Introducing 5/6 mo. old chickens to dwindling flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by markschicks, Jul 23, 2011.

  1. markschicks

    markschicks Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 23, 2011
    Elkhart, IN
    We are new to chickens & have learned some things the hard way. I posted part of the story in my introduction so I don't want to be redundant. We have an original remaining flock of 1 rooster & 2 hens about 2 yr. old. We lost 2 recently to a predator (who is hopefully being trapped as I write), 1 to a ruptured tumor & another returned to the original owner because the rooster would not leave her alone. My husband acquired 10 buff orp. chicks that are now 5-6 mo. old. We had the chicks quarantined in the garage until 2 mo. ago. My husband built/added an area for the chicks adjacent to the older chickens pen. The chicks are now as big as the older chickens. They have seen each other for about 2 months now. We think there are 2-3 roosters in the new bunch. One has started to crow. Can we put the 2 groups together now & how do we go about that? I also worry about their health. We have had terribly hot & humid weather (alot of us have). When the buff's tumor ruptured, before we knew what happened the 1st thought was Coccidiosis. Would it hurt to feed medicated food for coccidiosis? I don't want to medicate if we shouldn't but we've had so much loss already & want to prevent it if it's a good idea.
  2. FuzzyButtsFarm

    FuzzyButtsFarm Rest in Peace 1950-2013

    If it were me I would move the new chickens at night after they have gone to roost. When they wake up in the morning its like they've always been there with a minimum of pecking in establishing a pecking order. The alternative is to provide access to a common run and they will work it out but still have access to there own coop. You have an advantage that the younger birds out number the older ones and you shouldn't have to much of a problem. I would keep an eye on the older roo. Good luck. Any one have a better idea please speak up. We are all here to learn.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    [​IMG] Welcome to the forum! [​IMG] Glad you joined us! [​IMG]

    I'll attach something I wrote for another post that might help you. It will be in italics at the bottom. The big keys to me are the personality of your individual chickens and how much room you have.

    If I remember right, I did not mention combining roosters in that other post. If you do have some young roosters in with the Buff Orps, there is a chance they will fight with the older roosters when you combine them, to settle flock dominance. At that age, if they have sufficient room to run away, it will probably consist mostly or running and chasing, but it could get very violent. Sometimes roosters die in these fights, but often they work things out where one is dominant and the others are his able assistants, working together to protect the flock. Sometimes they will split the flock, each rooster having his own harem, although even in these situations each rooster is likely to mate with any of the hens. I've had flocks where the roosters hung out with each other more than the hens. Each flock has its own dynamics. You never know for sure what they will do.

    With medicated feed, you need to know which medicine you are dealing with. Most "medicated" in medicated feed is Amprolium or some similar product, but others do exist. If it is Amprolium, there is some controversy about whether the eggs are safe to eat after withdrawal. I am not aware of anyone that says you can safely eat the eggs while feeding medicated feed, but some manufacturers say it is safe to eat the eggs (or the meat) once you stop the medicated feed. Others give withdrawal periods as long as four weeks. Even the experts can't agree. I personally think some "experts" are getting confused between the small dosage in medicated feed versus the large dosage in the medicine used to treat an actual outbreak. But it is not safe to assume when your health is involved and I am certainly not an expert. I go by what a bird vet said about that. He did not think there was much risk since the Amprolium does not pass through the intestinal lining that easily, but in light of the differing expert opinions, he thought a week's withdrawal was reasonable. I assume yours are laying so I wanted to say that about eating the eggs.

    If it is Amprolium, other than eating the eggs, the medicated will not hurt them. Amprolium is not an antibiotic. It works by inhibiting the reproduction of the protozoa that causes Coccidiosis. It does not do anything else for anything other than inhibit the protozoa from reproducing. The protozoa live in the ground and are passed from chicken to chicken by them eating bits of the ground. They eat dirt and such to use as grit and they get some nutrients from it. They wind up eating each other’s poop while doing this, so they get the protozoa that caused Coccidiosis. If they have been housed where they can share the dirt with the established flock, even a tiny bit, they will not need the medicated feed. They have already been exposed to Coccidiosis and have developed immunity to that strain of protozoa. I take some dirt from my run when they are about 2 to 3 days old and feed that to them so they are introduced to the protozoa early when they are better able to develop that immunity.

    If they have not shared dirt with the old flock, there is a chance they will be exposed to new Coccidiosis protozoa. It is also possible that these chicks were exposed at some time and will infect your existing flock with Coccidiosis. It works both ways. With the way they scratch, if they have been housed next to each other, they have probably shared dirt so you probably have nothing to worry about. However, except for the egg thing, it would not hurt to feed Amprolium-medicated feed to all of them when you merge them for a couple of weeks. Personally I would not do it, but it won't hurt. And it does not absolutely prevent them from getting sick with Coccidiosis. It reduces the chance they will get sick from it. You still need to watch for symptoms from both flocks.

