Merging Two Flocks This Week

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Fred's Hens, Aug 10, 2011.

  1. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Yesterday, I took down the "Berlin Wall", ie, the mesh wall that separated a dozen Barred Rocks/Rhode Island Reds flock that I brooded back in late March/early April with the pen of a dozen year old Red Sex Links. They had spent the last 5 months living together, divided only by a deer fence wall. Since the younger pullets are now dropping little pullet eggs, the time had come. The "new girls" are actually larger, taller and out weigh the RSLs by a pound, but the older RSLs make up for it with their temper and the willingness to be very, very bossy. They'd "free ranged" together for months, mostly keeping their distance. But once together in the barn, look out!!

    It has been a bit of a rugged two days, but I think we're mostly through the tough part. RSLs are fairly notorious for being somewhat evil toward new flock mates and this certainly proved true again. Went through this last year integrating Black Sex Links with ISA Browns. Tough stuff that whole chicken society thing. It is amazing. Whew! Glad to be done with it once again.
     
  2. maybejoey

    maybejoey got chickenidous?

    Good luck I ahope that they get along.[​IMG]
     
  3. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    When merging flocks or integrating chickens, it occurs to me that despite having lived together, albeit separated by netting, the harshness of the pecking order shuffle just has to be experienced. A flock has its unforgiving structure laid out and everyone knows their place in that structure. Territorialism, ie, a sense of physical space ownership is also a part of the equation. Integration or merging disrupts the chickens' world and the sorting out process has to take place.

    In the brooder, at 4 weeks, that process has already begun as the chest bumping and stare downs occur regularly. By the time a flock comes out of the brooder, the order seems pretty much established. Why do chickens need to exercise such harshness in their sorting out process? Is the ganging up, the neck biting and back biting necessary and why? These are interesting questions and I pose them almost rhetorically, but I find it interesting that these rather docile birds resort to such violent and physical means just to sort out their society.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Pack animals like wolves or dogs have a pecking order. Herd animals like cattle or horses have a pecking order. Nature has found a way to keep groups of animals living together in apparent peace and harmony, but nature is not afraid of violence. If it takes serious fighting to determine which is the stronger ones that should be allowed to reproduce, nature will resort to violence. Each member of the pack, herd, or flock has its place and knows it so they can live together and not be fighting over bits of food or whatever all the time. So, in my opinion, the violence is partly to determine who should be allowed to breed and partly to keep them from fighting among themselves.
     
  5. N&MSchroeder

    N&MSchroeder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I just combined my two flocks last week. They are now 20 & 23 weeks old and are starting to lay. I tried combining them when there was still a size difference and after three days, I gave up. There was no blood, but the younger chicks were always huddled in a corner of the coop (they got chased and pecked when they ventured out) and nobody (myself included) was happy. This time it has been much better. My coop has been divided in half with a front group and a back group. My back group has been confined to a fenced run, while the front group free ranged. I opened the door dividing the coop as well as the gate outside. The back group raced outside to get at the fresh greens. There has been some pecking and such, but it has worked well because they have so much space. At first, they kept to their own flocks but are now beginning to intermingle. When I give them scratch in the afternoon, I make sure that they have to eat side by side. For the most part, they still return to their established sleeping areas, but I noticed that there were a couple of chickens from the back roosting up front last night. It will be interesting to watch. My latest test has been keeping them confined to the run, which means the front group has to go out through the back chicken door. So much work and worry, but as others have said on this thread, an established pecking order keeps peace in the end. Congratulations on your success Fred!
     
  6. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    For the last 3 days I also have been combining 2 flocks of 15 and 17 week olds who previously had been together, but had been separated when one polish chick was feather picked badly on her head. I separated her and another polish with 4 banties apart from the other 31 large and small breed chicks for about 6 weeks until all feathers were back in. Then for 2 weeks they lived in the same coop separated by deer netting and fencing. The first day combined everyone got pecked a bit, and have done pretty well the last 2 days except for the polish chicks. They can't see well because of all the feathers and go nuts running in all directions when they are pecked. I tried trimming their feathers around their eyes, and even pulling the feathers up with rubber bands, but it hasn't helped much. It is hard to stand back and watch, but I realize it will go on forever if I keep interfering. I would never separate chicks again that were getting along well. I always enjoy Freds Hens comments on this forum. I think his advice is very good.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2011
  7. kingsfarm

    kingsfarm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    all will be ok...because of predator attacks had to merge ALL my flocks together...all ages..53 to be exact....I guess because of the fact they free-ranged together (all except the 26 pullets I had in another area (24 dead now).... they definately all stuck together at night in their own areas...now mix very well...not any bad pecking...now I notice one of my old BO hens is being pecked on, will have to cull her but I guess that also is natures way....Have decided not to return any of the flock to the now predator,predator,predator proofed pen..(have made a fence inside of the outside fence so the racoons cannot reach to pull them out and they cannot go near the fence line....will do anything for the chickens safety....first time in 2 years I have lost a chicken....shoot hope this helps..G the egg laying has almost stopped, stress I am sure and naturally Louisiana heat doesn't help...
     
  8. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Update:

    Well, a week later, all is well. The flock is completely integrated. They still re-inforce their places in the order, but nothing more than typical chicken politics. Since many others are now in the process of integration, I thought I would post this update as an encouragement to others. Some of the shy Barred Rocks have now "pushed back" and are rising to the top of the order. They still range in little groups of "mates and friends" but that is to be expected.
     
  9. John Chicken GB

    John Chicken GB Out Of The Brooder

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    Fred's Hens :

    Update:

    Well, a week later, all is well. The flock is completely integrated. They still re-inforce their places in the order, but nothing more than typical chicken politics. Since many others are now in the process of integration, I thought I would post this update as an encouragement to others. Some of the shy Barred Rocks have now "pushed back" and are rising to the top of the order. They still range in little groups of "mates and friends" but that is to be expected.

    Pretty much the reasurance that I needed . I'm having the same stresses mixing my flock ! Thanks for your updates ! See my post in Chicken behavour and egg laying -- Well I had to post it somewhere ! lol​
     
  10. buckabucka

    buckabucka Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for this post! I will be integrating my flocks late September-ish. By then, I will have 5, 20-week old hens and one rooster merging with 16 year and a half old hens. The older flock has its own rooster, but it is my hope to remove him when I integrate, although I will have to make a final judgement on whether the new rooster is up for the challenge.

    It is encouraging to read a success story, as I am nervous about this transition.
     

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