Need advice on reintroducing pecked chicks to flock

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by TexGardenGirl, Mar 24, 2009.

  1. TexGardenGirl

    TexGardenGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

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    northeast of Dallas
    So last Thursday, at the age of 4 wks 2 days, I glanced in the brooder and saw one of the hens had a bloody lower back just above her tail. I started preparing a cat carrier to isolate her to, and when I got her out to move her, noticed one of the little roos also had some damage (not as much), so I did the same for him. As soon as I got him situated, noticed another. By the end, I had to remove the one hen and 3 roos, and as this was going on I noticed that my little runt hen seemed to be doing most of the pecking! She had been really shy before, I'd swear she was definitely lowest in the pecking order, maybe she just couldn't take the abuse anymore! (Not that she was injured - before that day there was no actual damage done to anyone; she just was always the last to approach new food, always hiding off to the side) (There are a total of 10 hens, 11 roos, all the same age, and they're our first chickens)
    So anyway, thankfully DH was home from work to help - we moved the other 8 hens outside to the coop even though I was afraid it was still too cold for them - temps were predicted in low 50s/possibly high 40s for the next few nights and though they were pretty big, they're not quite fully feathered yet and our coop is not 100% enclosed in walls, so I was really worried. But we had no choice. Hubby decided to buy 2 small hutches, we scrambled to put them together, put them inside the coop, and put 4 hens in each one. We let them run around until evening & then put then in the hutches. Tried to run some heat lamps but that attracted the mayflies which freaked out the chicks (because they couldn't get to them) so he just turned the lights off and we worried. Anyway, they did fine. We tried to introduce one of the remaining males out there with them (not one of the pecked ones) but several of the hens attacked him so that didn't work. By the next day (Saturday) we decided we just had to move the 8 roos that were still together & not isolated outside - just too cramped in the brooder and I really needed the brooder space for one of the iso birds. So we turned the outdoor hens loose in the coop, and put 4 roos in each hutch (still inside the coop). So they can see each other but not get at each other. They seem content enought with this so far. There is a fairly large run attached to the coop but we have not let any of them out so far.
    Now my question - I'm thinking that the best way to get everyone back to one flock is this: wait until the injured birds are well (which I'm thinking could take several more days for the most-injured one) then on a nice day when I have time to sit and watch them put everyone out in the run for the first time - since it will be new to everyone maybe no one will be territorial about it yet? Then by the end of the day when it's sleeptime, herd them all into the coop and maybe the ones who have been out there won't really notice they have new neighbors?

    Does this make sense? Or is it overkill - might I be okay with putting together all the outside birds now and then adding the others later? I'm just thinking it would be better to upset their social structure as little as necessary. Has anyone else had a similar situation? I'd appreciate any insight or ideas. Thanks!

    As of today they are 5 weeks old. The coop is 8' x 8', the outside run is 40' x 40' and we hope to let them free-range the yard most of the time (almost 2 acres). Ultimately we'll probably have most of the roos for dinner (they were "males for warmth") but may keep one or two depending on their personality. The most aggressive of the hens (besides the tiny one) are the 2 Buff Orps! They are super friendly to us, and previously seemed fine with the other birds, but now they are not so nice. The tiny one is supposed to be a Buff Catalana, but looks very little like the other one, who is big and sweet and has been colored differently from the start. I was starting to think the little one was maybe a bantam (by accident) but now I'm thinking she's just not right. She stands at the front of her cage and stares at me a lot, but isn't friendly; she pecks my hand when I reach in and is an amazingly strong flier.
     
  2. jenjscott

    jenjscott Mosquito Beach Poultry

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    May 24, 2008
    Southeast Arkansas
    It makes sense to me. I like mixing chickens in new territory. I had a hen I put a roo in with and she beat him up so bad we had to take him out. We let his comb heal up, then put him in a tractor for a couple of days, then put her in with him, no problem. I have also mixed different hatches that way, put all of them in a new pen at the same time. It seems to work pretty well.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2009
  3. TexGardenGirl

    TexGardenGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 2, 2009
    northeast of Dallas
    Thanks jen!
    Any other opinions? It is getting a bit tedious to clean, water and feed 4 single cages, a brooder with only one chick, two 4-roo hutches, and the coop. (Not to mention I have 2 cats overdue for their annual exams but I can't transport them while the chicks are in their carriers...) It would be so much nicer if I only had to keep the injured ones isolated (originally 4 but 2 already look fine - only had minor wounds). I don't want to jump the gun, but I also would rather not wait longer than I have to? Any other thoughts? Thanks!
     

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