The Bigs and the Littles *Update* It is working!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by MustangGal, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. MustangGal

    MustangGal Out Of The Brooder

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    I have 6 chicks (three BO hens, one BO roo, and two Dominique hens) that are seven weeks old. I call them the "Littles". The "Bigs" are three and four weeks older. (five EE hens, one EE roo, two RIR hens, one RIR roo, two Buff Brahama hens, one Buff Brahama roo, three BSLs, and three Partridge Barred Rock hens) The "Bigs" are led by "Vintage" the EE roo. The "Littles" are led by Belvadere Buffington the BO roo.

    Right now, they all live in the same coop and run, but the "Littles" have a mini-run inside the big run and they sleep in an extra large dog crate at night. I tried to let them all hang out together today, but the "Littles" either tried to get into their little run, hid under me, or ran screaming while being chased by various "Bigs", particularly Vintage.

    Should I wait to move them all together until the BOs are more the same size, they seem to be catching up quickly? What is the best way of going about this?
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2011
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    You have three different types of aggression to worry about. There are some interrelationships between the three, but there are differences.

    You have the basic integration. That's where chickens recognize other chickens as members of the flock. If they see a chicken that is not a member of the flock in the flock's territory, they may attack them and try to run them off or even kill them. That's where housing them where they can see each other for a while is such a good idea. Each flock has its own dynamics. Some are open and welcoming of all strangers. Some have chickens in them that attack strangers. Often this is a hen but it certainly could be a rooster. A good rooster is supposed to protect his flock, but a rooster could very well welcome additional hens to his flock. Each flock is different.

    The second type of aggression is pecking order. Each chicken needs to know its rank in the social order of the flock. Once the pecking order is established and the chickens understand chicken etiquette, the flock can live together pretty peacefully. But establishing that pecking order can sometimes be pretty violent.

    It is perfectly acceptable for a chicken higher in the pecking order to peck a chicken lower in rank that violates the dominant one's personal space. That's how they maintain the social order. The dominant one pecks, the weaker runs away, and order is maintained. If the weaker does not run away, then it is a challenge that must be met. That's where space is so important. If the weaker cannot run away, it is seen as a challenge and it can get pretty nasty. Maturity has a lot to do with social rank. A more mature chicken will be higher in the pecking order than a less mature chicken. Once the younger chicken catches up in maturity, they may challenge the current pecking order to move up.

    You will find that a younger group of chickens like yours will try to avoid the older chickens. They know they are socially inferior and that they are putting themselves in danger by entering the older chickens' personal space. This is another reason that having adequate space for them to hang out separately is so important. It is also a good reason to have different feeders and watering stations around, so they can eat and drink without challenging the older chickens. Having a separate sleeping area also helps. My flock is pretty laid back when it comes to integration and pecking order, but it does sometimes get vicious on the roosts when they are going to sleep.

    Broody hens sometimes wean their chicks as young as 4 weeks. These chicks are already fully integrated with the flock but are at the bottom of the pecking order. Usually these 4 week old chicks mingle with the flock just fine, but they are at risk for pecking order issues. By the time they are weaned, provided they were raised with the flock, they pretty much understand how it works.

    The third type of aggression is between roosters for flock dominance. As they mature and the hormones get to flowing, they decide who is boss. Sometimes that can get pretty violent, but often when they are raised together, they work it out without too much violence. Again, each chicken and each flock is different. There will probably be more challenges as yours mature, but usually these challenges are a quick face off, then a lot of chasing and running away. But it can get violent and roosters can get hurt. I have never had a rooster severely hurt in these challenges, but it does happen.

    I know this does not tell you what to do, but maybe it gives you some ideas of what is going on and what to look for. Hope it helps some.
     
  3. moetrout

    moetrout Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Milan, MI
    Have you been watching Meer Cat Manor on Discovery channel?

    I also have the Bigs and the Littles. My 2 flocks live in one coup together, but once out they go their separate ways. I wonder if they will ever combine into one flock? But they do seem to tolerate each other ok with some pecking on the littles.

    My suggestion for your issue would be to let them all out together free ranging while you watch. The bigger the area the better. Give them a chance to be together, but also be able to run and hide if being picked on. Some pecking is going to happen and unless allowed to happen they will never be one flock and they will not figure out the pecking order. As long as no littles get ganged up on or pecked so much they get hurt or bleed then leave it be.
     
  4. MustangGal

    MustangGal Out Of The Brooder

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    May 3, 2011
    You have three different types of aggression to worry about. There are some interrelationships between the three, but there are differences.

    You have the basic integration. That's where chickens recognize other chickens as members of the flock. If they see a chicken that is not a member of the flock in the flock's territory, they may attack them and try to run them off or even kill them. That's where housing them where they can see each other for a while is such a good idea. Each flock has its own dynamics. Some are open and welcoming of all strangers. Some have chickens in them that attack strangers. Often this is a hen but it certainly could be a rooster. A good rooster is supposed to protect his flock, but a rooster could very well welcome additional hens to his flock. Each flock is different.

