Struggling to get new chickens integrated- HELP!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by kostfarm, Jun 14, 2016.

  1. kostfarm

    kostfarm In the Brooder

    Jun 14, 2016
    Charleston, SC
    We have 8 black sex links who are 14 weeks old and we just recently got 2 barred rocks who are 12 or 13 weeks old and we've been trying to get them to acclimate to each other for about 2 weeks now. We had them first in a dog crate separated inside the run and then let them free range, we tried putting them in the coop at night, we tried changing the location of things in the run and added toys. Nothing has worked. The 2 barred rocks basically live on the roof of the coop because they are too scared to come down and only eat when free ranging. Any suggestions on what to do next???? The sex links are about to start laying!

  2. azjustin

    azjustin Chirping

    Apr 1, 2016
    Tucson, AZ
    Are they fighting excessively?

    Are they aggressive to each other while eating or drinking?

    If no to both then I wouldn't worry about it too much. They are probably still integrating if not roosting together. Or, just acting like chickens.
  3. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    Multiple feeding stations can ease tensions. The size of your coop and run may also influence how smoothly things go. I'd suggest reading these links to see if there are any ideas that you may wish to use.

    Good luck
  4. I am going to be in much the same situation. I told a friend I would take two hens off her hands once I got my flock outside...because I didn't realize way back in March when I said it just what a huge deal that could be. :( Hubby says I must keep my word and so I will. I have put her off for a bit more by asking for the time to get my whole complete run covered and secure along with the inside run which is already secure. Hoping in a run that will in its entirety be 35' x 45' that this can be worked out. I have two very large dog crates and my plan was to use both. One in the chicken house at the beginning for them to sleep in and one inside the run to keep them safe. And I was planning on AT LEAST two weeks if not more. And that doesn't even take into account a way to quarantine them as now it is HOT and my garage will not work. Gah! What a mess I have created for myself! :rolleyes: I have also considered making a chicken tractor big enough for the newbies to sit in the run and creating my future broody or bachelor coop now rather than later. One of the hens is an easter egger she hatched for me and she is determined for me to have one in my flock. LOL I could actually care less especially in light of the chaos I am about to rain down on my own head. The other is a black Cochin I think. She is a special and wonderful friend so I will follow through so I read every integration post I see. The more I read the more I think a tractor for the two newbies is gonna be a way to go. Maybe it would help you too.
  5. Here's a post from My Coop Project

    Chickenology: Integrating Flocks

    Integrating flocks is tricky. It is made easier once the new birds are older and have some size to them. Ideally, which has never happened for me, you would have an older flock and a replacement pullet flock. Both flocks are maintained on separate fenced pastures, called paddocks, so they can see each other and interact at the fenceline. Then at the conclusion of the laying season, the pullet birds are quite matured and easily integrated into the older established laying flock. The combined flock is then assessed and birds are then culled just before the newly combined layer flock begins it's winter molt. When spring rolls around a few months later, pastures are rotated, and another pullet flock is started. Once again you have two separate flocks that are culled throughout the year until they are again combined at the end of the laying season, with a final cull just before they molt. That is the ideal scenario.

    As it is for us backyard chicken keepers those conditions seldom if ever exist, if it does, then you have what's called, "a farm".

    So we need to mix these birds realizing that the younger smaller birds will be subjected to the brunt of the pecking order of the established flock. Sometimes you don't really have a choice and young birds need to be mixed into an established flock.

    When initially introducing the two flocks, you need to be present to head off problems, so plan ahead for this eventful day.

    Keep the two flocks separated, but they need to be able to see each other. My garden is fenced with 2 X 4 welded wire fencing. I put the very young chicks in the garden with food and water and let them roam and explore. They will enjoy being outside and they will easily pass in and out of the garden through the openings in the fence. The older birds will notice these young upstarts, there will be interaction. If the older girls get to aggressive, You will be right there, but most importantly the little ones can just slip right through the fencing and out of harms way.

    At this stage they can see each other through the barrier. Use a little chicken psychology to get them to start to accept each other. Place the feeders and waterers close to each other on either side of the fence. This will impact a significant aspect of chicken psychology, as chickens will instinctively defend their territory from intruders. One of the big things is the established birds will drive the new birds away from food and water. By placing all the feeders and waterers close by each other you are forcing the birds of the established flock to accept the new birds. In chicken speak...eating together means that you accept those around you. Once those barriers come down, you are already half way there, since they've already kinda been eating together; acceptance should come easy.

    As the little ones get older I used portable green plastic fencing. It worked great to divide the entire yard in half for a few weeks, with the youngsters on one side and the adult flock on the other. They can see each other and they can interact...but should introductions start to go south the little ones simply retreat away from the fencing out of harms way.

    When I introduced my young Welsummers to the established flock of layers, they surprised me. Chickens are always throwing curve balls at me. They surprised me because they ignored each other. I put the big girls in the garden, and let the little ones have the run of the yard. The Wellies would scamper into the garden and out of the garden, but were pretty much ignored. Very nice...

    Keep this in mind: Chickens are motivated by Food, Water, Shelter & Sex. So when mixing these two groups, some or all of these motivations will come into play. Have multiple hoppers available for all. The older flock will be on the defensive, they will drive the youngsters away from food hoppers and waterers. Locate feeders so that they are NOT in direct line of sight of each other. That way if the youngsters are chased from one source, they simply run to the next. Keep this in mind for waterers as well. I have food in 3 different locations, and two different waterers going as well.

