Integration advice needed please!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by MeepMeeps, Aug 17, 2016.

  1. MeepMeeps

    MeepMeeps Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi All! I have read many posts about Integrating new chickens to an existing flock...at this point, I need more specific advice to my situation. I haven't seen many indications of integrating with a rooster involved...here is my situation:

    Background: My 1 yr old flock is made up of 4 hens and 1 rooster. I got 3 female chicks in April that are now about 22 weeks old. I free range all the chickens and they live in 2 separate coops. They stay in separate flocks and roam around all day. The pullets are scared of the rooster because he cornered them a few times when they were younger, and one of the hens, also a RIR scared them away a couple times.

    Current situation: For the past 2 weeks or so, the 3 pullets have been getting braver and getting closer in proximity to the other hens. They are the same size as the adults now. The other hens do not mind them but there obviously is a "pecking order" or showing of respect for the elders... The 3 pullets are still scared of the Rooster. One of the main reasons why I added 3 pullets is so the Roo would have more ladies!!! When I give them treats I have to give it to them in separate locations or separate times. Otherwise they all roam around in separate flocks and often the 3 pullets do jog away when the others walk near them.

    Questions:
    1) Should I attempt to put them all in the one coop - at night - and see what happens? I would like them to stay in 1 coop and just get used to each other. Is it worth trying at this point or is it a risk? Not sure if the pullets will get used to a new coop, let alone with 5 others.
    2) I opened up the pullet's nesting boxes 2 weeks ago and the hens decided to lay in their coop instead of their own! The 5 also hang out near the pullet's coop during the day which is in a partially fenced in area (but not closed off) near a favorite dust bath area. I am afraid this is inhibiting the young pullets from wanting to lay since the Roo and hens are usually nearby. I do not think the 3 pullets are laying since they have not sung the egg song and haven't seen them in the nest boxes. My gut says the big girls and Roo nearby may be stressing them out. They all have very red and developed combs and wattles. Unless they are laying in the woods... Should I move the pullet's coop so the hens and Roo don't hang out near it?
    3) I know the flocks may always stay separate...Will the younger ones ever accept the Rooster to mate with them?
    At this point its not looking like it!

    Any input will be helpful! Thank you!
    [​IMG]
     
  2. tmarsh83

    tmarsh83 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think you're thinking too hard about it.

    The birds know each other, they cohabitate when they are ranging. IMO it's time to remove the second coop and let everyone become a big happy family. They'll figure it out, they just haven't had to yet because they have a safety blanket.

    There will be some bickering, but assuming the primary coop has the room for the new birds without it being cramped, any issues should be minimal, especially given they are all on the same size footing at this point.

    I added a roo and 10 pullets to my existing three layers this spring. The older girls kept the roo at bay for a while a but they are squatting for him now, even though they had a few dust ups. The newer birds will get into line when their options are removed. No reason to make your life more difficult managing two coops.
     
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  3. MeepMeeps

    MeepMeeps Chillin' With My Peeps

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    tmarsh83, thank you for your input - You're right I am thinking too hard about it. I understand they will bicker...and you're right about the safety blanket! That's a good one. Its the Roo that I am worried about; being a little too aggressive toward them..but I definitely appreciate the advice and encouragement and will attempt to put them in the coop - maybe tonight! Why am I so nervous about this?! [​IMG]
     
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    I think your roo will let you know when the pullets are ready to lay. A good roo, who is not a hormone driven teenager will wait till his pullets are at POL before breeding them. It's good that you can let them free range. That makes integration so very much easier. The pullet's anxiety about the roo and hens hanging out around their coop will not affect their POL (IMO). Better to move them along to co-habiting in the same coop, if there is room. What are the dimensions of your main coop??? How much perch in terms of length? How many nest boxes? Wishing you the best. I think you're well on the way. If you can get the pullets settled into your main coop BEFORE they start laying, that may make it easier, b/c they won't need to switch nests.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2016
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  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Why are you so nervous about all this? Because you read so many posts on here where there were problems. The good outcomes, which are the vast majority, seldom get written about. Those are not news.