    Anyway, here is that write-up I mentioned. Hope you get something from all this that helps you.

    You'll get different opinions on here because many of us do it different ways. To me, a lot depends on how much room they have and how you manage them. I know it does not help you any, but this is mainly why I am always glad for a hen to go broody. She takes care of this for me. It can be a dangerous time. But yours are not broody raised chicks.

    I'll go through a long explanation of the behavior, then tell you some about what I do, but if my circumstances are different from yours, you probably cannot do it like I do it. Hopefully you can pick up something beneficial from my post though.

    Part of it depends on your chicken's personality. They are living animals with their own personality. No one can truly predict what an individual chicken will do, but we can tell you what we have observed. Some flocks have a chicken that seeks out to destroy any new weaker chicken. Young chicks certainly quality as weaker, but it could be any chicken you add to the flock. Usually this is a hen, not a rooster. My roosters have always protected or ignored the young members of the flock, but that does not mean yours will. Sometimes a rooster may see them as a threat to his flock instead of an addition, but usually it is a hen with the dangerous attitude.

    Many flocks do not have chickens that will seek out and destroy a weaker chicken. That does not mean you are safe. There are still the pecking order issues. Maturity has a whole lot to do with the pecking order until they all reach maturity. Mature chickens will dominate immature chickens. Think about it as chicken etiquette. It is bad manners for a chicken lower in the pecking order to invade the personal space of a more dominant chicken. In chicken society, the more dominant chicken has the right and the expectation that they will enforce their dominant rights or lose them. If dominance is clear, the dominant chicken will peck, the less dominant is intimidated and runs away, and everything is again calm and peaceful. If dominance is not settled, they can fight to decide which one is dominant. Sometimes you have the seek-out-and-destroy types who chase the weaker ones. If the weaker has room to run away, this usually does not happen. But if the weaker one does not have room to run away or gets trapped against a fence or in a corner, the dominant one gets indignant and is determined to teach this challenger a lesson, even if the challenger is trying to run away. That is why having enough room is important.

    Food, and to a lesser extent water, is another way for a dominant chicken to enforce its dominance. The dominant chickens will often keep the less dominant away from the food, sometimes to the point that the weaker chicken can suffer from malnutrition. I keep two separate feeding stations available anyway, but when I integrate brooder raised chicks, I add a third and make sure they are well separated.

    Bedtime is the time that I have seen mine be the most vicious about enforcing their pecking order-personal space rights. Have plenty of roost space.

    I keep my brooder in the coop from day 1. I have a 3' x 5' brooder mainly made out of wire but with a good draft guard and I keep one area in the recommended temperature range. I let the far corners cool off as they will, usually around 20 to 30 degrees cooler than the heated spot. They normally spend most of the first two days under the heat, but after that they play all over, only going back to the heat when they need to. They do sleep under the heat. After they fully feather out, usually around 4 to 5 weeks, I take away the supplemental heat and take them out of the brooder. I then have a space for the adults and the chicks that is separate but where they can see each other. I let the adults free range (no fences so they have a lot of room) but keep the chicks in an enclosure until they are about 8 weeks old. At this time, I figure they are big enough to not be such hawk magnets and start letting them free range. I alternate it, the adults free range one day and the chicks the next day. They have separate sleeping areas and do not sleep together.

    After about a week of them alternating, I let them out at the same time. The chicks very quickly learn to stay away from the adults, but my adults do not go after the chicks. If their personal space if invaded, my hens will peck to enforce their pecking order rights. I've never seen my rooster do that, but he also does not get involved unless an actual fight breaks out. Then he breaks it up. These fights are when the chicks are old enough to try to establish pecking order rights, usually around 15 weeks old for roosters, a bit older for pullets. My younger chicks just try to run away.

    I let them decide where they will sleep at night. Usually around 11 to 12 weeks, the chicks move in with the adults and start roosting. Until then they sleep in a pile on the floor. When they first start sleeping together, I make it a point to open the pop door as soon as they wake up so the younger ones are not trapped in the coop with the older ones. After about a week, I can stop worrying so much about that. They can normally stay in the coop with the adults without too much danger. The younger ones stay on the roost out of the way and the older ones roam the floor where the food and water is. I have a large coop so the young ones can get away from the older ones, at least to a point.

    I think I can do it this way because I have a large coop, a large run, and I let them free range a lot. If your space is tighter, then you might have a real problem doing it this way. I'm also around during the day to watch them, but in reality after I let them out, I don't do much. It just makes me feel better if I am here. I have a fairly laidback flock with a rooster that helps broody hens raise their chicks and hens that ignore the chicks unless personal space is invaded. My circumstances are probably different yours, but hopefully you can pick something useful from all this.

    Sometimes it is so easy you wonder why you were worried and sometimes it is a disaster. Good luck!!!

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