    Then there are those times, seems more often than not, that problems occur and things don't run smoothly when mixing a flock. When that happens, I'm a one trick pony.

    My one trick is to isolate those birds at the top of the pecking order and those birds at the bottom of the pecking order from the main flock...these two extremes in the pecking order will contain most of the birds that would/could create the more serious problems. Birds on top want to stay on top, birds on the bottom are excited to finally have someone beneath them that they can pick on for a change. Both will go after younger smaller birds.

    Once these two extremes are removed and isolated, then integrate the new birds. You need to be vigilant, half the battles that we fight with poultry can be headed off early if we just pay attention and watch for the signs of trouble. Once the two groups are mixed, watch and wait until things settle out. Bring the isolated birds back into the flock only after you see indications that new pecking orders "start" to become apparent.

    Anyway you cut it there will be turmoil on the home front. Chickens don't like change, it will be reflected in reduced production until things settle out. There is always the possibility that a nice bird will suddenly turn mean and vengeful.

    They are chickens after all...

    As an addendum: Keep in mind the temperament of the breeds/birds in the established flock as compared with the temperament of the new birds. For example, I would never even try to integrate young Buff Orpingtons into an established flock of say Ameraucanas. Under that situation it would be an "All in, All out" thing. But I would be perfectly content merging a group of Ameraucanas into an established flock of Buff problems with that at all.
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    2 weeks is not that can take a few months for the battles and aggression to cool down.
    Tell us more about the sizes of your coop and run(feet by feet) can help too.

    As long as there is no copious blood being drawn and no one is being pinned down and beaten unmercilessly, it's best to just let them work it out.
    Chickens can be vicious and it's alarming to humans who have not experienced it before...but they generally accept being pecked to a degree.
    Multiple feed/eater stations, places to hide 'out of line of sight' (but not dead end traps) and up and away are a must.
  7. kostfarm

    kostfarm In the Brooder

    Jun 14, 2016
    Charleston, SC
    thanks so much for all the reply's. we have 3 different stations for food set up. we actually had to set up food and water on the ceiling of our chicken run so that the new chickens who now live on the roof only could eat. they are too afraid to come down and eat on the ground where the other 2 feeders are. they all sleep together in the coop at night just fine, however in the morning when they come down they go right to the roof so they don't get pecked. there hasn't been any blood so i guess this is just normal chicken behavior. just wondering if they will ever be comfortable enough to come down from the roof and are they going to feel comfortable to lay eggs? the 2 new barred rocks are just 1 or 2 weeks younger than my other ones. they are a little bit smaller than the black sex links. we have them in a 10x10 dog pen that's fenced in and inside of that is their coop. we let them out to free range about 2x a day for about an 1 hour at a time. we've def followed all the proper steps in terms of the slow integration process, so are we just in the waiting it out phase?

  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    It’s really normal for less mature chickens to be afraid of more mature chickens. I see that all the time, I almost always have younger chicks in my main flock. Right now I have adults, 16 week old and 8 week olds that I raised in my brooder, and a broody hen with 2 week old chicks all ranging together. They are all split into sub-flocks during the day, the younger avoiding the older. My adults sleep on my main roosts. Although I have a lot of room on the main roosts, the 16 week olds sleep on my juvenile roost, a roost about a foot lower and separated a couple of feet horizontally. 8 week old sleep in a corner on the floor in a pile. I have the broody hen take her chicks to another coop since my main coop is so crowded but they roam together during the day.

    These different aged groups will continue to sleep apart until I either put them in the freezer or they mature enough that the younger can force their way into the pecking order. For my pullets this is usually about the time they start to lay though I’ve had some pullets it took more than a month for them to move to the main roosts from that juvenile roost after they started to lay. I have had some make that move before they started to lay. There is little consistent about chickens and a calendar. They do things when they do them, not at a set time. Each chicken is an individual, each flock has its own dynamics.

    How much room you have goes a long way in determining how hard an integration is. The younger chicks need a way to avoid the older chickens. That usually means they need extra room when they integrate. That 4 square feet per chicken with 10 in the run rule of thumb is often pretty meaningless when you integrate. Aart’s right, some information on the actual size of your facilities and layouts can help us give specific suggestions.

    If yours are ranging together peacefully (though separately) during the day and your problem is only at night about where they sleep you are doing pretty well. You need to find a way for your barred rocks to sleep safely until they are ready to sleep with the more mature birds.
  9. kostfarm

    kostfarm In the Brooder

    Jun 14, 2016
    Charleston, SC
    They killed one of the barred rocks this morning. When I went out there she was laying on the floor of the run with no head. I was horrified and still am so heartbroken. It looks like they attacked her in the coop. There's blood all throughout the coop. We went ahead and sepearted the other barred rock and put her back in the dog crate. Not sure what happened or what to do now. They all seemed fine and then Something this morning made them snap. I've attached a picture of our set up. Maybe it was too crowded [​IMG][​IMG]

  10. Chickens will peck each other to death....I've, personally never seen it happen but I've heard of it so much that there has to be some truth to it.

    But...what you are describing sounds like a predator. For only the head to be missing, wow...that sounds like a predator gained access and killed one of your hens.

    aart...what does this sound like to you?
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2016

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