Integration Question

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by ejcrist, Dec 20, 2016.

  1. ejcrist

    ejcrist Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My current layer flock consists of 25 laying hens and a cock that's about a year and a half old and live in a secure, large coop and run. I'm raising about 25 pullets that are currently eight weeks old and intended to replace my current layer flock. I'd like to cull all but 3-5 of my best layers for breeding again next year and replace the culled birds with the new pullets. Obviously this will cause a pecking order issue with everyone but since I'm introducing a large number of pullets, will it be ok to to put them all in the coop/run with the cock and 3-5 adult hens at once? I understand if I were introducing new pullets to an existing flock it'd be best to introduce them slowly, but that's for the safety of the younger birds which are in the minority, but in this case the older birds will be severely outnumbered so I'm wondering if you'd have the same concern. If it'll be a problem I'll just cull all of the current layers so the only old bird left in the coop/run would be the cock. I don't see him having a problem with the new pullets since he's so much larger than them and of the opposite sex. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I have no idea what “large coop and run” means. What is large to some people is pretty small to others. Sorry but that really doesn’t tell me what I need to know.

    Where have the 8-week-olds been raised, with the flock or in isolation? When my broody hens raise their chicks it’s with the flock. When I raise them in a brooder that brooder is built into the main coop. Those chicks also grow up with the flock. In summer I’ve had a couple of broody hens wean their chicks at three weeks though most wait a lot longer. There have been plenty of times I just open that brooder at five weeks and let those chicks mingle with the flock. I’ve never lost a chick to another adult flock member either way.

    This is not an age thing though, there are very important variables. My chicks are raised with the flock, not just thrown in with them. I have a lot of room. It’s not “large”, the coop is 8’ x 12’, the main run is 12’ x 32’, and I have an area about 45’ x 90’ inside electric netting. That enables the chicks to avoid the adults if they need to. I don’t ty to force mine to roost or force them to share a small space, I give them as much room as I can and let then work out the details. I think it helps to have a mature rooster in the flock. At least you have that.

    Not knowing what your facilities look like or where those chicks have been raised, I’ll make some guesses. I suggest you create a space where the chicks can be next to the adults for a couple of weeks but can’t get together. Think predators and environmental conditions when setting this up. It can be in the coop, in the run, or next to the run.

    After two weeks or so, let the young ones out. Have different feeding and watering stations scattered around so the young ones don’t have to compete with the adults to eat and drink. If the young ones go somewhere other than the main coop to spend the night, that is fine. Don’t force them yet.

    Give them as much room as you can. It can help to put things in the run or even the coop for the chicks to hide behind or get out of line-of-sight of the adults. When I go down to the coop in the morning to let them out it’s pretty normal for the adults to be on the coop floor with the younger birds to be on the roosts or hiding under my nests, which are pretty low. They are avoiding the adults.

    You’ll often see someone on here say to wait until they are 16 weeks old so they can stand up to an adult. I’ve never seen a 16 week old pullet stand up to an adult. With mine the pullets don’t stand up to an adult and force their way into the pecking order until about the time they start to lay. Sometimes it’s a few days before they start to lay, but not many. Sometimes it may be about a month after they start laying. Size and age doesn’t mean anything to this, it’s purely maturity. Different chickens mature at different ages, though with pullets it’s usually tied to egg laying.

    I personally like the idea of having a few older hens in the flock. You can select your best overall hens for breeding, but the pullets learn by watching the hens. If I have mature laying hens in the flock I have very few problems with the pullets not laying in the nests, for example. The older hens teach them.

    What normally happens with my flock is that the chicks form a sub-flock, existing within the flock but keeping separate. They avoid the older chickens because the older chickens just might peck them if the younger invade their personal space. It normally doesn’t take them long to learn to stay away. Once they mature enough to force their way into the pecking order they merge with the main flock. Even then there are times they kind of hang together instead of with the adults.

    This “avoiding” is where having real room comes in. It’s not a matter of square feet per chicken, it’s a matter of can we avoid the older chickens. A smaller space with lots of things to hide behind might be better than a slightly larger area that is wide open. Things that allow them to get higher often helps.

    Another thing that I’ve found extremely beneficial is to have a juvenile roost. Until they reach a certain level of maturity my younger chickens do not like sleeping on the main roosts with the adults. They want to roost but they get pecked a lot if they try to share the main roosts. This is a main reason you read so much on here about chickens sleeping in the nests and pooping in there. The nests are a safe place off the coop floor for them to go. I put a roost higher than the nests but lower than the main roosts and separated by a few feet horizontally to give them a safe place to go. It helps.

    People do what you are talking about all the time, I think it is a great plan. If you really have enough room it shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish. If “large coop and run” really isn’t then it can be more challenging.

    Good luck!
     
  3. ejcrist

    ejcrist Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the info. The coop is 12'X12' and the attached run is 12'X25'. The only reason I mentioned that the current flock is in a large coop and run was so I didn't get any recommendations to let them free range together since I can't do that do to predators. Also I didn't want to give the impression they're living in cramped quarters which is a whole 'nother set of issues. The coop my younger birds are being raised in is 10'x24' and is sectioned into four pens with chicken doors to the attached separate runs, so they are in eye shot of larger breeding stock but not any of the hens in the layer coop.

    That's all besides the point though because the gist of my question is if putting the new birds in with 3-5 of my existing layers would be feasible vs. culling the whole existing layer flock to avoid possible integration issues. I don't believe I'd have the same integration issues integrating 20+ pullets with only 3-5 adult hens as if I were introducing a handful of new pullets to a larger existing flock, so that's why I was asking. If it requires a lot of intervention on my part I'd prefer to just replace all the laying hens and only leave the cock to integrate which I don't think would be a problem. I haven't had the need to integrate flocks yet at this point in my chicken career so this will be a learning experience if I try to keep the best hens in the layer coop and add the new pullets.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I thought I’d answered that. I think having some older hens in the flock is a good idea. I like that a lot better than just a mature rooster though that could work too. I do not anticipate any real problems. That should be enough room but putting something in the run for them to hide behind, under, or up high could help.

    I don’t believe the numbers are as important as a lot of other people on here. I’ve integrated a large number of chicks with a relatively small flock of adults. I’ve done the opposite. It’s never been a problem either way.

    On the few occasions I’ve had a chicken picked on it was by another chicken the same age. One was a 2 week old chick picking on a hatchmate. The other was a 15 week old cockerel picking on another 15 week old cockerel, also a hatchmate. In both cases they picked on an individual. They didn’t indiscriminately pick on one chick one time and a different chick the next time. It was specific to one chicken, a personality clash.

    I think it is a great plan. I don’t anticipate any big issues as long as you do as I suggested, house them near each other for a while, have separate feeding and watering stations, and give them as much room as you can. Don’t force them, let them work it out.
     
  5. ejcrist

    ejcrist Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yep, I see what you're saying now. Yeah I think we'll be ok and I'll follow your advice. If there's any problems we can't work through we'll just invite the older hens to supper - that's the nice thing about raising chickens.
     
  6. PapaBear4

    PapaBear4 Out Of The Brooder

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    What has worked for me has been to move them after dark and put them on the roosts in their new home with the older birds. I've done this with groups and individuals. I also have plenty of room to enable avoidance like Ridgerunner was saying.
    Best of luck to you! Let us know how it goes.

    PapaBear
     

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