when to introduce mama and babies to the rest of the flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by chickmagnet142, Oct 31, 2013.

  1. chickmagnet142

    chickmagnet142 New Egg

    4
    0
    7
    Oct 31, 2013
    today marks my one year anniversary as a chicken lady. I have learned a lot, but also have a lot to learn! right now my flock consists of one mama (she is mama to all), 4 1-week-old chicks, 2 hens and 2 roos all about 5 months old. She hatched out 9 eggs (together with her buddy who has since been killed) 5 months ago, SEVEN of which were roos. We kept 2 (we live in the woods so we kept an extra roo for insurance). Now they are getting a bit... horny (for lack of a better word) and over mating our 2 young hens. They are not aggressive, really, but I can def. tell they are starting to annoy the hens! And I'm pretty sure they will jump right on the mama, too, as soon as they get a chance. Since the chicks hatched last week I have been keeping them and mama in a separate enclosure inside the coop. during the day I let the older ones out to free range and let mama and babies in the run. Mama is getting antsy though and I can tell she wants out. I let her free range w/ the first set of chicks after about a week, but there was no other flock at that point - just my 2 mamas and their babies. They were GREAT mamas and mothered all chicks together and I had no problems what so ever. But with these roos being kind of pushy, I'm nervous about letting the babies with them. However, she is still their mama, and was definitely at the top of the pecking order before I let her go broody. So how long do I have to keep them separate? I'd really like to introduce them as soon as possible. I'm also wondering if I should downsize to one rooster before introducing the chicks. This is all new territory to me, and I need some help and will appreciate any and all advice!!
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    20,279
    3,574
    496
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Where to even start. Realize you’ll get some personal preference in this and that we all do things differently. It’s not that one way is right and every other way is wrong, just different ways to do things. We all have different set-ups, goals, and management techniques so that can make a difference too. I think how much space you have makes a big difference.

    My personal preference is that Mama raises the chicks with the flock from Day 1. I’ve had broody hens wean their chicks at 3 weeks and some that waited well over two months. You can’t tell ahead of time when they will wean them. If Mama raises them with the flock she is busy teaching the others to leave her babies alone. The sooner she starts doing that the better job she can do to teach them that. That’s what we mean when we say that Mama takes care of integration. The chicks still have to manage their own pecking order issues as they mature, but at least integration is taken care of.

    At 5 months old, those 2 cockerels re just adolescents with hormones running wild and not a whole lot of self-control. The pullets may not be mature enough to do their part either which can add to the drama. It’s a shame you don’t have other mature chickens. A mature rooster and mature hens often do some “schooling” of the young adolescents which helps make that process a little less dramatic, but even then it can be pretty unruly.

    I would not worry about those two cockerels bothering the broody. Even if she is not broody an adult hen will often beat the crap out of a young cockerel that gets fresh. Some hens will squat for anything in spurs, but often older hens want a mature rooster, not a fresh young brat. That broody is almost certainly going to have such a bad attitude that the young cockerels won’t stand a chance.

    You are dealing with living animals so I can’t give you any absolute guarantees, but I’d let her go. What you are likely to see is that the others may be curious about the chicks for a bit, but soon Mama will just keep the chicks off to the side on their own most of the time and not associate with the other chickens that much since it sounds like you have lots of room.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. chickmagnet142

    chickmagnet142 New Egg

    4
    0
    7
    Oct 31, 2013
    This is all great advice. Thank you! Mama seems like she wants to be out with the others, and that is MUCH easier for me, so I will let her go then. Would it be better to remove the barrier in the coop while they are sleeping and let them integrate as they wake up, or should I let them all out to free range and integrate in the yard where they have more room? I am not so concerned about the cockerels bothering the broody mama, since she is also THIER mama, but I was concerned about them bothering the chicks. Is the idea then that they have to get through mama to get to the chicks, so if they won't bother mama, they won't bother the chicks? Thanks so much for your advice and quick response!
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    20,279
    3,574
    496
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    When I integrate I prefer to do it during the day. One of the ways chickens have learned to live together in a flock is that the weak runs away from the strong if there is a confrontation. If they wake up together in a small coop, they don’t have much room to run. If you open the coop real early, that is not a problem.

    Like I said in the other post, you are dealing with living animals so I can’t give guarantees but Mama should protect her babies very well. Odds are pretty good the others won’t bother the chicks anyway but broody hens have been raising chicks with the flock for thousands of years, usually with no help from humans. They are pretty good about protecting their babies.

    And don’t put any faith in that the cockerels will leave that hen alone because she is their mother. They all forgot about that long ago.
     
  5. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    4,745
    1,388
    356
    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I agree with Ridgerunner. The broodiness is a hormone induced ferociousness that keeps the chicks safe....... and it wears off over time. If you keep the broody separated from the flock, she loses her pecking order, and then has to fight to re-establish it. People often have wrecks by waiting until the chicks are bigger, but not big enough. The mama is done with them, and they are on their own and strangers to the flock.

    I ,too, separate my broody until the chicks are dried off, then I open the gate and let them out. If a layer gets too close, or gives a chick a peck, mama will educate them to leave the chicks alone. If you watch them, the broody hen will keep herself between the layers and the chicks. The flock becomes one, and by the time the broodiness wears off, they layers accept them. It works a treat, it is the best way to integrate new birds into the flock.

    Mrs K
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. chickmagnet142

    chickmagnet142 New Egg

    4
    0
    7
    Oct 31, 2013
    Thank you both for some great advice! I guess maybe we humans just complicate things too much... I was so concerned about them getting along, but they hardly cared once I got them together. I integrated them during the day.. just let Mama and babies out in the field, the flock came in to eat and then followed her out in the field. It seemed like they were more scared of her than the other way around! Mama chased the hens around a little, but barely bothered with the roosters, nor they her. One of the roosters even seems to be protecting the chicks - he stays very close by and Mama doesn't mind a bit. Anyway, all is well here. :) Thanks for all your help. Next time I think I will just let nature take it's course, and raise them all together from the beginning.
     
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    4,745
    1,388
    356
    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    You do have to be a bit careful during the hatching out period. Sometimes to get the clutch hatched, can take a couple of hours. The early hatched chicks start to explore the world, with mama still sitting on eggs. A downey chick can quickly be killed by the layers at this point. Once the broody hen leaves the nest, they are pretty safe, however, as long as she is waiting for other eggs to hatch, the chicks need to be away from the layers.

    This only takes part of a day. I just lock my layers out of the coop, until she is done. My broody hen has always left the brooding nest, and built a fresh clean nest on the floor of the coup for the live chicks. I don't know if all chickens do this, but all of my broodies do.

    After that, it works just a treat, and in my mind, there is nothing quite as fun to watch as a broody hen with chicks.

    Mrs K
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by