Merging flocks. Separate for awhile or just go for it??

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by cupman, Jan 7, 2012.

  1. cupman

    cupman Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 12, 2011
    Portland, OR
    I've seen a number of threads say they make some type of barrier in their chicken coop and let chickens see each other but not physically touch each other for a couple weeks. Then they pull the fence out and the flocks integrate with little fighting. Well, two friends of mine have recently gotten more chickens and they just raised them until 10 or 12 weeks(not even fully grown) and dropped them in with the full grown birds. They said there was fighting and harassment but after a couple days they had a new pecking order mostly established and none of his birds were really injured.

    I have 3 groups of chickens. Ten 8 month olds. Seven 17 week olds. Eight 12 week olds.

    How would you go about integrating them? I was considering merging the 2 larger groups then waiting a few weeks to do the smallest... or would it be wise to do the 2 smaller groups and later introduce them to the biggest? Any horror stories about not putting a separation fence in?(dead chicks, serious injuries, etc?)
     
  2. clairabean

    clairabean Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 7, 2010
    Kootenays of BC!
    My vote is to just move them all together at night. I have done this successfully. The little guys tend to stay away for a bit, not really 'fighting' for positions in the flock, but rather watching. It took about a month for them all to settle in.
     
  3. cupman

    cupman Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Will hens ever kill each other from fighting or is that more of a rooster thing?
     
  4. goldies99

    goldies99 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 22, 2011
    i wouldnt put all of them in together...i would put up the fence and let them have a look at each other.....see how it goes....you can try and put one bird from the oldest group in with the middle group....(thats what i did)
    see if they get along....keep doing that for a few days....add one a day....if they have a few big birds on there side they might do better!.........and yes...chickens will kill a younger chicken...(not saying they will..but it can happen).....good luck
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2012
  5. hitnspit

    hitnspit Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 24, 2010
    New Haven, Vermont
    I just added 30 to my flock of 75. Did it at night and had very little fighting. I have done this in the past also and if they do fight it will not last more then 2 days from what i have ever seen. Just letting each other know who boss is. Thats all. now if they do go to blood. You may want to get that bird out or it will be a late night snack..........they love blood......jim
     
  6. clairabean

    clairabean Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 7, 2010
    Kootenays of BC!
    Quote:If there is even a speck of blood they will. 'Hen pecked' is a common expression. Usually hens are not as aggressive as roos, but there are some.... [​IMG]
     
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    You have three different types of agression to worry about when you integrate chickens.

    If you have two or more reasonably mature roosters, they will sort out which is dominant. This normally (meaning almost always) involved fighting. Occasionally it is a fight to the death. Sometimes it involved a whole lot more chasing and running away than actual fighting. Often, they will settle the dominance issue and form a good partnership in taking care of the flock. There are a whole lot of different ways this partnership can work out, anywhere in between splitting the flock into two separate flocks or the two roosters becoming best of buddies and hanging out together. These partnerships don't always work out and there are occasionally refresher courses as to which one is dominant. My experience is that these are usually not fights to the death. Usually.

    Then you have pure integration. Chickens can be territorial. If they see strange chickens they may try to run them off. You would think this would be the rooster's job, and occasionally it is, but usually it is the hens that do this. Those hens can be mean and brutal. Sometimes this can lead to chickens dying and sometimes it is not a problem at all. This is where housing them side by side for a while can be really beneficial. Sometimes it is not a problem at all even if they have not seen each other before. Sometimes you have a hen that will seek out to destroy any strange chicken even if they have seen them before. This is usually not a big problem, but it can be.

    Lastly is the pecking order stuff. Each cow in a herd, each wolf in a pack, each chicken in a flock needs to know its rightful place in the pecking order so the social group can live and work together in peace. But the way they determine this is not peaceful at all. Sometimes they sort this out pretty quickly and without bloodshed. Sometimes animals die. Usually it is somewhere in between. Immature chickens are at the bottom of the pecking order and more mature birds will keep them there as long as they can through fear and intimidation. That's why you will see young birds in a flock keep as much distance between themselves and more mature birdes as they can. It is less painful that way.

    With yours, you will find that the 12 week olds are at the bottom. They will stay away from the others if they can at all and have enough space. If space is tight, don't be too surprised to see them on the roosts while the others are on the ground or see them hiding behind or under things. When they mature enough to win their place in the pecking order, this will change, but not until they mature. This pecking order behavior is typical whether they have been raised by a broody with the flock and weaned or if they are introduced from a brooder. I've had three week olds that had been raised with the flock and weaned by their mother behave this way. They managed.

    Your 17 week olds are tweeners. They will dominate the 12 week olds but will almost certainly be dominated by the oldest group. I can't tell you how old they have to be to win their place in the pecking order. I have very rarely seen a 15 week old win its place in the adult flock. Very rarely. I have seen chickens many weeks or months older not be mature enough to win a place.

    When I integrate, I provide extra feeding and watering stations to reduce the areas of conflict. Let them stay as far away from each other as they can. The most important thing you can do, in my opinion, is provide them a chance to get away. If the loser in any of these fights can turn and run, you have a much better chance of this ending with chickens not hurt than if space is so tight they cannot get away. If you can't provide space, provide places for them to hide or separate from the other chickens. That might mean extra roosts or perches. It could be things for them to hide under or behind.

    I can't tell you what the best way for you to approach it is. I don't know enough about your facilities. I just turn mine loose and let them free range together.

    Good luck!!!
     

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