Integration questions

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by lutherpug, Feb 5, 2017.

  1. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 5, 2014
    Kansas City, MO
    Hi everyone,

    I have some questions about integration of younger chickens into an existing flock. My setup is a 5x6 coop and a 6x10 covered run. I do not currently allow my chickens to free range due to lack of a fenced in yard and a neighbors dog who escapes their fenced yard on a regular basis. This will be changing soon as we plan to fence in our backyard this spring. My current flock is 3 hens just under a year old-a Dominique, RIR, and Australorp-that is the pecking order as well. I'm trying to add 3 more pullets to the group-an EE, SLW, and Lavender Orpington.

    The pullets are 10 weeks old. They're fully feathered and have been in the coop without supplemental heat for a few weeks. I have a secure pen inside of the coop and that's their home. I also have a pen in the run that they've spent a little time in but 95% of their time is in the coop pen which is more secure.

    Last weekend I tried the after dark integration trick and snuck the young ones up onto the roost at night with the others. I was down there first thing the next morning to keep an eye on things and the big girls just chased and pecked the little ones relentlessly. To the point where I finally gave up and put them back in their pen as I didn't trust them to not kill one of them as soon as I left them unattended.

    I've tried to create a way for the pullets to have a way to escape back into their pen(s) where the adults don't follow them but have had some problems with the adults just pushing their way into the enclosures which then traps the pullets.

    I know there will be pecking and whatnot while they sort out their social standing but to my inexperienced eye I cannot tell what is normal and what is too much.

    How do we do this? I wish we would have been prepared to introduce them when the babies were a week or two old as I've heard that goes better than trying at this age but that is water under the bridge at this point. Any ideas? They're really too big to be in the setup I currently have them in.....
  2. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    It sounds as if part of your problem may be your own squeamishness over conflict as the youngsters are trying to fit in. Your chicks, at ten weeks, are entirely capable of taking care of themselves and all it will take is for them to figure out their places in the flock.

    You're right, their safe pen is no longer of use. You need to install high perches in the run, as well as additional perches in the coop. If you have room, a table or some sort of high platform in the run would help when it comes to food and water and a safe place to relax for the pullets.

    More than anything, having higher places to retreat to will help the youngsters gain the self confidence to cope with the adults. By providing these get-away spots, you'll be eliminating a lot of sources for conflict.
  3. ChickenChaser9

    ChickenChaser9 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 3, 2016
    Having enough space is key. The younger birds have to be able to escape from the established clique. Ideally they would be able to segregated for a week where they are still able to see eachother and be near one another but not able to chase and peck before having them actually cohabitating in the same run. Best Wishes.
  4. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 5, 2014
    Kansas City, MO

    Honestly, this is what I needed to hear. My gut was telling me that I was over complicating this and being a bit of a weenie. I'm off to the garage to throw together a table and some extra perches. I'd love nothing more than to get them out of that pen today.

    Thanks, as always!
  5. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 5, 2014
    Kansas City, MO
    I thought I would give a one week update as we've had some drama alongside some success.

    We introduced the pullets on Sunday afternoon. There was a lot of pecking and chasing but the kids seemed to hold their own okay. Same on Monday. Our RIR was clearly more interested in terrorizing the young ones than the other two although they were all participants to some degree. On Tuesday afternoon we discovered our lavender orpington in a corner of the run with her head buried in the hay like an ostrich. My husband scooped her up to discover that she had a pretty bloody head from being pecked. Thankfully she was smart enough to get her head where the others couldn't see it but I felt terrible and she seemed pretty traumatized by the ordeal as well.

    I pulled both the RIR and the Orpington out of the coop and put them in separate enclosures in my basement. The Orpington got cleaned up and is healing quite nicely. The RIR HATES being in the basement but I'm going to leave her there for now. She needs to get knocked down on the pecking order. Plan is to reintroduce the Orpington in a few days once she is a little more healed up and on a day where I can keep a very close eye on things. The RIR will go back in a few days after that. I may end up keeping her out for a full 10-14 days depending on how the timing works but I think this will be okay.

