Integration

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by SW31, Apr 11, 2019.

  1. SW31

    SW31 Songster

    I have three very large chickens who are pets; they are now two years old. I bought three new chickens 25th March; approx 6 months old and quite small.

    I have split our run into two sections to quarantine the hens. We have used very large cardboard boxes as the barriers. This was a good thing as one of the new girls had fowl pox. We treated it with creams for the skin and eyes to ease the pain. The three ‘pox’ pimples have now disappeared and all three new girls are happily laying eggs.
    We are not cutting the wings as a deliberate policy as two of our existing hens were clipped and subsequently badly injured by a neighbours dog. Had they been able to fly they could have got into one our trees for protection.

    The new hens are flying over the barriers into the older girls section; one is also flying into the garden - I’m not surprised as she is showing she’s going to be a bit of a character albeit at the bottom of the new hens pecking order. She previously had been pecked as there’s a scar on her head that is now healing and I can see new pin feathers.

    I have been doing a ‘look but don’t touch’ and feeding them treats with the two groups separated but able to see they are both eating at the same time. There’s been a bit of wing flapping by the older hens but not too much. When they come together the olde4 hens peck them to let the younger hens know who’s in charge.

    I was planning on leaving it until at least another week before starting the full integration but the new hens seem to be ahead of this. Should I now let them all out to free range together, with me supervising (I can’t do unsupervised free ranging due to fox/dog risks)?
     
  2. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

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    It appears you have this process well on its way. I would say keep up what you're doing. The slower you take things, the smoother the integration in my experience. I've found that by three weeks, new and old have pretty much adjusted the flock to accommodate the newbies.

    Feeding from multiple stations is the most important thing so everyone gets enough to eat.
     
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  3. SW31

    SW31 Songster

    It’s still going slowly but I think it’s getting there. I always supervise when they are together. I now hit the large hens on the head if they get too vicious - a bit like I’m pecking them. A quick boff tells them to back off.
    The little hens are now in no doubt that they are at the bottom of the pecking order. They run to me if they are too frightened. I’m still keeping the two runs separate but one of the smaller hens is a bit of a Houdini and keeps trying to get in the big girls run as their grass is better. I’m concerned she’ll do it when I’m not there and won’t be able to get back out.
    I’m still feeding them separately. I tried to feed them some treats when they were free ranging in the garden but it wasn’t very successful as the big hens get extremely bad tempered if the little ones try to muscle in on food - I had put loads down and really spread it out.
     
  4. frackmomma

    frackmomma Chirping

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    I know this is an older thread, but I'm hoping to re-liven it since this exact scenario is happening to me. I have a Houdini chicken getting over her barrier to where the older chickens are. They pecked her pretty good and her comb got injured last night because she couldn't get to safety. My husband and I could make a top for the barrier but part of me just wants to cut a small hole in it so the little ones can get out if they want but the big ones can't get in. That way they can start naturally integrating and have a place to hide if they need to.

    Has anyone had success with this? The smaller chickens are about 1/3 smaller and 6 weeks younger than my 12 week olds.
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

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    Yes, that system should work. This is more or less how I integrate chicks with adults. Chicks are usually very quick to recognize the small holes are the gateway between freedom and safety.

    However, integrating two different groups of chicks with a six week age spread won't be a walk in the park once they all get too big for these "panic holes". By these ages, chicks are pretty much in their respective cliques and the larger ones may make sport of chasing and intimidating the younger ones.

    Recently I wanted to add some new chicks to my existing flock and I purchased the first two at age one week, and then a week later, got four one-day olds. I drew the line there since it's not as easy integrating chicks once they pass age four weeks. As it was, I put all the chicks together just three days after I got the second group and it went very well. They all blended together as if they had all been the same age.

    Once you do merge your chicks, it's crucial to have plenty of space, perches at varying heights, and plural feeding stations preferably putting one above the floor of the coop or run so the younger chicks know that's theirs. I use an old card table for this purpose and it works out very well.
     
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

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    To me, when they start flying over, it is time for the separation to be done, that is what they are telling you. However, it is good to have a cluttered run. So many times I see on here just an open rectangle for the run. Put some junk in it. Pallets leaned against a wall, can make a hide out, or up on blocks, where a bird can get under and or on top. Roosts in the run, let birds get away from each other.

    If a bird in any one spot in the run can see all of the other birds in the run, that is not good. Little mini walls, with a feed station hid behind it, so that birds eating at another station, cannot see birds eating there. Make it so that everyone can eat, and it makes it more interesting for the birds too.

    Mrs K
     
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  7. frackmomma

    frackmomma Chirping

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    Right now they are all in the coop together at night and during the day and free range when we are at home. We are in the PNW and it just stopped raining/flooding so we can begin building the run. I probably didn't execute the best timing for the integration since this is my first time having chickens, but we'll work it out.

    We cut the hole in the chicken wire last night and tested it by putting the littles on the outside and chasing them back in. I think they get the idea now. They free ranged a bit together last night and enjoyed it besides getting a peck or two on the head from the bigger ones. Hopefully it's all downhill now and they'll be best buddies in no time.
     
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

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    That should work sweet! Once they figure out the safety zone, and once they learn who is going to peck, the worst is over. The new ones will still be a sub flock until they are laying. But no worries.
     
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  9. frackmomma

    frackmomma Chirping

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    Thanks so much for your help!
     
  10. SW31

    SW31 Songster

    Update.
    I have now moved the boxes, that separated the two groups, out of the way. There are now two entrances to the new girls area.
    The birds are now mixing, carefully, together. I put their regular food containers in the same places so they can all get to the food and the dominent hen can’t monopolise all the food.

    The only difficult part is the treats. The big hens monopolise it and the little hens want to muscle in. I have to feed the big hens while locking the small hens out and then, while the big hens are foraging for the treats, feed the little hens their treats. The treats are high protein and I need the little hens to put some more weight on to cope with the big hens!

    The six hens form two separate groups when free ranging which is a bit of a pain as I have to supervise them. The two groups often end up going in two different directions so I’m swivelling my head in several directions!
     

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