    It’s not about size, it’s about maturity. More mature chickens always dominate less mature chickens. Your pullets are right at that transition phase between immature and mature. They will soon be mature enough to force their way into the pecking order. With my pullets, that’s usually around when they start to lay. On rare occasions I’ve seen that about a week before they start laying, occasionally it’s been a month after they start laying, but it’s always around that time. Until yours hit that maturity level they are going to be afraid of the hens and defer to them.

    Why are you especially worried about the rooster? Because of all the stories you read on here. The vast majority of times that is not about roosters, it’s about immature cockerels. There is a world of difference in a mature rooter and an immature adolescent cockerel. You are dealing with a mature rooster. That’s a huge plus for you.

    The females have a part to play in this too. Until the pullets reach sexual maturity they are not sure what is going on when a rooster tries to mate them so they resist. Until they reach sexual maturity, the mating act is more about dominance than fertilizing the eggs. That’s probably what you saw with the rooster when they were younger, he was showing them that he is the dominant chicken in the flock. As they reach sexual maturity the pullets should accept his dominance and willingly squat for him. There may still be a little chasing involved, you might see some of that with your adult hens too, but that is normal. Sometimes a gal just has to know he is serious. As long as the females are not getting injured, it’s all good.

    Another thing that is causing you to worry is your expectations. You haven’t been through this before and don’t really know what to expect. Some of this looks pretty rough. It’s normal behavior and no chicken is being harmed, but you don’t know that. To you it appears to be pure brutality. You are dealing with living animals so anything is possible, you might get a true brute. But as long as there is no physical injury and no blood, it’s not a problem. That’s just regular flock dynamics.

    When pullets start laying they may have problems, randomly dropping an egg from the roost or just walking around. The internal egg laying machine is pretty complicated, it may take a pullet a while to get all the bugs out of the system. Nothing to worry about. You may have seen some of this when your original hens first stated laying. It’s kind of surprising how many actually get it right from the get-go. But your pullets are watching the older hens and learning from them. With adults already laying, I have fewer of these random eggs just dropped somewhere. It still happens but not as much as with an all-pullet flock. I still occasionally get a pullet that tries to make a nest somewhere else, but the vast majority of the time the pullets lay where the older hens show them to lay. They are living animals so I can’t give you any guarantees as to behavior, but I think you are much better off with those older hens teaching the pullets.

    I don’t know how big your main coop is in regard to the number of birds you have. Space is important in integration. From what I’ve done, if you have adequate space, it should be easy to get the pullets to switch coops. Just go in after dark and they are settled on their roosts and move them to the main coop. Lock them in there overnight. Lock the other coop shut. There is a real good chance they will go to the main coop to sleep immediately or they may try to roost near their old coop. If they try that, after dark move them to the main coop and lock them in overnight. It should not take long at all for them to get the message. The first morning or two, until you are comfortable they will be OK, be down there at sunrise to open the pop door and let them out. What I’d expect to see is the young ones up on the roost with the older ones on the coop floor. The younger are avoiding the older, perfectly normal.

    I do this kind of thing all the time, usually with much younger birds. One thing I’ve found that helps, if the younger are still afraid of the more mature, is to provide a temporary roost for the juveniles, lower than the main roosts but higher than the nest boxes. It’s nice if the coop is big enough to do this. A lot of people don’t do this and don’t have problems, but I find this keeps the younger ones from sleeping in the nest boxes. It’s not necessary but something to keep in mind if they do start sleeping in the nests.

    To me it sounds like you are in really great shape and should not have any major issues. Good luck!
     
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  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    You may also need to block off the nest boxes in the evening to keep the juvies from taking refuge there instead of on the perch. Yet an other reason to be out there early in the morning. To unblock the nest boxes. I made a flip up perch to cover the top nests, and have plywood cut with key hole slots to cover the bottom boxes, but those bottom boxes aren't as much fun to sleep in anyways (so I've heard.)
     
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  7. MeepMeeps

    MeepMeeps Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi All! My husband and I just put the 3 girls in the adult's coop! Since its dark out, they didn't seem to mind, just a little wimper here and there. They fit on the roost but I think I will have to add another one so they have more room. One of us will be up early when the sun rises to check up on them. Hoping it goes ok! [​IMG]
    and if not at least it is a start! Thank you for all your responses! Very much appreciated for all the thoughtful and thorough comments and advice.[​IMG]
     

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