New chick integration; 7 existing + 5 new chicks


10 Years
Apr 17, 2012
South Florida
Ok, so I have some questions about introducing new chicks to my current flock. These questions may piggy-back. or, may be in addition to this (or other) threads.

My Coop & Run Facts:

Coop is 8'x6'
Open floor plan with three nesting boxes
15 linear feet of roosting space (I plan on expanding that to 20)
The coop is on stilts (like a stilt home) with the floor of the coop 2' off of the ground
(I sound like a realtor!! LOL)

Run is 8' x 16' and completely roofed; they always have quite a bit of shade available
Run is attached to the coop (they have free run of both sections; underside of the coop and the run) and is WELL PROTECTED.
Under the coop is Chicago red brick to keep things clean and cool.
The rest of the coop is natural dirt/sand.
There are cypress stumps and branches for playing/roosting on and around

I have 7 hens which are 10 months old
I have 5 NEW chicks (hens) which are 2+ months old

The 5 new girls have their own section in the big girls coop and run. It is separated with chicken wire, in order to attempt the "see, no peck" integration / familiarization.
They have their own roost area, coop area, and run area (including their own private door and ramp). All areas have the "see, no peck" divider.

The little girls have been in the "see, no peck" set up (with the older girls) for 2+ weeks now.

I have been feeding treats to all 12 of the girls, in the run, all along the chicken wire of the "see no peck" divider. This way they can all eat together (yet separately).

I live on 2 1/2 acres of property for them to free-range when I am outside with them. Usually about 3-4 days a week, and for about 1-4 hours at a time.

The NEW girls have not free-ranged as of yet. (Part of my questions)

So, 'ere go my questions:

#1 - Is it best to let them ALL free-range at the same time, so that they may meet on 'common ground' the first time?

#2 - Should I separate them each time they free-range together, before separating them before bed for the evening? If so, how many times (outings) should I repeat this process before letting them roost together for the first time?

Or, should I let them go into the coop as one, big, new flock, and see how the new bedtime (roost) thing plays out, the very first time they free-range together?

#3 - I really have no way to separate the 'baby chick feed' from the 'laying hen feed'. Therefore, is it OK to feed the new chicks the same laying feed as the older ones? Is it really that much of a big deal? (Again, the new chicks are 9-weeks old).

FYI - I am feeding all my girls Kalmbach brand chicken feed
18% Start Right Chick Feed (New girls)
17% All-Natural Layer Pellet (Old girls)
Henhouse Reserve Premium Chicken Feed
(I use this as scratch for both the new and older girls)

**Kalmbach is a phenomenal company and make awesome feed by the way! Check out the Henhouse Reserve!

#4 - Realizing that there may be some harassing/pecking/chasing going on during integration. I understand that I shouldn't intervene as it will disrupt the process. But, how much is too much? When do I step in?

I don't have any roosters nor are any of the hens broody.

Point of interest - here are the breeds I have:
The older girls - 2 Swedish Flowers, 2 Welsummers, 2 Speckled Sussex, 1 Cream Legbar
The new girls - 2 Blue Copper Marans, 2 Olive Eggers, 1 Cream Legbar

I will try to post some photos of my coop / run setup tomorrow, but I think what I already provided should help with your suggestions and guidance.

Thanks a bunch everyone!

South Florida
So I don't free range, so can't answer that part, but...

3) The younger birds are too young for layer feed, which can cause organ damage over time (this may or may not matter to you if you plan on culling the hens once they're no longer productive). Better to feed all the birds the chick feed, and offer oyster shell/egg shell on the side for the layers. Once the babies are old enough to lay you can switch back to layer if that's your preference.

4) I've never needed to interfere during integration, but I do supervise each time I take another step in the process. If a chick is being attacked to the point of injury, or is being completely cut off from food and water, it would be appropriate to step in. I've watched a hen pick up and throw a chick several feet before, and didn't do a thing - the chick wasn't injured, and it learned immediately to run from this particular hen if she came around, so there weren't any further issues.

Best to have multiple feeders and some hiding spots that chicks can use to break line of sight if the hens are chasing them, even out in the free range area (random yard junk will do).

Thank you very much! We were looking for beautiful, different birds with calm(er) dispositions and a colorful eggs.

So far, so good! We love our girls!

Thanks again for the compliments!

Thank you very much for the insight and personal experience.

I didn’t know that we could “regress” or “back-track” with the food. VERY interesting. I’ve never heard of that nor read that in any research. I‘ll keep that in mind as an option. It is tough keeping two worlds separate, yet trying to combine them at the name time.

I will try to restrain from stepping in when the pecking order is being reestablished. I didn’t know they could be so physical.

As for the feeders, I have two of them (Grandpa’s Feeders) and have multiple water stations, so I don’t foresee that being an issue…I hope.

Thanks again for your time, experience, and insight.
I didn’t know that we could “regress” or “back-track” with the food. VERY interesting. I’ve never heard of that nor read that in any research. I‘ll keep that in mind as an option. It is tough keeping two worlds separate, yet trying to combine them at the name time.
A lot of folks do it actually, because layer feed is often formulated to meet a bare minimum as far as protein, and in addition many hens don't lay year round (so don't need the extra calcium during those times).

As for me, I feed both grower and layer so my flock gets a little more protein and a little less calcium. Whenever I get chicks, then I switch to starter and all flock for both hens and babies until the chicks begin laying.
I will try to post some photos of my coop / run setup tomorrow, but I think what I already provided should help with your suggestions and guidance.
That would certainly help.

Can the youngsters get out to range from their section of the run without letting out the older birds?
Might be good to let them do that on their own at first just to get the lay of the land without being harassed and make sure they know to get back home.
Maybe alternate ranging for a week or so before removing the barriers in coop and run.

Here's some tips about....
Integration Basics:
It's all about territory and resources(space/food/water).
Existing birds will almost always attack new ones to defend their resources.
Understanding chicken behaviors is essential to integrating new birds into your flock.

Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact.

In adjacent runs, spread scratch grains along the dividing mesh, best if mesh is just big enough for birds to stick their head thru, so they get used to eating together.

The more space, the better.
Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no copious blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down and beaten unmercilessly, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

Places for the new birds to hide 'out of line of sight'(but not a dead end trap) and/or up and away from any bully birds. Roosts, pallets or boards leaned up against walls or up on concrete blocks, old chairs tables, branches, logs, stumps out in the run can really help. Lots of diversion and places to 'hide' instead of bare wide open run.
Good ideas for hiding places:
So here are some photos of the coop, just after completion. The only thing not in the photo is the electric fence. It is a three strand wire, 360 degrees around the coop, on the bottom 24”.
Coop before move-in…


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