Need advice on mixing flocks of different ages

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by mamasky, Nov 5, 2014.

  1. mamasky

    mamasky Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 4, 2013
    I currently have 5 hens (2 ameracaunas, 1 rir, 2 golden comets) who are about 1.5 years old. A few months ago, one of my golden comets went broody and I got fertilized eggs from a neighbor and some from my mom and she hatched 6 chicks. They are 7 weeks old today and have been outside, in a separate coop with mama hen since the day they hatched. The babies are 2 leghorns (I believe there's one rooster and one hen), and 4 buff bhrama/buff orphington mixes (and I believe 1 of those is also a rooster).
    I've let both groups out to free range and there haven't been any major issues. One of my older girls actually prefers to stay with mama and the babies. The other 3 keep their distance but the 2 golden comets have chased each other a few times. No blood or missing feathers...I believe just pecking order, protective mama type stuff.
    Anyways, their coops are side by side and I had planned on opening the runs to combine them as one big run and still having 2 different coops since I can't really add onto the coops the way that I have them.
    So, here's where the problem comes in. My son brings home a slip from school to bring home some leghorn chickens they're hatching in class. To be fair, I filled it out saying I would take 3 because last year, my daughter brought home a slip and I also said we'd take some. We live in a rural farming area and there weren't enough chicks last year so we ended up not getting any from my daughters class. My sons slip said first come, first serve depending on when the papers were handed in. He handed his in on the deadline so I thought for sure, we weren't going to get any. So...teacher calls me this morning and asks if I can pick them up tomorrow.
    So, we've got both coops filled currently. I doubt mama hen would take on additional babies at this point and it's really too cold for them to be outside now so I'll keep them in the upstairs bathroom under a heat lamp.
    How should I go about eventually introducing these new babies? And really....why wouldn't they have waited until it was warmer to hatch chicks in school?
    I do plan on getting rid of a few of the babies we have now. I had told my boyfriend that we were maybe keeping one or two but that it would be nice for the kids to see babies hatched.
    So, what would you do to make this go as smoothly as possible??
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    We do get ourselves into some messes with our kids don’t we?

    I always let my broodies raise the chicks with the flock so Mama handles integration but many people do it the way you did. There is not a right way or a wrong way, just different ways with different problems. Yours are closer to my brooder raised chicks than my broody raised chicks.

    It sounds like your coops are really small. I don’t know if your main coop will handle a few more or not since you said you were getting rid of most of the young ones. That hen will wean her chicks and stop protecting them soon. While the hen is still protecting them might be a real good time to get rid of the extras or at least decide which you are keeping and put Mama and the chicks you are keeping in with the main flock at night. They’ve been free ranging together so they can probably handle that. A change like that may be enough to cause Mama to wean those chicks now. You are not only dealing with living animals, you are dealing with a female hopped up on those broody hormones. You really can’t tell what a female on hormones will do.

    You could try leaving the chicks you are going to get rid of locked in their coop for a while to keep them out of sight, but Mama will hear them peeping and will probably get really confused and maybe desperate to get back to them.

    It will be several weeks until the new chicks are old enough for you to move them outside as you said you would brood them in your house. By them your seven week old chicks will be a lot older. The hen will have weaned them and gone back to sleeping in the main coop with her buddies. Her chicks may follow her in the main coop but they will probably continue to sleep in their coop. With living animals it is hard to tell what will actually happen. You should only have the ones you are going to keep left. You can wait until then to move them into the main coop and give their coop to the young ones.

    With my brooder raised chicks my brooder is in the coop so the flock sees them from the first. My grow-out coop is next to the main run with the run sectioned off so a portion can be used just for those brooder raised chicks so they can still see each other. At 8 weeks I let them free range with the flock. Normally around 12 weeks I move them into my main coop to sleep with the big chickens. They do OK but my main coop is fairly large and I put up a separate roost, lower than the moan roosts but higher than the nests and horizontally separated, to give those chicks a safe place to roost that is not my nests. Sometimes the older hens can be brutal on the roosts as they are settling in at night and the chicks look for a safer place to spend the night. Often that is the nests. With what I think is your smaller coop I don’t know if you have room for a separate roost, but it sure makes my life easier.

    I really don’t like to crowd chickens, especially when I am integrating. Crowded chickens are more prone to behavioral problems. Your ideal solution would be to either extend one of those coops and make it bigger or build a totally new and bigger coop. But I don’t always have “ideal” conditions, I have conditions “I deal” with. Sounds like you are in one of those situations. Good luck in dealing with it. Hope you get something useful out of all this.
  3. mamasky

    mamasky Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 4, 2013
    Thanks for your reply! Kids sure do have a way of complicating things, lol.

    My original coop was bought as a coop that could house "up to 10 chickens" but we were comfortable with it housing our original 6 hens and 2 guineas. The guineas died early on and we didn't replace them and a raccoon got one of our hens. I'd feel comfortable housing 8 full size birds in there. The second coop was built right next to the original coop and was made to house 4 muscovy ducks (that I have since butchered). There aren't any nesting boxes in there but that could easily be changed. The runs could easily be combined as a large run while still keeping 2 different coops accessible. That was kind of our quick fix plan until the spring when we could make a larger coop that could house a flock of 15 or so birds.
    We've had chickens for about 1.5 years and had planned to replace the entire flock every other year so we never really planned on having more than 6-8 but.....that was a compromise with the boyfriend. He has now discovered how awesome chickens are and is on board with this farm raised girl to have more ;) haha We just really didn't plan on needing to rearrange everything right before winter.
    I think I've decided to rehome 4 of our babies (just keeping 2), and merge them into the flock in the main coop along with mama.
    Big kid who wanted to bring home the babies will keep them in his room and be responsible for them until they can go outside.
    I guess we'll work on making the run bigger so they have lots of room to run around. We are going to cover part of the run with thick plastic to keep the draft and snow out so even in the winter, they'll have dry ground to explore.
  4. mamasky

    mamasky Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 4, 2013
    Well, tonight I took 4 of our babies and gave them to a friend down the street. I let the mama and her remaining babies free range with the older flock. I was gone longer than I had planned and it was dark when I got home. I went out to make sure they had made their way back to the coops and mama was in the main coop, along with the other 4 hens, with her 2 babies tucked under her wings. They all went in and found their spot on their own. And she didn't seem panicked when I took the 4 babies away. I had them in a box on the porch and she could hear them chirping but she kept going about her digging.
    We'll see how they do in the morning since they'll all be in the run together. I've got a good feeling.
    And our 3 new, new babies are set up in my sons bedroom. They'll be hanging out up there for several weeks.

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