Topic of the Week - Integrating Chicks into an Adult Flock

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by BuffOrpington88, Aug 7, 2016.

  1. BuffOrpington88

    BuffOrpington88 Non-Stop

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    One of the most commonly discussed topics about raising chicks is the best way to transition chicks into an adult flock. So, we’re compiling frequently asked questions and answers into one thread for reference and discussion. Everyone, please tell us your thoughts and practices when it comes this week’s topic, integrating chicks into an adult flock!

    • How old should chicks be when they are integrated into an adult flock?
    • Are they too small to be integrated? Do they need to be a similar size to the older chickens?
    • What is the best way to introduce chicks to the rest of the flock?
    • What / how do you feed a flock of mixed ages after integration?





    For a complete list of our Topic of the Week threads, see here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/topic-of-the-week-thread-archive
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 27, 2017
  2. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

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    How old should chicks be when they are integrated into an adult flock?

    With brooder raised chicks, I'll wait with the integration until they are around 2 months old before starting the integration process. It differs from flock to flock and individual flock members though. If I have sweet hens in the flock, I may let the chicks mingle with them sooner, knowing they'll be more readily accepted, but if I have more aggressive hens in the flock, I'd stretch out the process. Chicks raised with broody hens will be allowed to mingle with the flock as soon as they are a week old. Their mom will look out for them and the flock will readily accept them as they are coming with a known flock member (mom).

    Are they too small to be integrated? Do they need to be a similar size to the older chickens?

    It's recommended that brooder raised chicks be near the same size as the adult birds before integrating them, but it can be done sooner. Ideally chicks should be big and strong enough to be able to handle a bit of bullying and pecking as the established flock members will put them in their place in the pecking order. I'd wait until they are at least 2 months old.

    What is the best way to introduce chicks to the rest of the flock?

    Keeping the chicks housed separately, but within sight of the established flock for a period before letting them mingle, gives everyone time to get used to each other without being able to get to each other. If possible, a separate section or run next to the established flocks' outside space is ideal. I'd leave the young ones in there for at least a week, depending on how old they are and the above mentioned factors.

    What / how do you feed a flock of mixed ages after integration?

    Offer the entire flock chick grower, or starter and the laying hens crushed oystershell or egg shells free choice in a separate feeder. Chicks should not be fed layer feed until they are either laying or getting very close to POL, as the excess calcium can cause damage to their internal organs over time.
     
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  3. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    I'll try this; one opinion among many. My incubated chicks move to a section of the coop with a heat lamp in the corner, at about three weeks of age, in sight and hearing of the main flock. It will be late April in Michigan, so chilly. When they are feathered out and don't need the extra heat, they start having the door to the outside opened, and start exploring the main coop and outside. The flock and chicks start interacting after a couple more days, when the youngsters have figured out how to return to their are of the coop at night. They are much smaller than the adults, and I have both standards and bantams. The key for me is that observation before actual contact, and having them meet while free ranging, so there's plenty of room to avoid issues. Usually some chicks get pecked lightly for being rude to the adult hens, and they learn. I've never had a chick injured doing this. Chicks raised by broodies are in the main flock with mama from about five days of age, and nobody messes with mama! I feed Flock Raiser to everyone, with oyster shell on the side. I've always got roosters, a few old hens, and molting birds, so it's best here. Mary
     
  4. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    I'll add that birds raised together will stay together in 'family' groups for a very long time. Years, sometimes. Mary
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    There are many different ways to do any of these. We are all unique in our flock make-up, goals, management techniques, experiences, facilities, climate, and room. As with practically everything else with chickens, there is no one way that is right while every other way is wrong.

    I let my broody hens raise their chicks with the flock from Day 1. I’ve had broody hens wean their chicks as young as three weeks. They totally leave them alone to make their way with the flock. I’ve never lost one of these to another adult flock member.

    My brooder is in the coop and has wire sides. The brooder-raised chicks are raised with the flock from hatch. I regularly open the brooder door at five weeks and walk away. I’ve never lost one of these to another adult flock member.

    Some keys. I have a lot of room. My chicks are raised with the flock. I normally have an adult rooster and mature hens in the flock. The biggest risk for mine comes from adolescent cockerels. I haven’t lost any to them but they do a lot of chasing and are sometimes aggressive. I have intervened a few times between adolescent cockerels and younger chicks. I’ve never had to intervene between mature adults and chicks. My broody hens have when they are still taking care of them, but my broody hens are good at intervening.

    If room is tight it may be very beneficial to you to wait until the chicks are much older to integrate them. Even if you wait until pullets are laying eggs to integrate them you can still have issues, especially if space it tight.

    I never feed Layer to my flock. I almost always have younger chickens in there that should not be eating the extra calcium. Depending on the age of the chicks I feed a Starter or a Grower to everyone and offer oyster shell on the side.
     
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  6. robyn8

    robyn8 Chillin' With My Peeps

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  7. cukuriku

    cukuriku Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I imagine that this whole discussion is more about the older chickens and roos, but I happen to have 6-7 week olds and I found someone selling the same breed but not sure how old they are yet, they claim they're young. Assuming they're 1-3 weeks old, are there any specific approaches about how and when to have them join my other two in the run? They're quite young and pretty sweet, especially my girl, but I'm just not sure how they'll react to new lil guys....any thoughts or ideas?
     
  8. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

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    @cukuriku If your older two are 6-7 weeks old they would most likely accept the new younger chicks without any issues. I often mixed chicks of different ages (ranging over a few weeks) and have had no problems so far, but it's best to do it when they are younger (like yours is now), as older juveniles tend to be hormonal and sometimes aggressive. Just make sure the heating and temperature in the brooder/run is adequate for the new little ones, or that they have a place they can hang out and warm up, when needed.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2016
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  9. Melissa Sakata

    Melissa Sakata Out Of The Brooder

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    What do you do when you have acquired a mixed flock of "pullets" ranging in age 12-20 months of age and they all get along. One month later you realize you have to cull 5 roos and replace them with new pullets. How do you integrate the new ones with the remaining 2.
     
  10. dunnmom

    dunnmom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I had difficulty with integrating. My older pullets are about 20 weeks old, not laying yet, and my younger ones are about 6 weeks younger. After 1 week went okay, we tried to make a way for the littles to come out and mingle at will, but that ended up being a mistake on our part, because the bigs could squeeze into the littles' shelter. The bigs were just too aggressive so we had to reseparate them to the look-not-touch setup. I'll try again in 3-4 weeks when the littles get big enough to be formidable. I think with our situation, space was an issue. I think the littles' shelter took up too much room in the run. We did the best we could. We can't free range them, or it probably would have went better. I'm sure the next time will be better.
     

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