Trying to mix 6&10 week chicks-- big girls inclined to beat up on littles. Help!

Kjirstyn

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 2, 2013
48
21
32
Montana
I'm coming up on needing to put my baby chicks outside with the teenagers and I'm hoping for some advice on mixing two sets of birds. There are four teenagers at 10-11 weeks, and 2 babies at 6 weeks. Obviously the size difference is relatively drastic.

I had the two babies outside today in their own pen for a bit to soak up some rays, but it tried to collapse so while I figured that out I just put the babies in the cage with the big girls to see what happened. Big surprise-- pecking. The big girls have never pecked amongst themselves since they grew up together. I watched for several minutes to see how it would shake out and if the littles could handle it or not, but I ended up taking them out. There was definitely pecking order going on, or something-- they'd all gather around a chick and peck at it in general, but I also noticed specific aiming for the eyes. The babies just kind of hunkered down and took it. (So sad to watch!)

I don't know what level of concern is valid here, specifically because a little pecking from bigger birds could hurt them worse than if they were of equal size and just sorting out the order of things. Could I please get some input and ideas on how to address this? My next idea was to put the babies in a cage NEXT to the big girls' cage (they often free range but I'd keep them in for this exercise) so they could cohabitate but not physically interact for a few days prior to mixing. I've also heard that maybe putting them together at night and letting them wake up together can be a help...? I accept that there's no way to avoid the process of a pecking order but I am a little concerned just due to size differences.
 

chickadoodles

Enabler
7 Years
Feb 28, 2013
13,424
20,225
1,056
Gone camping
Hi Kjirstyn, I am still pretty new at chickens. but I read a post that said the person intergrated hers by taking the older chicks out of their home and putting the little ones in that home then added the older chicks back into the home. I have done this with my chicks and have not had any pecking or any problems so far with my chicks! I am going to do the same thing with my older chicks in the coop when I put the younger ones in there. Good luck!
 

milola

Chirping
6 Years
Mar 7, 2013
133
6
88
I just put two groups together that are about the same ages as yours. And yes it was sad to see the big ones torment the little ones. What I did was put plastic net fencing in the coop and just had the babies stay in that area. They had their own food water and perch. I left them that way for about three days then went ahead and let them into the run with the bigger ones. It took a few tries but the little ones have finally learned to avoid the bigger ones and it seems each day they get a little more comfortable with each other. I have one older one that seems to be the worst for picking on them.
 

Kjirstyn

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 2, 2013
48
21
32
Montana
Hi Kjirstyn, I am still pretty new at chickens. but I read a post that said the person intergrated hers by taking the older chicks out of their home and putting the little ones in that home then added the older chicks back into the home. I have done this with my chicks and have not had any pecking or any problems so far with my chicks! I am going to do the same thing with my older chicks in the coop when I put the younger ones in there. Good luck!
So is the theory here that if the big girls come into a coop that "belongs" to the littles, that they won't be as aggressive? I could make this scenario happen since we still have a big brooder in the garage and we could put the big girls in there at night at in the tractor during the day.
 

Kjirstyn

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 2, 2013
48
21
32
Montana
I just put two groups together that are about the same ages as yours. And yes it was sad to see the big ones torment the little ones. What I did was put plastic net fencing in the coop and just had the babies stay in that area. They had their own food water and perch. I left them that way for about three days then went ahead and let them into the run with the bigger ones. It took a few tries but the little ones have finally learned to avoid the bigger ones and it seems each day they get a little more comfortable with each other. I have one older one that seems to be the worst for picking on them.
This seems doable and more or less what I was planning on attempting-- I'll have to tweak it for at night, though, since our coop is pretty small. But I suppose roosting together- but separate-- is probably just as important as days spent close together?
 

cafarmgirl

Crowing
10 Years
Mar 24, 2009
5,521
610
327
California, central valley
With that size difference, and being it's such a small flock, you are going to have to watch them very carefully if you are going to try to integrate quickly like that. I let young chicks spend several weeks in their own pen alongside the older girls before I integrate and as a result I have no integration issues beyond extremely mild pecking order stuff such as a peck on the shoulder or a pulled tail here and there. Also by that time they are all pretty much the same size which helps a lot. New young birds who are also much smaller are at a real disadvantage. So just watch carefully, a lot of harm can be done very quickly by an older bird who decides to be nasty. Since your older ones are young enough themselves hopefully it won't take long for things to settle down.
 

Kjirstyn

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 2, 2013
48
21
32
Montana
We have no problem letting integration go for awhile if that's what it takes, so based on how that first meet and greet went, we'll be taking it slowly from here on out. We let both sets out to range today and they ignored each other and used opposite sides of the yard. Too bad our yard isn't fenced so they could just live that way. :)
 

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