Mixing chickens of differant ages?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by anperrin, Feb 24, 2013.

  1. anperrin

    anperrin Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 20, 2013
    Barataria, Louisiana
    I have 4 chickens that are 10 months old and 10 that are 11 weeks all but 1 are EE's. We just build a larger coop and I'd like to but them all together. Is it OK to combined them in one coop at this point or should I wait until the 11 week olds are bigger?
  2. It may be fine to put them out. I would put the 11 week olds in a smaller coop up against the other coop so they talk through the fence for about a week.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    You have two different basic things to worry about, then a special condition.

    First is what RoostersandHens was talking about. Chickens can get used to which chickens are in their flock and may attack any others that invade their territory. This does not happen all the time. Sometimes they accept newcomers with no problems. But it can happen. If you can house them side by side where they can see each other and get used to each other without being able to attack each other for a week or so, it can really help with this.

    The other issue is the pecking order. Even after they are fully integrated as far as the other chickens recognizing they have a right to exist, they still have to determine where they rank in the flock social order. A lot of times this is settled more by intimidation than actual fighting but it can get pretty violent. What often happens is that one chicken will challenge another, especially if personal space is invaded. It may be a peck, an attack, or just a fluff up and look mean. If the weaker runs away, usually all is well. The stronger may chase a bit but usually if the weaker has room to run away things have worked out. So it is important they have room to run far enough to actually get away, especially if a bit of chase is involved.

    The special condition for yours is the difference in age. Mature chickens always outrank immature chickens in the pecking order. If there is a lot of difference some chickens (practically always hens) will go out of their way to be brutal. With the difference in age of yours that risk is really high. The young ones need a lot of room to be able to run away or even avoid them to start with. I have no idea what your space looks like. You may have plenty of room for the young ones to avoid the older. Another part of that is that some hens are just absolute brutes. They go out of their way to hurt the weaker ones. Most will only pay attention to the young ones if they invade their private space. You are dealing with living animals. No one can tell you for sure what will happen.

    Some things I’ve found that can help. Have separate feeding and watering stations so the young can eat and drink without challenging the older. It helps if the younger ones have places they can get out of sight of the older ones, maybe some place to get under or behind.

    I find mine are often most brutal on the roosts as they settle in for the night. Make sure you have extra space so they have room to get away. I went so far as to install an additional roost separated a bit and a bit lower down for the young ones to go to if they are getting bullied real bad. That helps keep them from sleeping in the nest boxes.

    I’ll tell you what I do. As you might guess, I have lots of room. My brooder is in the coop. My grow-out coop is also where the adults can see the young ones. At 8 weeks I let them roam together but the young ones go back to the grow-out coop to sleep. Usually around 12 weeks I put the young ones in the main coop. Even though my coop is plenty big, I make sure to get down there really early the first few days to open the pop door and let them out soon after they wake up.

    The main coop can get kind of exciting the first few nights as they settle in but I’ve never lost a chicken or had any injured doing this. If your space is fairly tight, it might make a lot of sense for you to wait until they are older. I don’t know what will work best for you.

    Good luck however you try to go.

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