Question on integrating flocks

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Riffero70, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. Riffero70

    Riffero70 New Egg

    6
    0
    7
    Mar 1, 2014
    I'm new to or I should say new again to chicken keeping (it's been 30years). I grew up around them but picked up 6 new chicks last week. Today I had the opportunity to rescue two Transylvanian Naked Necks that needed re-homing (We'll be getting them this weekend). They just started laying so are under 1 year from what I've learned so far. My chicks (3 Barred Rock and 3 Americana) are only 1 1/2 weeks old.

    I had planned on putting the chicks outside at 8-9 weeks but should I wait longer when integrating them with the two older birds? I know about picking order issues when combining flocks but haven't read anything about what age is best to combine them. Is there a better age to combine chicks to the flock or does it matter?
     
  2. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,418
    195
    216
    Dec 15, 2011
    SE Pa.
    Depends a lot on how you manage your flock. If they are just housed in a coop and run and never free range, then they should be near the same size when they are mixed. Being the same size in that situation allows them to stand up in the pecking order better. If you do free range then they can be mixed at a younger age. Most like to add them around twelve weeks. In either case it goes better if you can keep them in a separate pen next to each other for a week before they can physically interact. My method is to let them free range together for a month or so before I make them sleep in the same coop.
     
  3. Spangled

    Spangled Chillin' With My Peeps

    866
    89
    158
    Jan 12, 2012
    Serenity Valley
    For me, it would be easiest to just build a small coop/run combo. We do a triangle style with a small enclosed area for sleeping/laying and chicken wire run on the other end. It is handy all the time and would be used by you for succeeding years as you get chicks to replenish your flock or keep a sick chicken for special care or use for breeding or use for a broody hen to hatch out and grow out her little ones.

    Put a brooder light in the covered area with a cord extending running out the box in case it's needed for brooding next year or the next. Of course, taking precautions to make sure it wouldn't start a fire and would be safe. Ours works fine so far, but I hear of coop fires all winter long because of warming lights and that scares me.

    Then this year, you can put your two hens in it to live while your new babies use your existing big coop.

    Or

    You can put your new babies in the new miniature coop until they are about 5 months old (full size) and are ready to make the transition to your big coop.

    Put the two coops close together so that they get used to each other.

    That would be the simple, stress free way for me to do it. You'd have to be the judge of whether or not it sounds like a good idea for your situation. I'd probably put the Naked Necks in the mini coop until the chicks were full size and then would put the Naked Necks in with them. Why? Because the Naked Necks would then have to work themselves into the pecking order of the existing flock and there would be fewer worries about the young 5 month old hens.

    However, I might just use the little coop as a brooder (being careful with the wattage on the lightbulb so that it's not too hot or cold or could cause a fire) for the little chicks and get them out of my house sooner. (The dust!)
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2014
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    20,143
    3,355
    496
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I recently wrote this as a generic answer to your question. Hope it helps.


    You’ll read a lot of different things on here about when you can integrate chicks. That’s because your facilities and management techniques play a huge part in what can work for you. We are all unique. The way I do it could be a disaster for others. Some people consider me way too safe. One basic rule to remember is that chickens usually solve disputes by the weaker running away from the stronger or avoiding the stronger to start with. That means they need enough room to run away if they are chased.

    Chickens can recognize which chickens don’t belong to their flock. It doesn’t happen all the time but occasionally one will attack an intruder. A way to really reduce the chances of this happening is to house the chickens next to each other for a week or so before you let them mix. None of this stuff comes with absolute guarantees since you are dealing with individual living animals, but I do recommend housing them side by side with a wire fence separating them if you can. Some people can’t and it still normally works out.

    Chickens, like other social animals, set up a pecking order so each chicken knows its place in the social order of the flock. When two chickens that don’t know what that status is share personal space, one normally tries to intimidate the other, often by pecking. If one runs away, they’ve settled it, though there may be some chasing involved or a repeat performance. Occasionally they are fairly evenly matched so it takes some skirmishing to settle it. On really rare occasions they may fight to the death but that really is rare. The biggest danger in this is when a chicken cannot run away. If it can’t get away, it may just hunker down, quit fighting, and take the punishment. The winner doesn’t realize it has won because the other did not run away so it keeps attacking. That is why space is so important.

