Introducing new chicks

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by achristensen, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. achristensen

    achristensen New Egg

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    We are making the turn on our second year of raising chickens and will soon be introducing new chicks. Last Spring, we got 20 chicks from our daughter's class when they hatched during an embryology unit. We ended up with 15 roosters and 5 hens, so we did a fair amount of butchering. On the advice of a neighbor, we kept 3 roosters and all 5 hens. They get along great and spend most of the day wandering around our acreage as a group. There is some riding, but it doesn't seem too bad. One rooster is definitely in charge, one would obviously like to be and I think the third is just happy to be here.

    We will get a new bunch this Spring and are concerned about the dynamic of having 3 roosters and what appears to be a tightly knit group. We have read quite a few forum posts on introducing new chicks to one rooster, but didn't see anything similar to our situation. The consensus is that it's generally not a problem with 1 rooster - does anyone have any experience with more than one? Does it even matter? We can easily remove two of the roosters if necessary, but would prefer to keep them all if we can.

    Thanks very much to all - we've learned so much from this site.
     
  2. evenstargirl

    evenstargirl Out Of The Brooder

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    I would play it by ear.... I won't introduce my chicks to a full grown flock until they are all about the same size. I have combined chicks that were up to several weeks in age difference, though, without problems. However, if you decide to introduce the chicks to your adult flock after a few weeks, make sure you *supervise*! If you see anything funky going on, or the roosters/hens being mean, pull them immediately and try again later. Our wonderfully sweet Leghorn rooster molests any new chicken that comes into his coop. I trust him completely with hens. Chicks would probably die.
     
  3. Barbedwirecat

    Barbedwirecat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have had no problems with mine so far. Smaller breeds I introduce around 15 weeks. Larger depends more on size. I have done it as young as 7 weeks. I have great roosters and they really don't mess with the chicks, more the hens that are the issue.

    I introduce my chicks separated for 2 weeks by chicken wire and a small door. The big ones can see them, but not attack them. Then I spend a few days watching them all interact together to make sure no one is getting picked on. I use a dog crate with mesh over the door 1/2 way so the chicks can escape if need be.

    My roosters are pretty laid back.
     
  4. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    Generally when introducing pullets to an established flock there is more trouble with the existing hens than with the roosters. If you plan on keeping and introducing cockerels, the less dominant roosters may be your greatest problem. Generally it is recommended that chickens be of the same size when introduced. In this particular case, given the fact that your birds are free ranged, it might be better to introduce the young birds somewat sooner. All I can suggest is give it a try, be prepared for the possibility of problems, and have an alternate plan. (A separate pen?)
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I tend to agree with Sourland. The dominant rooster has never been a problem for me. Some dominant roosters will actually protect young chicks, though usually mine ignore the pecking order issues. You are dealing with living animals. It is hard to say exactly how they will act. Some hens can be really brutal and non-dominant roosters can occasionally be a problem, but I really don’t have significant problems integrating chicks.

    I’ve had broodies wean their chicks at 3 weeks in the heat of summer. To me, that is proof they don’t have to be the same size to integrate them. But I am convinced how much room they have plays a really big part of it. If space is tight, the risk is a whole lot higher. I would not dream of integrating chicks very young unless I had a tremendous amount of space. If you don’t have a fair amount of space, waiting until the chicks are practically grown is safer.

    Often when a chicken lower in the pecking order invades the personal space of a dominant hen, the dominant hen will peck the less dominant, especially if there is a big difference in maturity. The less dominant will run away and all is well in chicken society. If the less dominant does not run away, it is a challenge to the pecking order position and a fight will often break out. If space is tight so that the less dominant cannot run away, then the dominant one can get really vicious. That is why space is important. That is why space is really important.

    I generally integrate brooder-raised chicks at 8 weeks. That’s not just because of their age, just the way it works out. I keep my brooder in the coop and my grow-out pen is right next to the coop and run, so mine grow up in sight of the older chickens. Depending on weather, I usually keep mine in the brooder until they are 4 to 5 weeks old, then I move them to the grow-out pen. I keep them in the grow-out coop for about a week or more so they come to think of it as home, then let them into the grow-out run. I leave them locked in there until they are used to going back into their coop at night. By the time I am satisfied with the way they put themselves to bed, they are usually 8 weeks old. If I could work it out at six weeks, I’d do that.

    When I integrate, I just open the doors and let them go out to free range with the adults when they want to. Due to maturity issues, the young ones are at the bottom of the pecking order. The older hens will protect their pecking order rights. The young ones quickly learn to avoid the older ones. That’s why you‘ll see two different flocks. The young ones are trying to keep a safe distance.

    I provide three different places they can eat and three different places they can get water to avoid conflicts with the older ones.

    I also do not force them to sleep together with the older ones. I let them sleep in that grow-out coop until they are maybe 12 to 15 weeks old. Then I usually start putting them in the big coop. The only place I have any issues with pecking order is on the roosts at night. Those hens can get pretty vicious. Occasionally a non-dominant cockerel will join in the brutality, but usually not as bad as the hens. But as long as they have lots of room, they work it out.
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. Barbedwirecat

    Barbedwirecat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG]
     
  7. achristensen

    achristensen New Egg

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    Thanks very much, everyone. I'm much more comfortable now and have some things to look for when we bring the new ones in. Thanks again!!
     

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