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Problem w/ integrating several groups- roost issues too. Help please!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by UrbanFarmerGirl, Jul 11, 2011.

  1. UrbanFarmerGirl

    UrbanFarmerGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 18, 2010
    Western Washington
    Hello! We have had a small group of birds for the past year (used to be 4, -1 from hawk attack= 3 currently). They were all purchased and raised together, and have gotten along very peacefully, no problems finding the coop and roost at night.

    Around Easter we hatched out a few Easter Egger eggs- the 2 pullets we are keeping are now about 12 weeks old. They are very wary and flighty with the older chickens, the Barred Rocks are pretty testy whenever the little EEs are enjoying food, and chase them off, but nobody has been injured or anything like that. The EEs have been choosing to roost outside of the coop, on a shelf/roost inside of the fully enclosed run. Every night for the past month I go outside, I move them to the roost inside of the coop. I think the bigger hens peck them when they try to come up. Are space issues like this normal?

    Also, we recently acquired 2 French Black Copper Marans pullets which are around 6 weeks old- fully feathered but still small enough that they can easily be held in one hand. They are very docile and gentle, and seem clueless about the whole idea of a pecking order. I snuck them into the coop last night when everyone was asleep, and they were all together today. I went out tonight after dark, and found these two sleeping out in the open- in the middle of the dirt, outside of the run.

    When I watched them today, and the 3 different aged chickens are like 3 distinct mini flocks. Each group is wary of the older group and seems to bully the younger group a bit. No blood or feather missing or anything- just chasing and pecking. Is this just normal chicken stuff? Will they always be 3 separate groups, or when the younger ones are full grown will they integrate into one flock?

    Also, how do I help them find the roost at night, and help the little ones get up there without being bullied. I am particularly worried about the little Marans sleeping out in the open.

    If anyone could share their experience or advice I would really appreciate it. I am dreaming of a peaceful little flock who put themselves to bed at night- Like I had before!

    Thanks!
     
  2. AngelzFyre

    AngelzFyre Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Whenever I've introduced others to my flock I usually do it by adding at least 2 or more each time. I make sure there is separate feed/water for the newbies and put them in at night like you did. The main girls always run the others off from food and water for sometimes even 2 weeks and keep them from eating and roosting with the rest of the flock but soon after this they integrate into the main flock with the others. I leave the separate waterers and food out for awhile to make sure everyone is getting what they should and then remove the food first, then the water when I know for sure everyone is behaving.
    There will still be squabbles sometimes, but that's normal.
    If there's one particular trouble maker in the original flock sometimes I'll remove the instigator and keep separate for a few days, then re introduce her back into the coop. Usually settles right in and doesn't try to stir up the new ones anymore.

    I do always try to make sure the new ones are almost as big as the ones I already have so there's not so much size difference bullying going on.
    Some of the pushiest girls I have are actually the smallest hens! LOL

    As far as the roost goes, let them work it out. The younger ones may not like to roost up on the roosts at first but will find their way up there. I still have some older girls that like to roost away from the main flock but they all do learn to fly up there.

    They may always sort of buddy up with who they were first introduced with, but they should integrate into the main flock in time.

    I'm sure you'll get lots of different things to do but this is what's worked well for mine [​IMG].
    Good luck!!!!!
     
  3. hannakat

    hannakat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 5, 2010
    Beaver County, PA
    Thanks for posting this thread! I'm working through this same issue and considered taking the bully out but didn't know if it would be worth it or not. Sounds like it might help. One hen just can't seem to leave the younger ones in peace and likes to chase them around. It's been over a week now with just a little improvement.

    Think I might try taking her out for a couple days...Thanks!
     
  4. UrbanFarmerGirl

    UrbanFarmerGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 18, 2010
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    Thanks for the advice. I am not having any really really serious bullying- just chasing and scaring, which of course leads the little ones to run for cover, but it sounds like what I'm seeing is normal. I'll help them out with finding the roost for a few more weeks and hopefully we'll get some improvement.
     
