Think I tried to integrate too early.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by danceswithronin, Jun 19, 2019.

  1. danceswithronin

    danceswithronin Crowing

    May 24, 2018
    So I have four pullets around two and a half months old and three chicks that are around three weeks old. The littles are fully feathered out now (and it's very hot where I live) so late last week I decided it was time for their brooder pen to go outside. I put it in the chicken run on the opposite side of a fencing panel from where the big chickens are, so that the big chickens and little chickens could see each other and not be able to interact. That seemed to go pretty well for two days, so over the weekend during the day while I was home, I let the little chicks range with the big chickens and other than a few pecks from my most dominant/aggressive hen (a black EE/Orp pullet named Drogon), they mostly left the little chicks alone and each group kept to itself.

    I got cocky, and decided yesterday to leave the chicks out all day in the run with the big chickens since everyone seemed to be getting along and I'm really tired of dealing with the brooder pen since the chicks are off heat now. But I got a call around lunch from my dad saying the black EE pullet was chasing the chicks around trying to peck them and was especially attacking my little brown bielefelder chick. I rushed home and re-segregated everybody, and have had no further problems. There were no injuries, thankfully, but I would have been devastated if my little bielefelder chick was maimed or killed because it's the only chick I've kept that I hatched myself.

    How long should I continue to leave the brooder pen next to the run fence for gradual "look don't touch" integration? And if I wait, say, two weeks and reintegrate and my black pullet is still being a jerk, is the best option to put HER in a crate for 2-3 days and see if her attitude straightens out? So far she is the only chicken who has shown any aggression towards the chicks. The other pullets seem content to ignore them since there is plenty of food and water and treats to go around.
  2. A.M. Eggs

    A.M. Eggs Songster

    Jan 7, 2018
    Wichita Falls, TX
    I would let the chicks have one week of "see-but-no-touch" and then begin the integration process.
    danceswithronin likes this.
  3. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Crowing

    Jul 3, 2016
    Pac NW
    My Coop
    It's normal and expected for the older birds to chase the younger ones. That by itself is not necessarily aggression.

    What's your run set up like? Big open rectangle, or are there obstacles in there? What you need to do is provide the little ones with places to hide from the older ones. Make sure any obstacles have at least 2 exits, so that chicks can't get cornered.

    Photos of your set up would help, if you're not sure if what you have is optimal. Here's how my run was set up during integration:
    aart and CluckNDoodle like this.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    At least a week.

    Can you make some 'tiny doors' in the brooder so the chicks have a safe place the older bird cannot enter? ...or raise brooder up a few inches for same purpose?

    Pics of your set up would help here.
  5. danceswithronin

    danceswithronin Crowing

    May 24, 2018
    I moved the chicks' playpen directly into the chicken run where there is only the mesh sides of the playpen between the chicks and the big chickens now. Other than perching on the top of it they mostly just seem curious and like looking into it. (Drogon my problem child has "puffed up" at it at few times, but can't do anything about it.) It's fully enclosed so I know the big chickens can't invade it, and it's within the confines of the enclosed chicken run so no other animal can bother them either.

    I was worried that the weight of the bigger chickens might collapse the pen if they all decide to hop on it at once, but they tend to perch on the edges (the strongest part of the pen) and they aren't that heavy, so I think it'll be fine. I've seen two of them on it at once and it didn't seem like it was bowing under their weight or anything.

    I think this is better for integration too because they can see each other more easily, and the chicks are directly in the big girls' territory rather than adjacent to it.

    As for tiny doors, I could probably just leave the door of the playpen unzipped and raise it halfway when I want the chicks to be able to come and go, so I may try that.
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    A safety zone is best, a place, where the chicks can go that the big girls can't follow them, they can escape to the safety zone. Section off an area in the run, put your chicks there, with feed, water and a shelter - such a tote on its side. In a 3-5 days, lift the fencing up 4-6 inches off the ground.

    This will allow the chicks to naturally explore the bigger space on their own terms, and retreat as needed. Do not make them leave the area - let them do this on their own terms.

    However, putting the bully hen away BEFORE letting the chicks out with the rest would also be a good idea. This would let them get a bit established, without being in fear of their lives. And a pair of pin-less peepers would also be a good idea for the bully.

    Mrs K
  7. Aunt Angus

    Aunt Angus Crowing

    Jul 16, 2018
    Sacramento County, CA
    My Coop
    I'm in a similar situation. I had a broody adopt a single chick a couple of months back, and my top hen started picking on her once mama replaced her guard. I was advised to separate the aggressive hen to "reset" the pecking order (in addition to creating areas only the chick can access). That worked well. It didn't fully solve the problem, though. And my top hen will be put back in chicken jail today.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: