Introducing new chickens to the coop/run

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Buddy-O, Feb 10, 2016.

  1. Buddy-O

    Buddy-O New Egg

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    We currently have 13 BSL hens that will be a year old in April. We are wanting to get another dozen or so babies, but unsure about the pecking order disruption and harm to the new chickens since they would be so much younger when they go from the brooder to the coop. The brooder is 48 sq. ft. so they couldn't stay in there too long. The run is large enough to divide off and have enough room for both, but I don't have the ability to build another coop on the other end, only thing I could do is put the brooder in there for them to try and roost in.

    Please help because we really want to grow our flock responsibly!
     
  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    Hi,

    There are many threads on integrating new chickens into a flock - I'd suggest searching for them (type "integrating new chickens into a flock") and seeing what may suit your circumstances best.

    Good luck

    CT
     
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Do you have reliable electricity in your coop? Many of us put the chicks in a brooder in the coop from day #1, some wait a few days but not much. I’ll include a photo of mine that uses heat lamps and give you a link to the heating pad cave. There are a lot of different ways to provide heat but what you are trying to do is provide one area where they can go to warm up but also provide plenty of cooler space where they can go if it gets too hot. Mine are really good at self-regulating their heat straight from the incubator when given the chance.

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    Mama heating pad
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/956958/mama-heating-pad-in-the-brooder-picture-heavy-update

    One problem you can have brooding outside is that the temperature changes. It’s practically impossible to keep the entire brooder one temperature. By heating one are and letting the rest cool off, you don’t have this problem. Just make sure one area is warm enough no matter how cold it gets and another area is cool enough no matter how warm it gets.

    In Mississippi this should not be a big problem for you, but water might freeze in there some nights. I sometimes find ice in the far end of my brooder in the morning so I keep my water in the warm zone from the heat lamps. Others may manage it differently, like providing a heated water container. Or just wait to get them until freezing isn’t a problem.

    To me the advantages of raising them outside in the coop are that they are not in your house with the dust, noise, and potential smell. Growing up with the rest of the flock makes integration a lot easier. And since they are exposed to the adults, they start working on flock immunities at a young age. I think they have stronger immune systems.

    Let us know if you will be brooding in the house or in the coop. I’ll probably come back with more suggestions.
     
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  5. Buddy-O

    Buddy-O New Egg

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    Apr 4, 2015
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    That's an idea, then I could just section off a different area for them during the day. Are you also suggesting a door in the wall in between the different age groups...curious how that works. Thanks so much for your time and patience!
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Click on the link I provided....explains it well.
     
  7. Buddy-O

    Buddy-O New Egg

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    Apr 4, 2015
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    I hadn't thought about putting the brooder in the coop. We are new to this! last year we let the chics stay in the house for the first 2 weeks and then we moved them outside to the brooder until we got the coop and run built. We do have electricity to the coop, although we haven't used it. We did have a heat lamp in the brooder and can do that again for the babies. Our concern is that the 13 we have now are as nice as can be to us, but to each other, they can get down right mean to each other and it seems like the one getting pecked just sits or stands there and takes it and I would hate for them to get after a newbie. What is your suggestion. Thanks for your time and helpfulness
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I’ll go through some stuff to kind of explain what I finally suggest, but remember a lot of us integrate chickens of all ages all the time with very little drama. Chickens can die during integration so it’s not something to take lightly, but most of the time they don’t even when people do a lot of things “wrong”. I’ll probably mention it a few times but having a lot of room really helps.

    First you have basic integration. Chickens recognize who are flock members and who are strangers. It’s possible a chicken will attack a stranger to protect the flock from intruders. This doesn’t happen often but it can happen. This is where housing them next to each other for a while can pay big dividends. They at least recognize them as not strangers. This is where having a broody hen raise her chicks with the flock can be really helpful, but you are not in that situation.

    Then you have the pecking order. That’s different from basic integration. Just like other social animals like a pack of wolves or a herd of cattle, each animal needs to know where it ranks socially against all the others so it knows who defers to whom. When two chickens that don’t know where they rank invade each other’s personal space, one often pecks the other or somehow tries to intimidate it. If one runs away it’s pretty much settled, though there may be a repeat performance or even some chasing. Normally one recognizes immediately that it is better off running. Even when they are evenly enough matched that they fight, it normally doesn’t take long before one runs instead of fights. On rare occasions they may be so evenly matched that neither decides to run or one gets injured. They can be pretty merciless if they see blood or one dislocates a leg. This is where you have your problems.

    A huge key to this is that they have to have enough room to run and get away. If space is so tight that they can’t run away the winner doesn’t realize they won and keeps attacking. Or maybe they get trapped in a corner or against a fence. When this happens the loser generally hunkers down and tries to protect its head. The winner keeps attacking the head because that is where they are most vulnerable. You can wind up with dead chickens this way.

    Another very important reason to have room is that the weaker try to avoid the stronger. They don’t like getting beaten up or another chicken trying to kill them. Who can blame them? So they need enough room to avoid to start with.

    Some hens can be very aggressive, they will go out of their way to attack weaker chickens. Each chicken has its own personality and some are just brutes toward weaker chickens though they may be as sweet as can be to stronger chickens. Sometimes these can be your stronger more dominant chickens but often it’s the weaker of the adults, as if they are jealous of their position in the flock and are afraid of losing what little social ranking they have.

    Having younger chicks adds another layer to this. More mature chickens always outrank immature chickens. Size is nowhere nearly as important as maturity. You will often see mature bantam chickens outrank mature full-sized chickens. Add in some maturity difference and you can get some strong outranking. When people start talking about waiting until they are the same size, take that with two grains of salt and a dash or pepper. In my opinion and from what I’ve seen, maturity is much more important than size.

    So your younger chicks are going to be outranked by your older chickens. Older chickens tend to be more aggressive toward younger chickens. I think it is just the natural bully in them coming out. So the younger your chicks are when you introduce them the greater danger they are in from the hens and maybe some immature flock members.

    A lot of people really worry about having a rooster in the flock when they introduce younger chickens. I love having an older mature dominant rooster in the flock when I introduce younger chicks. A dominant rooster is almost sure to accept younger chicks as his even if they aren’t colored at all like him or maybe even look different. Often the dominant rooster will help take care of “his” babies. At the least he is not likely to harm them. The dominant rooster I have right now often abandons the hens and eats with my younger brooder-raised chicks. Non-dominant roosters and especially immature cockerels do pose a danger to younger chicks but my dominant roosters never have. Of course I don’t wait until he perceives them as rivals as opposed to chicks to introduce them. Some people keep their chicks, including cockerels, totally separate from the flock until they are almost grown then introduce them. Then they complain about how their rooster is so mean to the babies. You can still do that if you have a lot of room but you will almost certainly see a lot of drama.

    How do I do it? My brooder is in the coop and has wire sides. The chicks grow up with the flock. They are not strangers. I do it two different ways, depending on circumstances. I might just open the brooder door at five weeks and let the chicks out to roam with the flock. I usually don’t but I’ll get to that. As you can probably guess, I have a lot of room, in the coop and in the run. These chicks normally hang around the coop for a couple of days while the adults are outside, but after a few days they venture outside too. The adults are hardly ever in the coop during the day. When they are all outside the younger hang out in an area away from the adults.

    When I do this, I’m down there about the time they wake up to open the pop door so they can get outside and run away if they need to. It generally just takes me a day or two doing this to assure myself the young ones are not in great danger locked in the coop with the adults in the morning. Normally when I go down there to open the pop door the young ones are on the roosts while the adults are on the floor. The young are avoiding the adults.

    My more normal way is to move my chicks to my grow-out coop on the other end of the main run. I can section off part of the run so they have their own private run section next to the adults. Once the chicks are putting themselves to bed at night and I’m ready, I just open the gate and let them roam with the adults, normally at 8 weeks. They put themselves to bed in that grow-out coop instead of in the main coop with the adults. The reason I like to do it this way is that I use electric netting to enclose an area maybe 45’ x 90’ for them to forage in. Until they are about 8 weeks old, they can squeeze through that electric netting. Their feathers insulate them. I have never lost a chick integrated at 5 weeks, 8 weeks, or raised with a broody hen to another adult flock member but I have had some chicks get through that netting and disappear. When I can I use that grow-out coop until they are 8 weeks old unless they are with a broody hen.

    Older chickens, especially hens, can be really brutal at night as they are settling in on the roosts. Yours may squabble a bit even now. Where they sleep depends on their position in the pecking order and mine can be pretty vicious in enforcing those pecking order rights. My younger chicks hardly ever try to sleep on the main roosts unless they have a broody hen to protect them. They look for a safer place to sleep. For a lot of people that can be the nests. Chickens poop a lot all the time, including at night, but at night they are not moving around. The poop can really build up in the nests. Who wants poopy eggs? I wound up putting a separate roost higher than the nests but lower than the main roosts and separated horizontally a few feet to give the chicks a safe place to go that is not my nests.

    I have four watering stations and three feeding stations scattered about. The chicks can eat and drink without challenging the adults.

    As I said I’ve never lost a chick to another adult so I am obviously being overly cautious. A lot of people don’t do all I do and still don’t have that much drama. A lot of people break a lot of these “rules” and just don’t have problems. Chickens have lived together in flocks for thousands of years. They have a lot of this worked out. But occasionally you have an aberrant chicken or things don’t work out and you have a disaster. Hopefully by me typing all this out you can sort of plan your integration to greatly improve your odds of success.

    My main suggestions; give them as much room as you possibly can, allow the weaker to avoid the stronger instead of forcing them together, let them get to know each other, and provide different eating and watering stations to avoid conflict. A safe haven like Aart’s link to Azygous’s post can be greatly beneficial, especially if space is a bit tight.

    Good luck!
     
  9. country girl44

    country girl44 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I just put my girls outside today with the big girls. the big girls are 3 months old and the little ones are two months old. they did their pecking things for about half an hour, and I stayed outside for an hour with them. I keep checking on there and so far all is going well. I'm worried about tonight when they sun goes down and the big girls go in the coop to sleep. will the little ones follow.

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  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Probably not......where have the little ones been sleeping?
     

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