Integration question

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Granite State Chook
10 Years
Jan 30, 2009
Prescott, AZ
My 8 almost 15week olds are doing well with the 4 adults hens. They are scared to death of them, but doing well. I have a small coop in the run for the chicks. The run is divided by chicken wire, and every afternoon we have been doing integration sesssions(monitored). So now I am leaving the hole I cut in the run open, and the chicks and hens can go freely through. The problem is the chicks seem scared to go into the coop, even though they were raised in there for several weeks? Only a couple have ventured in. And at night everyone goes back to their respective coops. How do I get the chicks to go into the big coop at night? Do I remove their little coop, or let them decide when it is time to go move in with the big girls? Will they never go into the big coop unless I put them there and take out the little coop, or will it just take more time? Thanks for the help.
Chickens are creatures of habit. Your little ones are in the habit of sleeping in the little coop. They are also scared of the older hens. It is possible that the young ones, or more likely some of the young ones, will move into the big coop after they become true adults and truly integrate and make friends with the older hens, but I'd expect most of them to continue sleeping in the small coop as long as they can.

Just because they spent some time in the big coop a few weeks ago does not mean much now. They are comfortable in the little coop and the run. They may eventually explore and learn to go into the big coop during the day, maybe even learn to go in there to lay eggs, but right now it is foreign territory to them.

You can block off or take out the little coop and see what happens. I'd expect them to huddle on the ground in the run to sleep at night, but maybe they will go into the big coop to sleep. I suspect you will have to either lock them in the big coop for a few days for them to break their old habit and get a new one, move them from wherever they are sleeping to the big coop at night after they go to bed using as little light as possible, or somehow lure them into the big coop (maybe with treats) shortly before they go to bed and lock them in. I really don't think they will make the move on their own.

I don't know the size of your big coop, the personalities of your hens, your management practices, anything like that. I had my 12 week olds sleeping in the same coop with the adults, so it is very possible your 15 week olds will be OK. Sounds to me like you have done a good job on the integration. If your space is tight, you have an especially aggressive adult, or maybe you leave them locked in there for hours, you may have problems. For the first few days I'd suggest letting them out of the coop fairly early, like just about the time they wake up. That way the little ones are not trapped in tight space where they cannot get away from a big one if they need to. What I expect you to see is the little ones staying on the roosts while the adults are on the ground. After a few days you should be able to have confidence that they can stay locked in there together without serious problems, but I'd be cautious the first few days.

If you are going to leave them locked in there for a few days, you have the problem of what to do with the big girls. You do not want to teach the big girls bad habits, like not laying in the nest or not going into the coop to sleep. In your case, it might be easier to lure them in just before bedtime or move them in after dark for a few days.

Good luck with it. It's probably not going to be as hard as I may have made it sound.
I will have to put the chicks in at night for all the reasons you said. I will open them up at daybreak like I do most days, so they don't have to deal with each other in a confined space(I think my coop is 8x11). My husband gets up early to go to the gym, so we are up very early anyway. Right now I have left the 4 big girls in the coop in the morning so the babies can eat and drink in peace for a couple of hours. We totally took down the chicken wire last evening, and it seemed to ruffle a few feathers (he he) for the evening, but today they seem pretty calm about it. I guess like you said, they are creatures of habit. I guess I could continue like this for a bit and let them work everything out before forcing them into the coop? One annoying thing: they are eating each others food. So the hens are eating the chick grower mash, and the chicks are eating the layer pellets and oyster shell. I thought they would eat what is familiar to them? Ha ha. I hope they will all be Ok with what they are choosing to eat. Thanks for the advice.
Because I have a flock with birds of many different ages, I do NOT feed layer feed to my layers. I feed grower/finisher to EVERYBODY (probably the equivalent of Purina's FlockRaiser) and provide crushed oyster shell free choice. The layers take the oyster shell, the others may taste it, but won't consume much.

It's too much trouble trying to keep the 'wrong' birds out of the feed they shouldn't have... and chicks should NOT have layer feed because the calcium in it is not good for them at all. It can cause health problems in later life.

I tried the separate feeders thing, but the older hens just LOVED the grower/finisher (the layer feed was in the Big Coop and the youngsters were not feeding there) so I had some soft shelled eggs for a couple of days before I figured it out. Now I feed everybody the same feed, and the free choice oyster shell takes care of the egg shell hardness just fine.

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