the roost at night when the older ones are asleep (I don't think that would work because I think my older ones would just wake up and freak out).

    So my question is how do I integrate them in the best way? Do I just keep doing these introductions and hope one day it's ok? Is there some tried and true way to integrate different ages that you swear by? The older ones are my first chickens ever. Everything has been going fine until now. I do lots of research and read tons of stuff, but there doesn't seem to be anything definitive on integrating different ages. TIA!!
  2. TheTwoRoos

    TheTwoRoos Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 25, 2015
    If the hens are smart,they will know they are no threat,as many times I have introduced chicks,the hens rarely are overly aggressive.they do peck them,but that's it.Just throw em in and see what everybody thinks,it's that simple.

    If things seem to rowdy,or the hens are to vicious,immediately separate them until they get bigger.Are you sure its as bad as it seems?your probably more worried then the chickens themselves are.

    When I read "So Bad" I think of cornering, flogging,bleeding,tons of bad feather pulling,
  3. TheTwoRoos

    TheTwoRoos Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 25, 2015
    Also the whole "Night Method", It's not worth your time,it'll just get your chicks beat up.

    People expect very little from their chickens and just think they'll wake up thinking that the younger birds are part of the family,nope,their tons smarter then that.
  4. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Can you free range them at all, or is that not an option? I feel that introducing them THAT way (which I supposed could be considered neutral territory) works best, even if it's just supervised free ranging for an hour or so a day.

    Place lots of obstacles in the coop/run - and add another roost (even if just temporary) away from the main roost. Obstacles can be stumps, large branches, saw horses, chairs...anything that gives the youngsters places to hide/hop up onto to get away from the bigger birds.

    Also, do make sure there is more than one feeder/waterer set well apart so that the youngsters have ample opportunities to eat/drink without getting jumped.

    A peck or two and chasing a few steps is normal pecking order behavior. Cornering and continued pecking is NOT normal - just so you know what to look for. Drawing blood is not normal for hens (roosters will sometimes fight/draw blood).

    Personally, I would never stick them on a roost together at night unless I was going to be out there at first light to observe.
  5. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    The reason your attempts at integration are going so badly is because you are dealing with immature pullets and not seasoned hens. I hate to say it, but the age difference of three months is what's jinxing your fledgling flock. It would have been better to get your second chicks withing a few weeks of the first or wait an entire year before adding to your flock when the first ones had fully matured.

    So, what to do now? Well, knowing what's making this integration so difficult, you could choose to keep the two groups separate until they both mature fully. It would mean either two coops or a partition down the middle of one coop and separate runs.

    Or you can just put them all together and let them work it out. Last summer, I found myself with two groups of chicks three months apart. The first group numbered four to the new group of three, a few weeks later to become three and two after rehoming a cockerel in each group.

    The older pullets took great enjoyment in chasing the younger ones around, but the younger chicks got very good at outrunning them. (Adequate run space is key here!) After a couple months, the older ones ceased their foolishness.

    The difference in my situation from yours, though, was that I integrated my younger chicks with the entire flock when they were three weeks old. They adopted a great strategy of evading any bullies early on, and they were also integrating at a stage when they were still small and non-threatening, so the bullying was kept to a very minimum because of that.

    So. You have two choices. Keep them separate until they all mature more, or let them duke it out.
    Last edited: May 25, 2016
  6. kre8ive1

    kre8ive1 Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 9, 2015
    Woodland Park, CO
    TheTwoRoos, maybe it's not as bad as I think. There is a lot of pecking and feather pulling from one of the older chickens. The other two seem to leave them alone. The younger ones try to walk around and mind their own business but end up hiding behind something and not coming out after being "attacked." I feel like I just want to leave them to work things out, but I'm afraid the older bully will kill one of them. And thanks for the comment about the nighttime thing, I felt like that wouldn't work but when I read other people talk about that they do act like they just snuck them out there and when everyone woke up in the morning everything was hunky dory. :)

    teach1rusl, I haven't let them free range yet because I'm too afraid of predators and them wandering onto someone else's property. The fences between properties are just open barbed wire that a chicken could get through very easily. I suppose I could let them free range and supervise them for an hour or so to be sure they don't wander off. I definitely have to redo their run. My husband just made a temporary one and I can't walk into it so it would be too hard right now to put anything in there. I want a bigger one I can walk into (I just have to get him to build it!) [​IMG] Thanks for the advice. They do just peck and chase a bit. They haven't cornered them at all so I guess that's a good sign!

    azygous, Thank you for letting me know that about the age difference! Next time I will wait to get new ones! I thought about integrating them when they were young like you did but I read not to even try integrating them until they are about the same size as the older ones and then it will be easier. [​IMG] That's why I waited until now because I figured the smaller they were the more likely they were to get killed.

    7little girls, I think I am going to try free ranging an hour before dusk. A lot of people have recommended that as an alternative to free ranging all day. I think that would give them a big enough area so the one older bully won't pick on them as much. I just worry the little girls won't go back to the coop like the older ones.

    Thanks everyone for your advice!!!
    Last edited: May 26, 2016
  7. TheTwoRoos

    TheTwoRoos Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 25, 2015
    At ten weeks they should be about half the size of the other hens,and can easily take on mean gestures like that,so I wouldn't really being stressing out over it.
  8. 7littlegirls

    7littlegirls Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 18, 2015
    Long Island NY
    I free ranged my 3 girls that are 7 weeks with the older girls. The older ones pretty much ignored them except for my welsummer :( she was nasty to them. I am going to have them free range together every night if possible but my Wellsummer will not be with them until they get older. I put them all together in the coop at night but the little ones are caged at night. In the day they have a corner of the run blocked off for them.
  9. bald Rooster

    bald Rooster Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 18, 2016
    Orlando area
    I had the same problem .Escape is all you need.I took some concrete blocks,put them on the ground with plywood on top.
    creating a baby fort :) there were entrances from all sides and the little ones would run right in.
    After about two weeks I found them roosting right with the big chickens.Sadly this wasn't the end of the pecking because as soon as there feet hit the floor the older chickens would chase them into the block house!
    I found out a little more space and a large run was the answer. They still get pecked but they can get away.
  10. MiniIndyRanch

    MiniIndyRanch Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 29, 2016
    Indianapolis, IN
    Well, i just had my worst nightmare happen while trying to integrate. I have a flock of 7 hens that are 9 months old and 4 chicks that are 7 weeks old. 3 days ago I moved the chicks from their brooder they had outgrown to a sectioned off portion of the coop. This worked until today when one of the chicks found a way out of her section and was attacked by the 7 older hens. They are normally out side of their run free-ranging in the yard, but as luck would have it there was a hawk hanging around this afternoon, so back into the run they went.

    I have little Rose back in the house by herself to recover - my question is, will I now have to reintegrate her with the 4 chicks before integrating any of the chicks with the older hens? I was following the integration plan of 1 week visible to each other, 2nd week visible through chicken wire and chicks able to "escape" and then 3rd week free ranging together. Now I don't know what to do.

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