    My other two pullets are doing pretty good in the coop, especially with the RIR gone for now. They still give the hens a very wide berth but there haven't been any more major incidents and everyone is eating and drinking. Here's a pic of my EE and SLW pullets holding their own while their big sisters eat in the run :)

  6. Mahlzeit

    Mahlzeit Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 16, 2007
    Long Island NY
    I actually stay away from rhode island reds for that very reason. They seem much more aggressive than any other breeds I have had. I've had chickens for over 10 years and have only tried RIR's for the past 3. That has been enough to sway me away from the breed. I have never had a feather pecking issue until last year. My RIR's during the molt started picking the feathers of all the birds including the rooster who would just stand there and let them peck his feathers out. It got so bad that I bought those peepers and put them on all the birds. Even that didn't stop them from feather picking. I eventually separated the 9 RIR into their own coop and run. I left the peepers on them and finally some of their feathers started to grow back in. When they were all feathered again I took off the peepers and they went at each other like savages! I have never seen anything like it. I had enough and put them up for sale on craigslist. From now on no more RIR for me. Hopefully you separating yours from the rest will calm her down a bit.
  7. ejcrist

    ejcrist Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 16, 2015
    Desert Hills, AZ

    I think your birds will be ok with time. Personally I don't try to integrate before they're about 15 weeks old. This way they have a little more size to them and can hold their own better. I just integrated six Naked Necks and six Brown Leghorns in with my 14 month old gals and all went pretty good. There was no fighting at all believe it or not but the new gals are keeping their distance. My only concern is that the new gals are getting enough food and water. I'm apprehensive to put any in the coop or the new gals might camp out in the coop forever. I figure they'll come out and face the music when they get hungry/thirsty enough.

    Mahlzeit - Were your RIR's hatchery birds or SOP? The reason I'm asking is because I hear a lot about RIR aggressiveness but in every case where I've seen this the birds were hatchery production reds and not really RIR's. I have SOP reds and they're the calmest, most gentle birds I have. Same goes for other breeders that I know that have them. Just wanted to point that out in case anyone reading didn't know.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2017
  8. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    If you try to reintroduce the birds while the orpington still has a visible wound, the others may still want to peck it. If you can get some blue kote at a feed or farm supply store and use that, it will hide any red that might entice the others to peck at her.
    Also, put in an extra feeder and waterer so no one is being kept away from the food. Good luck.
  9. Wavechickens

    Wavechickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 9, 2017
    Hi Lutherpug,
    I know exactly how you feel! We have one golden sex link and two Easter Eggers that are just about a year old and introduced three lavender Amerucanas that are about six months old into our hen house (7feet by 6 feet, and 10feer tall) and the golden beat our new lavenders into the corner refusing the to eat, drink, use the perch or even walk around. She wouldn't even let them outside. She would pull feathers off of them if they moved. The EE seem to be a little easier going, one for sure more than the other, they still pecked and keep them in the corner but not nearly as badly as our golden.
    We ended up putting a small dog crate in the coop and kept the three confined for a day and set up a piece of wire running down the middle so everyone can see but not touch each other. Working really well. After a week we allow the golden or one of the EE in to say hello and only a peck in passing sometimes.
    If you have the space to put something in the coop to separate then so they have time to adjust that's the best way to go, but if your coop isn't big enough to than I would suggest a small dog kennel in the corner and keep them in it, if you don't have enough space for a kennel big enough for the three older ones together I would suggest keeping two inside another place than the coop if you can, and have one inside the kennel at a time and allow them out for supurvised visits. As soon as the pecking begins they go right back in. Once one has been successfully introduced then move to the next. Just make sure all your hens have access to food and water.
    Good luck!
  10. Mahlzeit

    Mahlzeit Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 16, 2007
    Long Island NY
    Yes the were hatchery birds.

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