Integration question

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by joshuabardwell, May 30, 2011.

  1. joshuabardwell

    joshuabardwell New Egg

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    I have two laying hens, in their 2nd summer of laying. I also have four new pullets that I got as chicks this spring. I've started trying to integrate the pullets in with the older birds.

    Following tips from BYC, I first kept the pullets in their coop, where the older chickens could see them as they ranged. As the pullets got older, I let them range too, so that they would encounter the older hens as they walked about, but had plenty of room to run away. After a while of this, I tried putting the pullets on the hens' roost while they were sleeping. Thank goodness I got up early to make sure everything was okay! The hens had cornered the smallest of the pullets and were pecking it pretty savagely. So much for that!

    My current strategy has been to put the hens in a portable cage, and to place that cage inside the pullets' coop. The birds spend all day together, but the hens can't attack the pullets. So far, it has been three days, and there hasn't really been much sign of improvement. Well, the pullets are no longer terrified of the hens as long as the hens are in the cage, so I guess that's a small improvement. None of the birds are really happy about not being able to range, though, and I find myself wondering how long the whole process is likely to take, or if there is anything I should be doing differently. I feel bad for my poor birds being locked up in "jail" all day, but I've got to get them happily coexisting, because I only have one permanent coop, and I need to get the pullets out of the temporary coop they're currently using.
     
  2. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

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    When I have integrated pullets and hens, I have found that there is usually 1 or 2 that are more aggressive. I removed the more aggressive birds for a few days then put them back together. I caught one really wailing away on one of the pullets. She was so intent on the pullet she didn't know I was there. I had a hose in my hand and gave her a good squirt with the hose. She wasn't expecting it as she was into beating up the pullet. Boy did she ever jump off when she got hit with the water. She ran into the coop and didn't come back out for a long time. I caught her a few more times and always had the hose handy and squirted her when she was being aggressive. She eventually quit bullying. I also put a second pop door in the coop as she would block the doorway and not let the pullets in. She couldn't guard both doorways.

    This is a picture of the coop.
    [​IMG]
     
  3. SC_Hugh

    SC_Hugh Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Great ideas on the second pop door and water hose [​IMG] [​IMG]

    This afternoon, I just picked up two (new to me) 11 month old laying pullets. These 2 came from a flock of 5 that had to be split up. Now I have 5 layers [​IMG]

    My plan is to keep them in separate coops and runs where they can squawk at each other and see what the other is doing. After a week or two, I can start letting them co-mingle while they are out in the yard. They can use both coops and runs as long as they all go to bed at night...possible chicken sleepovers? [​IMG] [​IMG]

    --Hugh
     
  4. spiritdance

    spiritdance Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Keeping the hens caged is a good strategy, but I would let all of them out to range during the day. This will give them a chance in "neutral territory" to get accustomed to one another, while still using the cage to "upset the apple cart" in terms of pecking order. The main thing is you have to be patient. It may take a couple weeks with the new arrangement, but one evening they will all just go into the coop together and get on with flock business. Then you can move them all to your bigger coop as an integrated group.
     
  5. joshuabardwell

    joshuabardwell New Egg

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    Okay, spiritdance, will do. I let them out this morning. The little chickens quickly took to dust-bathing in their favorite spot, but the big chickens immediately chased them and ran them off, I think just on the principle of the thing. I'll be very interested to see where they go to bed tonight--whether the big chickens try to return to their coop, or whether they bed down in the cage in the little chickens' coop.
     
  6. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

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    You can also try letting the least aggressive hen out with them. When she is used to them and not trying to fight, then let out the next least aggressive one, etc. until all are out. This will help to keep them from ganging up on the newcomers.
     
  7. joshuabardwell

    joshuabardwell New Egg

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    I'm pleased to report the current strategy seems to be paying dividends. I have been letting all the hens out in the morning. The older ones, I keep in their separate cage until they have laid; the younger ones, I let out first thing in the morning. The first night, I was relieved that the older hens made no attempt to go back to their old coop. Just a few days in the temporary coop "homed" them to it. I watch them all come back to the coop at night and see how they behave. If the older chickens get aggressive, into their cage they go! Tonight, all of the chickens were up on top of the cage, the young ones on one side and the older ones on the other side. They were making agitated noises, but nobody was really being aggressive for a long time. Occasionally, an older chicken would wander over and peck at one of the younger ones, but it was not sustained aggression, and the younger ones didn't jump down off the roost. I was hoping they would all settle down and go to bed, but eventually, one of the older chickens got a little more aggressive and the younger ones ran out of the house. That was my cue to put the older ones in their cage. So, some small progress made, although it'll take more time before I feel safe leaving the older chickens alone with the younger ones.
     
  8. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

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    Quote:I had two coops and was trying to integrate them into one coop as I had younger birds to put in one of the coops. I did leave both pop doors open and let them choose the coop they wanted to roost in and finally I closed the pop door to the coop I wanted to use for my younger birds so they had to all roost together in one coop. They did. Now I have two more larger coops. All of the coops but the one in the bottom picture have two pop doors. In the two larger coops I have a gate inside the coops to devide them so I can use them as duplexes or as a single by just opening the gates.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
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    Last edited: Jun 5, 2011
  9. SC_Hugh

    SC_Hugh Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well, after one week of the new girls staring at the older girls from 10 feet away, all 5 are getting along well and sharing the same coop and run. The younger ones bow down to the older ones with minimal upset.

    Yesterday, I attached my portable tractor to the end of the chicken run, now the 5 girls share the almost 100 sq. feet of outdoor run, 2/3rds are fully covered and the new tractor area is uncovered.

    [​IMG]
     

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