    The second type of aggression is pecking order. Each chicken needs to know its rank in the social order of the flock. Once the pecking order is established and the chickens understand chicken etiquette, the flock can live together pretty peacefully. But establishing that pecking order can sometimes be pretty violent.

    It is perfectly acceptable for a chicken higher in the pecking order to peck a chicken lower in rank that violates the dominant one's personal space. That's how they maintain the social order. The dominant one pecks, the weaker runs away, and order is maintained. If the weaker does not run away, then it is a challenge that must be met. That's where space is so important. If the weaker cannot run away, it is seen as a challenge and it can get pretty nasty. Maturity has a lot to do with social rank. A more mature chicken will be higher in the pecking order than a less mature chicken. Once the younger chicken catches up in maturity, they may challenge the current pecking order to move up.

    You will find that a younger group of chickens like yours will try to avoid the older chickens. They know they are socially inferior and that they are putting themselves in danger by entering the older chickens' personal space. This is another reason that having adequate space for them to hang out separately is so important. It is also a good reason to have different feeders and watering stations around, so they can eat and drink without challenging the older chickens. Having a separate sleeping area also helps. My flock is pretty laid back when it comes to integration and pecking order, but it does sometimes get vicious on the roosts when they are going to sleep.

    Broody hens sometimes wean their chicks as young as 4 weeks. These chicks are already fully integrated with the flock but are at the bottom of the pecking order. Usually these 4 week old chicks mingle with the flock just fine, but they are at risk for pecking order issues. By the time they are weaned, provided they were raised with the flock, they pretty much understand how it works.

    The third type of aggression is between roosters for flock dominance. As they mature and the hormones get to flowing, they decide who is boss. Sometimes that can get pretty violent, but often when they are raised together, they work it out without too much violence. Again, each chicken and each flock is different. There will probably be more challenges as yours mature, but usually these challenges are a quick face off, then a lot of chasing and running away. But it can get violent and roosters can get hurt. I have never had a rooster severely hurt in these challenges, but it does happen.

    I know this does not tell you what to do, but maybe it gives you some ideas of what is going on and what to look for. Hope it helps some.

    Thank you for such detailed information. Would making the Little's run where they could go in and out, but the Bigs couldn't go in (kinda like a creep feeder concept) help?



    Quote:We don't get the Discovery channel. Do they have Bigs and Littles?

    We are building a fence around the coop, the goat house and the rabbits, so I should be able to let them free range in a week or so. That sounds like a good idea. The goats will be loose in that area also, but from what I understand, they should be fine together. The goats are two four month old pygmy does.​
     
  5. MustangGal

    MustangGal Out Of The Brooder

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    Quote:This has worked beautifully! They are still two flocks, but they are beginning to mingle more. I can't believe how well this has worked for us! Thanks for all the suggestions!
     
  6. moetrout

    moetrout Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Milan, MI
    That's great to hear! Mine have been together for a while now and they are still 2 flocks, but are slowly coming together. I would be interested in hearing back from you on how your integration goes. What I am now noticing is the littles, slowly, one by one, are starting to roost at night on the high roost with the bigs. At first it was just one, now it's three of them! Also worth noting is that I believe the littles roosting with the bigs are the ones that have begun laying. So back to you, I would be interested if yours do the same. I don't know what it is about the laying aspect, but I am relatively sure the littles roosting with the bigs are laying and that must have something to do with it. Maybe they are in "The Club" now???
     
  7. MustangGal

    MustangGal Out Of The Brooder

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    May 3, 2011
    My chickens evidently have roosting issues. lol Despite the fact that DH built a roost - that they sometimes hang out on during the day, they refuse to use it at night. Instead roosting in a five foot space (18 chickens!) on a 1x6 turned on its side to keep the shavings out of the door tracks. The Littles are coming in and roosting on the opposite side of the door. LOL Segragation.
     
  8. moetrout

    moetrout Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Milan, MI
    Hey! I was reading another post and it reminded me of one other thing I did to hopefully help integration of the 2 flocks. I noiticed the bigs picking on the littles when they were locked in their run. It didn't happen while they were free ranging but just when locked up. I went out and bought a flock block at TSC and also spread out some scratch in the run in places they would have to work for it. Basically just trying to give them a diversion. I also have 2 waterer in the run so nobody goes thirsty.

    One other interesting thing was last night, 5 bigs on the left side of the high roost and 3 littles all on the right side of the high roost. So, some of them are roosting together, but separately still. I firmly believe it will all work out over time.
     
  9. the-bird-man

    the-bird-man Chillin' With My Peeps

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    land of the sun
    i am going through the same thing and this thread has helped a ton! thank you all so much [​IMG]
     
  10. Chicken Little-er

    Chicken Little-er Out Of The Brooder

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    Great thread and very helpful -- thanks everyone!
     

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