What I call 'the mess'

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Miyu, Oct 14, 2015.

  1. Miyu

    Miyu In the Brooder

    Sep 27, 2015
    I have a problem, or a few of them with the flock that I am currently managing; and would greatly appreciate input/help on it.
    Three months ago my partner and I came to a work-trade farm, in order to essentially be groomed to fill in for the regular Groundskeepers while they went on a three month vacation. All of the choices concerning animals on the property - in this case the chickens; were made by them. Now, while they've been on vacation; we are having to deal with the outcomes of their decisions, whether positive of negative.

    Current details about the flock:
    21 'adults'; various breeds. Easter Eggers, Brahma, Productions, Red Sex Links, others that I've been unable to correctly identify. These 'adults' are in the main coop; 20' by 5' inside, with an attached fenced area of 6' by 5'. The adults free range on the property during the day, then are kept inside the coop at night.

    6 'teens': Same brood, five Brahmas, and one black one. Side coop, 5' by 10'. They stay in their coop all day; not big enough to free range with the adults yet; however they have two-three hour excursions outside while the adults stay in their main coop.

    10 'babies'; Easter Eggers and Brahmas. Side Coop of 5' by 10'. Similar to the 'teens', however they have not had excursions outside yet.

    'The problems':
    The adults have had issues. Their coop was moved about two months ago to a more secluded location away from construction workers and their dogs - because there has been ongoing construction on a barn. Their rooster died before the coop was moved, and they have had issues re-establishing a pecking order; as far as I can see. The permanent caretakers introduced what I call 'The Six' which I believe are Brahmas, to the group of adults too early and not in the right fashion. There is a separator between the inside of the main coop and the outside of the main coop. They put 'The Six' in the outside portion and the old guard adults in the inside portion, and locked them all in, in their respective places for two/three days, and then let them all out to free range together. 'The Six were not similar in size to the old guard adults; they just now are and they were introduced/integrated to the main flock about a month ago. We've been dealing with problems in regards to the poor integration technique as well as the pecking order problem ever since.
    The Six, being the new ones to the flock have essentially been segregated from the rest of the flock; I'm guessing out of fear. Due to the fact they were introduced to a flock which hadn't quite recovered yet from the loss of their Rooster, and had not reestablished a pecking order, The Six being smaller in size, being a different color from the main flock. In an effort to try and help them integrate more and not be so fearful; you can witness it, The Six and the main flock won't simply walk by each other; they run or fly by each other. At night, it was very difficult to to get The Six to go inside the coop; due to them simply not wanting to be near the main flock. In an effort to help with the integration and fix the mistake of the other people; we added more roosts and more nests to the main coop. There are two doors, and we leave both open; rather than just the one during the day. We put additional feeders and water containers outside of the coop.
    To make matters a bit more complicated; two of 'The Six' are showing signs that they are Roosters. Whether it is due to this coming out, or they are figuring their pecking order out - it appears that integration is getting slightly better. Both groups still range separately during the day time, but The Six are much easier to get inside the coop at night now.
    With the 'teens'; one of the chickens, a black one - appears to have stopped growing. They were all progressing growth wise at the same rate, then one day I noticed the five others had gone through a spurt; these five are currently about twice the size of the black one. In this group, at least two of the white ones are showing signs of being Roosters. Both of these issues perplex me, inregards to being integrated with the main flock - once the main flock is more stable.

    I think that about wraps up the problems.
    We are currently working on adding an expansion to the Coop; because once all of the groups of chickens are together - the main coop is simply too small.
    Which leads to some questions.
    I don't feel that any integration of the teens/babies should take place until the main flock is more stable and has a pecking order established, and their issues are worked out.

    The questions:
    What do we do about the Roosters? I've seen other flocks where they had multiple Roosters, but there were also multiple coops separate from each other; they all free-ranged on their property together during the daytime. Do these groups with their different Roosters need to be kept separate from each other at night, or Roosters need to be gotten rid of?
    Any tips/help/advice on helping out with better relations between the Main flock and The Six?
    What do we do about the group of 'teens'; with the one black chicken half the size of the others. Does she get held back from being integrated with her broodmate; or simply kept separate from the entirety of the flock?

    Thank you for any help with this mess.

  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Yes, the coop is way too small for that many chickens with that many different groups, ones raised together will stay together, so the new will never be in with the old, you have to have enough space in the coop for each group to have its own place to roost, I have a large pole building with around 40 in it and mine still squabble and bicker, but at night they all spread out.

    Integration is best done when chicks are around 6-10 weeks, when they reach that age I would let them start to free range since they have their own coop to go back to.

    As far as roosters I would keep 1 rooster to 10-12 hens, too many roosters will wear the feathers off the hens backs with too much mating. I keep multiple roosters together, they have their own pecking order.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2015
  3. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I think you have problems, but I don't think they are quite what you think.

    The rooster being gone won't effect the flock for the long term. As long as there is no blood and fighting to death, that is a successful integration. Space and time will smooth things out.

    It is very normal for the younger birds, birds that are not laying yet to be very low in the pecking order. It is common in a multi generational flock, for the younger birds to form a sub flock. Once they begin laying, they will be become more equal with the main flock. I have a multigenerational flock in which the chicks are raised in the flock, and they are currently a sub flock within the flock. I anticipate that they will begin laying about January, and then the flock will truly merge together. Until then there is quite a bit of squabbling. Time will work this out, if there is no blood, and they are getting easier, it will get better from here on out.

    5 x 20 = 100 sq feet so that should be enough room for 25 birds, but at 25 birds that is a tight fit. Do not put more birds in that set up. The problem with to small of quarters and free ranging to make up the difference is that in the winter, they day is short and they spend most of the time out of 24 hours, in the coop. Space is very important.

    5 x 10 = 50 sq ft so 12 full grown birds so you could keep using those two coops with the birds you have in there. Personally, if they have feathers on them, I think they are big enough to go outside. I would open the doors and let them all out to free range. They may get some pecks, but they should be able to get away from the older birds. Birds trapped inside tend to get bad feather picking habits. They should go back to their own coops at night. They will do this with no effort on your part.

    I don't know what your rules are on someone else place. However, when you start getting number of birds that you do, culling becomes a necessary issue. The small black bird not growing, might check her beak, might pick her up to see if she has any weight. Might be worms, might be a defect, might be the rest of the birds are roosters. That is about the time that roosters get much bigger than the pullets.

    When you get multiple rooster, some can grow up and work together, and some can not. Some will have brief fights, and some will fight to the death. If you cannot cull, you might switch the younger birds around so that you have a rooster pad, and a pullet pad.

    Good luck

    Mrs K
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2015
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    WOW, what a situation!
    All my empathy for having to manage someone else's mis-management....hope it's worth the free rent or what ever pay you are getting.

    Mrs K has given a nice synopsis and some great info and possible solutions....
    ....and it sounds like you have a good understanding of chicken keeping and have applied some good solutions by providing multiple feed/water stations.

    I'm wondering if you have free rein to make culling decisions or can communicate with them somehow to confirm such actions.
    Wondering if the black bird not growing might be a bantam?

    Sorry, have no additional ideas to offer but wanted to encourage you to hang in there, I think you can manage this in the long run.

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