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When to let new chicks free range with the big girls

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by DS17, Nov 23, 2015.

  1. DS17

    DS17 Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 14, 2015
    I have a mixed, free range flock of bantums, black sex link and barred rock girls with a RIR rooster. All are about 8-9 months old. I have the new girls, 6.5 week old EE sectioned off in the coop. The coop is only used to lay eggs and for the birds to sleep as I do not have a run, they free range all day. My question is at what age can I let the new girls join the new girls? I will keep the new ones in the coop for a week, hopefully more if possible. I have a prebuilt coop and it's hard to have a decent area sectioned off. My fear is that they will outgrow the area quicker than I want them too. My hope is that since I have bantums that it wont be that strange to the bigger girls that there are smaller girls. Any advice? Thanks!!
  2. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 27, 2013
    Northern Wisconsin
    I use free ranging in the yard as a way to acclimate the flocks to each other. They have plenty of space to stay away from each other that way and the older chickens get used to them being around so it isn't so big a shock once all a sudden you put them in the coop together. Your chicks are a little younger than I have tried to let them together, I have found the biggest thing with the young ones is they tend to pile up in a corner and get picked on rather than run or fight back, I like mine to be out of that baby bird mindset of hiding in the corner once I let them with the big ones, they need to know to fly up or run away or ruffle up their feathers and fight them off, I tried once with some 8 week olds and ended up with them piled in the corner with one dead and another with a wing ate down to bone, they just didn't know to run away
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
  3. DS17

    DS17 Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 14, 2015
    Blucoondawg thanks for your reply! I am new to chickens and didn't know the chicks would act that way. Every time we get close or try to reach in to touch them or move food around etc they freak out and run and flutter away from us. They are very skittish and freak out a lot.
  4. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 27, 2013
    Northern Wisconsin
    Ya most of mine are hard to catch like that too when I take them out of the brooder, but when they get stressed by being moved to a new coop or by being bothered by the big chickens they will pile in the corner, they apparently feel safe in a big group of their flock mates, but in reality they would be safer flying up on roost. I don't know why but it takes them awhile to realize that. My last batch of meat birds were red rangers and most of them slept in piles their whole life right up to slaughter time
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    If your coop is already sectioned off, you may be able to add a door, or two, small enough for the littles but too small for the olders.
    This give the littles a refuge to eat and drink and rest where the older can't get at them.
    But you'll have to 'teach' them how to use the doors before allowing them thru without supervision...you can do this by locking the older birds out of the coop and letting the littles check out the doors and the rest of the coop. Once they understand how to escape to their refuge you can let them mingle with the olders.
  6. CTKen

    CTKen Monkey business Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    Since you free range the problems should not be too considerable. I have introduced 6 weeks old, 4 weeks old and 2 days old chicks with the rest of the flock (all hatched by a hen) and they were fine. You may wish to consider setting up a couple of feeding stations out of eyesight of each other, which should also help lessen aggression and give an opportunity for the young ones to feed.

    If its at all possible, letting a hen hatch chicks is by far the least stressful for us humans, as the mother makes all the decisions, protects the chicks, ensures that they have access to food etc. I'd suggest that route if you can in the future.

    The chicks that i introduced to the main flock at 2 days (they hatched in the main coop) were ignored by the other flock members, and the mother made sure that they were fed and watered appropriately. They are now 8 weeks old and i bought four 4.5 months old production laying hens two weeks ago. When they were introduced to the main flock, the chicks were put in their place by the new arrivals, but they very quickly learned to recognise a higher ranking bird, and this week they even sun bathe together!

    Don't be too alarmed if you see some squabbling when you merge your flock - as long as there is no blood shed then consider it part of chicken society. It can seem a bit harsh from a human point of view, but its perfectly normal for chickens.

    Good luck!

  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Yes this is part of the problem with smaller coops or crowded coops. You don’t have a lot of flexibility to deal with things like this, and you need room when you integrate. I’ve had broody hens wean their chicks at three weeks and leave them totally on their own to make their way with the flock. I regularly let 5 to 8 week old brooder-raised chicks run with the flock and have never lost a chick to an older flock member but as BluCoonDawg said, it can happen. My set-up and management techniques are different from yours and I suspect BCD’s though probably not a lot. Some flocks are more aggressive than others. Luck probably plays a part too.

    My brooder is in the coop and my grow-out coop and run is next to the main chicken run. My broody hens raise the chicks with the flock. My chicks grow up with the flock. That doesn’t handle pecking order issues but it seems to handle basic integration. I don’t totally free range but have a lot of room in the main coop and an area inside electric netting. I have a separate grow-out coop and run I sometimes use.

    Aart’s idea of a safe haven is great. I don’t have that but mine will hide under the nests (it’s fairly tight) or even at a young age fly up to the roosts when the bigs are on the floor and they are all in the main coop. I make it a point the first week or so after they mix to be down there when they wake up to open the pop door so they can get away if they need to. I try to not leave them locked in the coop when they are awake until they have sorted a few things out.

    You are in a different situation though. I suggest you leave them in that sectioned off area at least a week, longer if you can. Let then get used to each other. If you can, I’d knock a pop door from their area into a run to let them out some yet keep them away from the older ones. Since yours free range the run doesn’t have to be predator proof, just chicken proof. It doesn’t have to be big. The idea is to relieve pressure on their small inside area plus let the adults see them out during the day. If they sleep in their enclosure instead of in the coop proper with the big birds for a few weeks, that is good.

    Mine are most brutal to each other and especially younger chickens as they are settling down on the roosts. That has to do with pecking order. The ones higher in the pecking order sleep where they want to and are not shy about enforcing those pecking order rights. And often a fairly low ranking adult brutalizes the young ones, probably afraid to lose her low-ranking position. In your small coop it may be difficult, but I suggest you make sure you have a lot of roost space for when those chicks start to roost. Otherwise they might start sleeping where you don’t want them to, like the nests, or they may even stop going into the coop at night to avoid getting beat up. I put up a separate roost, a little lower than the main roost to discourage the adults from moving over there but still higher than the nests and horizontally separated from the main roosts. It’s actually right over my nests with the top of the nests used as a droppings board. That’s where my juveniles that roost normally sleep until they mature enough to force their way into the pecking order and move to the main roosts. I have nine 20-week-olds using it right now.

    Integration is harder in a small coop, even when you free range and have all the outdoors to help you. It may be time for you to think about a larger coop, whether new or an expansion.

    I’m separating from the computer for the holidays so won’t be available to respond for a while. Hopefully you will get something useful out of this. Good luck!

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