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Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by BuffOrpington88, Aug 7, 2016.
Thanks so much for the help!
How old should chicks be when they are integrated into an adult flock?
I brood my chicks in the run from day one. They are accepted by the flock as members from then on. Back when I brooded indoors, I began bringing them out on day trips at age two weeks. They are in their own safe pen with small mesh fencing around the lower part to keep tiny heads from poking through and an adult from inflicting injuries.
During these first couple weeks, the chicks are taking in information about the adult individuals, learning temperaments and ranks. By age two to three weeks, I then open portals into the main run so the chicks can mingle. This system I dubbed the "panic room", and the chicks learn quickly to retreat back through the portals, which are chick size, to find safety when an adult acts threatening.
Are they too small to be integrated? Do they need to be a similar size to the older chickens?
I don't believe chicks are necessarily too small to be integrated as they are inexperienced. Chicks are much too trusting and naive for their first two weeks, instinctively following and crowding under adult hens. This can get them painfully pecked or even killed. They need to get past that initial vulnerability before they mingle with the adults. Through observation, I've learned they're usually past that stage around two weeks of age and can fully appreciate the dangers inherent in adult chickens.
What is the best way to introduce chicks to the rest of the flock?
The best way to introduce the chicks to the flock is to brood them alongside in a safe pen from the start, then integrate using the panic room method. If brooded indoors, I recommend day trips to the run, length of trip dependent on age and heat needs, to get them and the adult flock familiarized.
What / how do you feed a flock of mixed ages after integration?
I don't feed layer formula at all. Ever. I use an all flock feed, ferment it, and provide oyster shell free-choice. However, the chicks are fed inside their safe pen until they no longer fit through the portals around three months. At present, my three-month old chicks no longer have their panic room, but I've provided a table for them to hang out on and their food is on top so they aren't bullied from getting enough to eat. In another month, they will be the same size as the adults, so they will then be on their own.
I'd keep the new pullets in a separate area for awhile before letting them free range with the remaining (if possible). There will most likely be some fighting when you integrate the old and new, as they'll have to reestablish their pecking order, but if you let them get to know each other beforehand this should be reduced some.
I meant to write that they are 12-20 weeks old and not months. Does that make a difference? The remaining pullets are not yet laying, but the 2 new ones will be laying, and they are only 6-8 months old.
From 1 wk old my mix of three girls and three boys who are now 12 wks old and have their own sectioned brooder in the coop where they can see the established flock, and they also have their own separated area in the run where they all see each other.
I have the run set up where they can all have access to free range together. The established flock happily leave the coop to free range when I open the door. The six younger runs refuse to leave the run and free range with the others. How do I intergrate them? Do I pick each youngster up and take them out of the run, and if so will they figure out how to get back into the main run and into their brooder, especially if there is trouble? I'm not sure how I should integrate them all.
Next time I do an integration will likely be with a full grown roo. I don't want to have to mess with integrating any more feed store bought chicks, so I'll probably let them try to raise their own babies instead at some point.
If you provide access for your chicks to the rest of the coop and run, and if you leave the door open to free range outside of the coop and run, the chicks will judge when they are ready to leave the safety of the run and begin to explore the world.
My chicks rarely leave the safety of the run, even though the doors are open, until they're around six weeks old, and then it's just a few feet from the door, gradually increasing the distance they will range. My four three-month old chicks have been exploring the area beyond the run for six weeks and only just now are they getting as far as the "holy grail" - the compost pile, about eighteen yards away.
Be patient. Give the chicks time to muster their courage.
I had gotten 3 2-day-old Brahmas from a friend the first week of June and kept them in the brooder until they were 4 weeks old, at which time I got 3 more day old chicks from her. Those went into the brooder, and the following week I added 6 day old pullets into the brooder. As things got tight in the brooder from the growing chicks I needed to figure out a way to get them a bigger space. At that point they original chicks were 6 weeks old and the "babies" were 3 and 4 weeks old. Basically I set up an area in the hen house for the smaller chicks to be where they were protected from the older 3. They older chicks could see them hear them, and so forth. After about 4 days of this I let the 4 week old chicks mingle with the bigger one and things went well... so I got brave and released all the younger ones. It has been 2 weeks and all is going just fine!
How old should chicks be when they are integrated into an adult flock? Depends entirely on your flock dynamics, your set up, and how much space you have available. By far, integration goes better, IMO when the flock can free range. That is no longer an option for me, due to heavy hawk predation. But, I do have a big coop (10 x 12) and a 500 s.f. run. The best time IMO to integrate chicks is around 4 - 6 weeks old, certainly well before they start going through the "voice change". At this young age, they are not considered a threat to the pecking order as they are not sexually mature.
Are they too small to be integrated? Do they need to be a similar size to the older chickens? No. I have tried it both ways, and IMO, integration goes MUCH better when they are still little peeps.
What is the best way to introduce chicks to the rest of the flock? I have borrowed from Azygous "panic room" set up. Have the chicks in a fenced area that the big chickens can not enter, then open a little peep sized door so the littles can come and go for a while. Good idea to have several doors available, and supervise a while to be sure the littles "get the door concept". Some chickens are incredibly stupid about doors. They can figure out the "out" concept, but can't understand the "go back in" concept. Provide lots of treats. (I use scratch) Scatter it far and wide so there is plenty to go around and the old biddies can't guard the stash and keep the littles from getting some. Provide plenty of feed and water stations. If nest sleeping becomes an issue, block off the nests each night. Provide an ALTERNATE safe place for chicks to sleep that is out of reach of the bigs, and not tempting for the bigs to "take over that space".
What / how do you feed a flock of mixed ages after integration? Either multi flock or unmedicated chick starter. The only reason I ever use layer is b/c it is cheaper. When I do use layer, I wait till the chicks are about 12 weeks old. I ferment feed for all of my birds.