Integration Issues

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Zonoma, Jun 9, 2011.

  1. Zonoma

    Zonoma Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have 14 6-9 week old pullets (SLW, EE, Cuckoos, and Dominiques) and was super excited to find someone who had some 12 week old B.O/BCM. They are HUGE! I've had them for three days now and they at least twice as big as my oldest (SLW) chicks. I have them separated but within sight of my young flock and they 'get into it' through the wire from time to time. How long should I keep them apart? I'm worried because yesterday when I let them have a little supervised free time in the run, they immediately chased every chick away from the water and food by pecking them on the head. Will I have to keep them separate until my chicks are a comparable size? Or will they mellow eventually?
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    There will be pecking order disputes whenever you integrate. Usually they do best if they are the same size but it sounds like this isn't going to happen. I'd wait 3 or 4 weeks before I tried it. You may have to re-separate if they draw blood.
     
  3. Zonoma

    Zonoma Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I let the little ones go to bed on their own last night (thankfully, they went pretty early) and, after they were roosting I let the big ones out of their timeout pen and they found their way into the coop, too. They've never learned to roost (didn't see a roost in their pen when I bought them, either) so they did well last night with leaving the babies alone. I had to put them in jail this morning when I let them out, though. ("Jail" is a good sized pen, don't worry!) I might keep this up another week if the weather stays dry enough. [​IMG] My babies should start packing on the weight in the next week or so if everything I've learned is even semi-accurate.
     
  4. flnatv

    flnatv Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That is a little how I did it...
    I have Polish and one poor guy had his head pecked and lost some feathers... so I put them up and waited again.

    I kept them in jail (5x3 brooder) inside the big coop.

    I also had the set up where I put the bigger girls in the fenced backyard during the day to free-range and the little ones were let into the big coop to "play". I would put the little ones back in jail at night and then eventually just put them all together around 8:30 at night. Process repeated at 5am the next morning.

    Now, I can leave them all together and not worry much... I propped one end of the "jail" up on 6x6x6 blocks so the little ones have a place to escape if they need to...

    Does that help at all or am I rambling? [​IMG]
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    If you are never going to let them establish a pecking order, then you can never integrate them. Establishing a pecking order involves pecking.

    There are a couple of different things that happen when you integrate chickens, integration and pecking order. If roosters are involved, there can be a third but I think yours just involves pullets. One way to explain the difference may be that when a broody raises chicks with a flock, they are fully integrated and part of the flock when she weans them, but they have to establish their own position in the pecking order when they mature enough to do so.

    Sometimes integration can go so smoothly that you wonder what all the fuss was about and sometimes chickens wind up dead. Each individual chicken has its own personality and each flock has its own dynamics.

    On integration. That is where the chickens do not initially recognize each other as belonging to the same flock. They can fight over this, sometimes very seriously. They will protect food and water resources from the other flock, as well as their territory. One way to help overcome this problem is to house them next to each other for a while so they can get used to each other, usually involving a fence between them. Throwing scratch or some treat on the ground where they eat next to each other can help them get used to each other. Sometimes a flock has a chicken, usually a hen but it can be a rooster protecting his flock, that actively seeks out the weaker intruders to do serious harm to them. Most flocks don't have these chickens, but some do.

    The other issue is pecking order. Each chicken in a flock has to know its social position so that the flock can live together in peace. Unfortunately establishing this position often involves violence and pecking. The more dominant chicken has certain rights within the flock and establishes and defends those rights by pecking when a less dominant chicken invades her personal space if she feels she needs to protect her rights. Most of the time, after the pecking order is established, they can get right next to each other and nothing happens, but every now and then, one will peck another to maintain her social position. If the chicken being pecked moves away, she has submitted and all is peaceful in the flock again. If she does not submit, a fight for social position can happen.

    Size does not make much difference in establishing pecking order in mature chickens. It is more the spirit in the individual than the size. When immature chickens are involved, maturity plays a big part. The more mature chicken will dominate the immature. Your 12 week olds are going to dominate the others because of maturity more than size until they all grow up. As the younger ones mature, they will establish their own position in the pecking order. Occasionally this may involve fights, but usually it involves some pecking and a lot of moving away. Almost always these pecking order pecks are not meant to kill. They are meant to discipline. It is a vicious peck and a chicken can be injured, especially if there is a big difference in age or size, but injury from these pecks are really very rare. It is when the discipline turns to a challenge and a real fight that it becomes dangerous.

