integrating young chicks


Nov 14, 2009
I am in the process of building up a new flock, after my previous flock was decimated in a dog attack. I have 4 Wyandottes, 3 hens around 20 weeks and an older rooster. And, I have 14 young chicks which so far are in a separate area in the coop. They're about 6 weeks old, Wheaten Marans and Lavender Orpingtons. The chicks have not been outside yet and have not been with the older chickens. What is a good time to integrate them? And is there a process that you recommend? Should they continue to have access to a separate space, through which only they fit, in case they need to escape from the older ones? Or once they are out, and if things seem to be going well, is it safe to leave them with the older chickens? At what age do they like to roost? I have a roosting ladder, and the older ones sit on the top row, so there are several rows left for the young ones.

I've raised chicks before, but always with a broody mom who took care of them. I'm having to think this all through a bit more myself this time.

And yes, the dog problem has been addressed. The dog had pushed his way into the run, which had a weak spot. We've rebuilt the entire run, with a strong fence, new chicken wire, and hardware mesh a few feet along/under the ground and up the fence, to deter digging. There has been no sign of the return of the dog, and no sign of any repeat attempts. It's been a few months, so we feel things are under control and safe.
They do better if the younger ones are almost as big as the older ones. The "safe house" is a good idea to give them someplace to escape. Some people integrate at night and put the youngsters in with the older ones on the roost. I tried that. Mine old 2 were not happy and let loose on the younger ones. Mine were 3.5 to 4 months old before I got them to be with the older hens without getting killed. Let them free range together for about 2 weeks and sleep separate at night before they could be together full time. Mine did not roost until almost 4 months. I was not about to put them up there every night. They figured it out eventually.
x2 with extra emphasis on the wisdom of waiting until they're all about the same size. I rarely "integrate" anymore because it's so stressful on chickens and people but if you have to do it, aggie9296 has given you some sound advice here.
Thanks for the advice. It will be hard to make them stay inside when the weather turns hot. So far we've had an unusually cool spring, but there is some hot weather in the forecast. I may have to build that little safe space for them and then let them out when I can be around to supervise and intervene.

I wonder if it makes a difference what type of older birds you have. Wyandottes are supposed to be friendly and docile.
Yes, I know. I've seen evidence of that, in other flocks. So I will take your advice to heart and wait, and in the meantime, find a way to let them outside in their own space. Being in the coop all summer wouldn't be so healthy, I would think. I'm looking forward to having a broody hen down the road, and letting a mama hen raise the young ones next time.

Is this advice that you're giving related mostly to the issue of adding chicks to a flock, when they're not being raised by a mother hen? Do you find that you have to be that careful when there is a mom looking after them? I raised three hatches of chicks with mama hens, and they were in a space with lattice walls, and went in and out of their space through the openings very early, mixing with the rest of the flock. Never had a problem. I was new to chicken raising, and just let nature take its course. I know what someone is going to say - nature can be cruel and animals can be cruel, and yes, there is the pecking order in nature. But, are you as careful about integrating young ones into an existing flock when there is a mama hen looking after them?
x2 with extra emphasis on the wisdom of waiting until they're all about the same size. I rarely "integrate" anymore because it's so stressful on chickens and people but if you have to do it, aggie9296 has given you some sound advice here.

X3 Good luck...
I've never raised chicks from eggs, so I can't say how the mamas do. I've heard they protect the babies from the other chickens.

I just have a couple of mean older hens and they were really hard on the pullets. One hen is so mean, the 2 dogs and 1 cat are terrified of her.
I have never had a problem with intergration and this is what I do. I have a place in the coop where the babies are kept at night that is separated by simple stiff netting. Had DH cut another pop door just for that area. On the outside of the coop, in the run we placed some more stiff netting and made them their own area. This way they sleep together (with babies behind the netting) and then during the day they are outside in the run together, but separated by netting. After about 3 weeks or a month, i just open the netting and let them all together. Never have I had any problems whatsoever intergrating the group, but I do wait until everyone is generally the same size. Ignore the rusted tin, it is just to provide shade for when we have babies.

You can see the baby pen on the left side of the coop (facing the coop)
This is the plan I'm working on developing. It creates a few challenges as my coop is small, and there is only one opening into the run, but I'm trying to think creatively.
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