  5. PetRock

    PetRock Overrun With Chickens

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    We have three age groups that have now been together during the day and at night in the coop for about 2 weeks. We have seven 1+ yr old hens, seven 13-16 week old youngsters, and three 8 week old broody raised chicks that were cut free from mama at 4 weeks old. They free range mostly in the 3 distinct groups in our 1/3 acre backyard during the day with only a little chasing and pecking. The little ones learned early to stay away from anyone bigger than them.

    The problems come at nighttime. We have a large 8 ft x 8 ft coop with two levels of roosts on two sides of the coop and 6 nest boxes on the third side. (The pop door, food, and water are on the fourth side.) The big girls put themselves to bed with minimal jostling for position on the top roosts. The three little babies also go up the ramp into the coop. We opened up the divider between two of the nest boxes and closed the front in with a hardware cloth wall that has a small chick size opening. We have to encourage the chicks to go from the large area into their own space but they stay there all night. The problem is with the middle group of teenagers. They spent their first several weeks in a brooder just inside our backdoor. It must have imprinted on them because every evening they cluster on the back step waiting to be put to bed. After the hens roost, we carry the teenagers out to the run, place them on the ramp, and they walk into the coop to go to bed. Once in there, three of them go on the roost and the other four sleep in a pile on the floor or try to get into the nest boxes to sleep. We have to block off the entrances to the nest boxes because that is their spot of preference.

    I have been wondering if there is some other way to encourage them to put themselves to bed or to discourage them from wanting to sleep on the back step. We've tried shutting the whole flock in our good sized run about 30 min. before bedtime. It immediately caused a war! One of the teenagers got cornered by the two evil Wyandotte sisters and lost some feathers. So, I guess we are 2 weeks into the integration process and still have a ways to go! One day soon, I hope that the teenagers are going to realize that they are the size of the hens and stand up to them! [​IMG]
     
  6. AngelzFyre

    AngelzFyre Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Petrock,
    I bet letting them work it out a few more weeks will be a charm. You may have to help them go into the coop for a longer period, but with them being the youngest that's not too bad.
    The teens will realize that they are no longer so small at some point and all of them will integrate into the flock and learn to roost and live together with everyone. You probably will have to keep blocking the nest boxes off until they figure out that that's not where they sleep though.
    If they are above where the roosts are, that may be some of the problem because they usually try to roost the highest up they can.
    Do you give them any scratch or anything when you put them up at night?
    It may help to start giving them all something to lure them into the coop so that they get used to all going up at the same time...then they can work out where they sleep and you won't have to be carrying them in.
    Maybe put the scratch or treats into 3 separate areas at first just to get them in, then work towards getting everyone to eat together without squabbling or feather pulling [​IMG].
     
  7. UrbanFarmerGirl

    UrbanFarmerGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 18, 2010
    Western Washington
    Petrock- That is such a similar situation and issue to what I am seeing- it must be normal with the age divisions we have. I was contemplating leaving the teen and baby chicks in the coop at night, and letting the bigger ones stress a little outside the door until the younger guys find their spots- but I don't know if that will work.
     
  8. Tenmore

    Tenmore Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 2, 2011
    Ogden utah
    Mine never used the roosts the first 3 weeks they were in the coop now its a fight for the top.
     
  9. PetRock

    PetRock Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote:Thank you, AngelzFyre! I was late putting the teens in the coop last night because the grandkids were here. Almost all of them waundered over to the ramp and went in! A couple went in and came back out but they all at least knew where they were supposed to go! Yeah! I think that it is going to work! Our nest boxes are actually a step down from the floor of the coop so all of the roosts are higher. The teenagers are just used to sleeping in a pile. We have a little Blue Langshan pullet who is leading the way. She is gutsy and pushes right up on the top roost with the big girls. She does wait until they are all settled and then picks her spot. I love chicken TV! :)
     
  10. PetRock

    PetRock Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote:Let us know if you try that and it works. I've been making sure that all of the hens are in the coop and on the roosts before putting in the teenagers. I think that with my flock, the younger ones would scatter and run out of the coop as soon as the big ones came in. But maybe that wouldn't happen if they were all settled on the roosts. The three little broody raised chicks are the first ones to walk the ramp into the coop for bed but they have their own little spot where they are safe from the big girls.
     

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