    The last key to the puzzle is that mature chickens always outrank immature chickens and are often not shy about enforcing those pecking order rights. That’s why you usually see a group of younger chickens form a separate flock. They are simply avoiding the older chickens.

    The younger the chicks the more danger to these confrontations. This does not mean that every hen will automatically seek out to destroy any chick they see. Some of my broodies keep a pretty tight rein on their chicks and keep them close but some allow their chicks to mingle with the flock. Usually the older hens ignore the chicks but if they invade the elder’s personal space, they might or might not get pecked. If they get pecked the chick runs back to Mama as fast as those little legs can carry them. Mama ignores this. That chick needs to learn proper flock etiquette. But if that hen chases the chick, Mama immediately teaches her that’s not really necessary.

    I’ve had a broody totally wean her chicks at three weeks and leave them to find their own way with the flock but she had spent three weeks teaching the others to leave her babies alone. My brooder and grow-out coop are where the adults can see the chicks as they grow. I have lots of room and turn my chicks loose to mingle with the flock at 8 weeks. I’ve never lost one to the adults doing it this way. One time I lost a chick this way when a chick was killed by its 1-1/2 week old sibling. Mama stood by and watched one of her chicks kill another. The other adult hens were not involved. Another time a 1 week old chick got into that grow-out pen where Mama could not protect it. The 8 week old chicks pecked it to death. If I had just opened that gate a day earlier that would not have happened. Mama would have made sure of that.

    If space is really tight, you might need to wait until the young ones are practically grown before you integrate, and even then if space is tight you can have issues. Different things work for different people.
     
    2 people like this.
  5. Riffero70

    Riffero70 New Egg

    6
    0
    7
    Mar 1, 2014
    Thanks for all the good information. It is much appreciated.

    Den in Penn, They will not be free ranged very much (or that is the plan) but we will be fencing off part of the yard so the Dogs can't get to them. One dog is obsessed with "eating" chicken or any small animal for that matter (squirrel population has taken a hit lately). I like your idea of them letting them free range to start.

    Spangle, I was thinking along the lines of your suggesting of keeping the older two in a separate portable pen then once the chicks are big enough moving the Transylvanians into the main pen so they are the ones coming into the "flock" so to speak.

    Ridgerunner, That is great information on chicken and flock behavior. I'll be housing the portable pen the two full grown ones are coming with next to the one I'm building. The pen I'm building has about 12sq ft per chicken. We sill plan on getting two or three more Buff Orpingtons in a few weeks (when a batch is available).

    I noticed some pecking order this first week already because the two types were kept separate so they've had to find their own pecking order already.
     
  6. birdlady79

    birdlady79 Chillin' With My Peeps

    583
    19
    103
    Jan 29, 2014
    West Tennessee
    I've read several things on integration... I have 4 chicks around 3&4 weeks that I just moved to coop w heat lamp.... Then I have 2 chicks that are week old..... If I seperate them inside the coop when the smallest 2 are 4 weeks then let them in run together, is that age difference and size going to be a problem? Their brooders have been next to each other but they couldn't see each other... Thx
     
  7. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,418
    195
    216
    Dec 15, 2011
    SE Pa.
    birdlady69: With chick to chick integration there are usually less problems. The closer in age the better. Yours being one to two weeks I would just have the youngest separated in the coop for a day or two, then let them mingle. At three or four weeks the youngest should be able to run well enough to get away. If you have plenty of room and things to break up the lines of sight, it should go well.
     
  8. birdlady79

    birdlady79 Chillin' With My Peeps

    583
    19
    103
    Jan 29, 2014
    West Tennessee
    Oh that's awesome news!! Thank you...I've been stressing about it... Lol.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by