    Some dangers involved in pecking order are when two chickens can't decide which one should submit, so they fight it out. That should not be a big issue with yours since the older will dominate. Sometimes, you have that chicken that does not know when it has won and keeps pursuing the submitting chicken. These chickens are a real danger to the tranquility of the flock. Deal with them as you will. I have not seen many of them, but they occasionally exist. To me, the most likely danger is if you do not have enough space for the submitting chicken to get away, the winner does not realize she won. She sees the other chicken that is trying to get away as hanging around to challenge her. Sometimes a chicken can get trapped against a fence or on a corner and cannot get away. To me, giving them as much space as possible when you integrate is the most important thing you can do to help make integration as peaceful as possible.

    What you can expect to happen is that the young ones will stay as far from the older as they can. If they free range, they will find their own hangouts. If they are in a coop and run, you can expect the young to be in the coop when the older are in the run and in the run when the older are in the coop. The young may spend a lot of time on the roosts up out of the way. They will avoid eating and drinking if the others are around.

    One other thing you can do is to give them separate feeding and watering stations to avoid the conflict to start with. Try to give them extra roost space. Mine can be pretty vicious on the roosts in protecting their personal space. Don't leave that pop door closed any later in the morning than you have to after they wake up so they are not packed together in a small space. I find it beneficial for them to sleep in separate quarters for a while when they first start the integration.

    I know this is long and rambling, but i don't know how to explain this without a lot of typing. But I get the opinion that you think any pecking is bad. Some pecking is going to occur in an integration whether you are around to see it or not. They have to establish that pecking order. Pecking order pecking is not that dangerous unless it turns to fighting or the weaker chicken cannot get away. It is when you have those mean, vicious, seek out to destroy hens in your flock that integration and establishing pecking order can be really dangerous.

    Good luck! I hope this helps you some.
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. Nicole01

    Nicole01 Overrun With Chickens

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    I have a wire dog kennel separating my chicks. I have 3, 12 week olds and 5, 6-11 week olds. It's not going well and I need to keep them separated unless I supervise them. I'm on day 12 and there is noticable progress. I'm assuming it's going to be a few more weeks or so before they are all together.
     
  7. Nicole01

    Nicole01 Overrun With Chickens

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    I will keep them caged up in the coop if need be, or until they are all the same size. I'd be devastated if I lost a chick. However, I'm at the point where they pretty much tolerate each other in the coop and the pecking isn't so rough anymore. They all sleep with each other on the top of the dog kennel. The 12 week olds don't peck the babies until I turn the light on or open the outside door.
     
  8. PetRock

    PetRock Overrun With Chickens

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    Thank you for all the helpful info, Ridgerunner! That's just what I needed to hear. We have a flock of seven 1 yr old hens, eight 8-11 week old chicks who have been together in a brooder, and three 4 week old chicks that have been cut loose from broody mama. They all free range together with very minimal problems. The young ones know to keep away from the older ones. The problem right now is at night. The littlest ones sleep in a dog kennel inside the coop with the big ones. I have been locking them in the kennel because I don't totally trust the big ones and mama is not sticking up for them now. The teenagers spend the day outside in our large run or free ranging while we are out there. At night, they are back in the brooder inside the house. I am so ready for them to move out to the coop but we need to add another roost and let them grow a little bigger before we start that process. The older hen that pecks the younger ones the most is the lowest hen in the pecking order. I think that she likes having someone to boss around since that's what happens to her. We keep a close watch on her and intervene only if she corners someone or doesn't give up when they run away from her. So far, so good with integration! [​IMG]
     
  9. shellybean40

    shellybean40 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I lost a beautiful 7 week old EE yesterday. I still cannot figure out how he got into the big girls pen, but he did. I reinforced their "jail" afterwards. His little head was completely scalped and he had a hole in his little skull. [​IMG] I was devastated. I am waiting until these little ones are very close to the same size as my mean big girls. THen I am sitting in the coop with them for hours if I have to.
     
  10. Nicole01

    Nicole01 Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote:I'm so very sorry for your loss. I know everyone has their own way what works best for them. I'm doing the same as you. I have a very small flock of 8 with 7 different breeds. Our chickens are our pets vs being used for utility.
     

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