Integrating young pullets with mature hens - what's the best age?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Fletch83, Jun 4, 2016.

  1. Fletch83

    Fletch83 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 27, 2013
    I have three, 8-week old pullets and a small flock of three mature hens. They have been living outside in a coop & run separate from the older hens, but still right next to the hens' coop & run so they can get used to each other. They've been out like this for a few weeks now.

    The older hens will sometimes try and peck the youngsters through the chicken wire, but that's it. My question is - at around what age should I allow the young pullets to begin free-ranging with the older hens? I would like to eventually have them all in the same coop and run, but I want the babies to be big enough to defend themselves from the big hens if necessary. I'd like to have them begin free-ranging together to begin with so that they can get used to each other and establish a pecking order, but don't want the babies to get too hurt.

  2. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    8-10 weeks is a fine age to begin allowing physical interaction, as long as they've been within eyeshot of each other for at least a few weeks.
  3. chickenlady1150

    chickenlady1150 Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 26, 2015
    I have a similar issue but different ages...

    I have 7 that are 14 wks and I call them the bigs, 2 Austrolorps, 2 Barred Rocks, 2 RIR's, and 1 ISA Brown. I have 3 that are 7 wks, they are Whiting Welsummer Hybrids from a breeder in Delta Colorado. I call them the littles. Last week I put the littles outside with a fence separating the run. The run is 20x30 feet and I have the last 3rd fenced off for the littles with shelter, water, and food for them. At night I put the littles in a dog crate that fits inside the coop so they are in there but protected from the bigs.

    They have been pacing the fence for the last week and once in a while one of the bigs will give the littles a peck thru the fence but they mostly seem to ignore each other. Yesterday I decided to open up the fence and see how things went. For several hours none of them noticed it was even open. Finally one of the bigs did and she seemed to be ok with them. She was eating their food and one got too close so she pecked it on the head and that was the end of it. Then all the other bigs realized what was up and headed that way. The littles just stayed out of the way for a while and all seemed to be ok. Then one of the littles got too close and all the bigs surrounded the littles and started pecking at them. I shooed the bigs away and they went for the shelter in the small area so I gathered up the littles and put them in the large run area. I showed them the food and water that is under the coop which is 4 ft off the ground. After about an hr the littles were getting food and water and seemed content so I opened up the fence again. After about 30 minutes the bigs came into the large area and chased them out form under the coop and surrounded them again. I shooed them away, scooped up the littles, put them back on their side and closed the fence. Obviously it's too soon but after a week I thought I would give it a go.

    The Welly's will weigh in at abut 9 lbs when fully grown and will be more than capable of defending themselves. I had one in my last flock and she was without a doubt the Queen of the castle. I am hoping that these littles will be able to hold their own when they are bigger. I have to go out of town next weekend and was hoping that my DH wouldn't have to worry about the separation issues while I'm gone but oh well... I will try again when I get home form my trip and we'll see how it goes.

    We don't allow free ranging all day because we have a hawk issue. Several of the chicken keepers in the area have lost chickens to them recently. They have become quite a problem in the area but because they are federally protected we can't do anything about it. We can't even catch and release them. I called the game warden about it and even he can't do anything. The hawks sit in my willow or my neighbors elm tree and watch the chickens for a while at a time and then go out to the fields and hunt when they tire of that. Therefore we keep the chickens in their run which is fully fenced and netted until evening when I see that hawks have moved on. I would like for them to free range all day but it's just not safe for them at this point...

    I'll let you know what happens next week when I try again. Good luck with yours [​IMG]
    1 person likes this.
  4. appps

    appps Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 29, 2012
    Agree with queenmisha. Just keep an eye on them and make sure they have places to escape to if the others get too bossy.

    If you leave it too much longer the older ones will start seeing them as threat to the pecking order rather than chicks and then you will need to let them get big enough to hold their own against the hens. Having done both ways younger was the easiest.
  5. Moxiechick

    Moxiechick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 15, 2010
    I've heard and have had good luck with waiting until the chicks stop peeping and are making adult sounds instead.
  6. Sound advise. I always wait till the chicks stop peeping and Cluck.
  7. CluckerCottage

    CluckerCottage Chillin' With My Peeps

    [​IMG]I have my mature hens in their own coop/run with a fence separating my brooder coop/run.
    They have been interacting with each other since the babies were big enough to go outside.
    I am not comfortable with removing the separation fence yet with the babies being 9 and 1/2 weeks old; normally I wait until 12-13 weeks.

    I have brought some of my more gentle hens into the brooder run with me to test the waters.
    For the most part, my hens go about their business, paying little attention to the babies.
    I have however seen a bit of aggression when the babies get too close to the hens; I am always there to intervene so little to no contact is made.
    Yes, I do keep a lawn chair in their run so I can sit my tired old butt down to watch them! Ha ha!
    I will keep up with what I'm doing until I am satisfied enough to completely integrate them all. I enjoy my birds so much and any time I can spend with them makes me happy and relaxed.
    2 people like this.
  8. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Flock Master Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    I integrated my 30 chicks with my 6 adult hens when they were about 6 weeks old. They had all shared the same coop (separated by chicken wire) since I got the chicks as day-olds. They were in a brooder box for about 2 weeks, then given the run of their section of the coop where the hens could see them. At about 5-6 weeks, I let a couple of the hens in with them for a bit. I did that for a few days, then opened up the whole coop for them to mingle and go out in the run. We let the hens out to free range late morning, early afternoon until I just let everyone out to free range together. They were totally integrated before 8 weeks of age.
  9. chickenlady1150

    chickenlady1150 Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 26, 2015
    Quote: It's so nice to know that I'm not the only one [​IMG]

    My family laughs at me and whenever they can't locate me in the house they know where to look. I love and enjoy my birds so much. My 5yr old grandson helped to pick them out so he claims them as his birds. He is so cute with them and when they talk to him he answers back and gets so excited. When he comes over we go out and he feeds them, plays with them, helps me with coop and run chores, etc. We have named them all and he loves them as much as I do. It's really awesome to share such a neat experience with him and he will hopefully treasure the memories for years to come, I know I will.

    As for the integration, they are still separated by the fence in the run and the littles are in the dog crate at night. All is well and the littles are getting bigger every day. They are starting to cluck a little so it won't be long before they aren't peeping anymore. I'll try the integration again next week on Tuesday when I get home from my trip and see how it goes. I will start with a few of the gentler bigs and let them mingle for a few hrs at a time. I am hoping that I can have them completely integrated before they reach 12 wks as the littles won't fit in the dog crate for bed time then. It's for a 15 lb dog so would be pretty cramped for more than one and I can't fit a bigger one into the coop. The coop is 4 ft off the ground and is 4'x6' with two 6' and one 4' roost bar. This gives them about 2.5 sq ft per bird not counting the 3 nest boxes with enough roost space for all of them. I will just get up with the sun when they can no longer be in the dog crate if they haven't fully integrated yet. We are planning on putting in a pop door but haven't spent the money to do so yet. Sun rise is around 5:45am and I am usually up at 6:30 when I don't go to work so what's the harm in a little less sleep a few days a week? I am up at 5:30 on work days so no biggie really...
  10. mossyroo

    mossyroo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 23, 2014
    Mossy Head, FL
    So how do you guys keep your chairs clean?

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