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#89140 - 04/29/10 08:53 AM Integrating Young Chicks with Older Hens
Melanie Offline
New Egg

Registered: 03/27/10
Posts: 8
Loc: Pennsylvania
We had no intention of adding more chickens to our little flock of seven, but we found a box of abandoned chicks on the bike trail near our home. There were six little Rhode Island Reds, between 2-3 weeks old, sitting in a box in the sun with no food or water. They are now 4-5 weeks old, three times their original size, and almost fully feathered. We've been keeping them in a big cage we had for our German Shepherd. It's all set up for them with perches, food, water, and plenty of space to run around.

My question is: How old should they be to go out with the other chickens, and how can I integrate them without the older hens picking on them? We've never done this before. Our other hens were all raised together.

#89150 - 04/30/10 08:45 AM Re: Integrating Young Chicks with Older Hens [Re: Melanie]
CJR Offline
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8500
Loc: Montana
Newcomers of any age are at risk for rejection and torment; and the younger they are, they risk being cornered and even killed by the older hens. That being said, some breeds and SOME INDIVIDUAL hens are more mellow, and if there is plenty of room for the younger and smaller birds to escape and still be able to eat and drink freely, integration can take place, but seldom happily. The birds will not really integrate but stay with their own friends; they need safe space.

The larger the younger birds are, the better they can cope with their new world. Some people separate within the older birds' area with a wire enclosure (to see and become acquainted). My experience with this method (and with my particular birds--30-40 yeasrs of generations) is that they just watch and wait for the chance to bully the newcomer and "think" up ways to "get them" when they eventualy are all together!

There is no one way; you will have to work it out. For some flocks, it works out fairly smoothly. Good luck, CJR

#89180 - 05/04/10 10:19 PM Re: Integrating Young Chicks with Older Hens [Re: CJR]
Foehn Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 1973
Loc: New Zealand
Do you free range your birds in a backyard area? If you do, then when the chicks are about 12 weeks old, you can run them together each day, where there is plenty of escape room, and then sleep them in their own coop at night. By the time they are 16 weeks, you may be able to integrate them completely, but they will still need somewhere safe to roost, away from the others. Once they start to lay, if they are pullets, they will settle themselves into the pecking order.

#89187 - 05/05/10 11:48 AM Re: Integrating Young Chicks with Older Hens [Re: Foehn]
Rogo Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 12/05/03
Posts: 469
Loc: Arizona
My flock roams free on the acreage, so I find it quite easy to add new birds peacefully.

I segregate a hen hatching eggs (so the other hens can't lay eggs in the nest and all the eggs hatch at the same time) and hatchery day-old orders. Babies can see the free roaming birds and vice versa. When the babies are fully feathered, about 3 weeks old, I open their gate and let them come out on their own.

This method has worked for me for years with no pecking, no fighting. Your milege may vary!

#89254 - 05/09/10 07:31 PM Re: Integrating Young Chicks with Older Hens [Re: Rogo]
Sunni Ten Offline
Flock Leader

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 341
Loc: Colorado
I have had great success over the years integrating flocks. The key is having space. I've done it many times over the years. I currently have five hens and just bought five new chicks about a month ago. They stayed in their nursery until recently where they had the run of the coop and now the yard. There is so much space that bullying is not a problem. Once in a rare while a chick will get cornered, and a hen might go after it. Then the chick runs off and is no worse for wear, and the hen has already lost interest. So space is the key.
In fact, my five hens are from two different age groups (a year apart). Since adulthood, they have hung out together as one unit.

I wouldn't recommend mixing a flock if you have a small chicken run, but if they have room, like free-ranging, it shouldn't be an issue.

#89468 - 05/27/10 08:10 AM Re: Integrating Young Chicks with Older Hens [Re: Sunni Ten]
Art Ana Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 07/14/08
Posts: 160
Loc: Montana
What is the recommendation when a rooster is involved? I picked up four pullets last night. They are just three-and-a-half months old. The other hens are all just over a year, as is the rooster. The rooster is big. I saw him chasing one of the pullets out the door from the coop to the enclosed run. I maneuvered him to another space that doesn't have a roof from the elements. It is raining today, and I feel guilty about him being rained on. Will he, can he, and would he damage the pullets?

#89659 - 06/06/10 06:53 PM Re: Integrating Young Chicks with Older Hens [Re: Art Ana]
TTC Offline

Registered: 04/17/10
Posts: 26
Loc: Thailand
I've introduced new hens, and my rooster has never shown any aggression toward them. He'll only peck at other younger roosters, but they seen to know they must stay clear so all is well. Only one of my hens will peck other baby chicks. It's almost as if the other hens know they are babies, as they just ignore them completely. Maybe I'm just lucky, or maybe this is how these native Thai chickens are. They all seem to get along fine even when introduced at different intervals. There's the odd peck here and there but nothing serious.

Good luck,

#90535 - 07/21/10 03:19 PM Re: Integrating Young Chicks with Older Hens [Re: TTC]
Squid Offline
New Egg

Registered: 07/20/10
Posts: 3
Loc: SE Wisconsin
What has worked for me in the past is this.

I have a lot of space in my coop area so I put up a solid chicken wire barrier inside the coop so the 12 older hens could see the younger 18 chicks. The older hens would sit and watch them as they grew. Then one day, at about 6-7 weeks I guess, I removed the barrier. There was a little competition at first, but that only lasted a few days. And this particular time I found out that 6 of them were cocks, but that made no difference

This technique has worked both times I have done it.

#92502 - 11/08/10 05:31 AM Re: Integrating Young Chicks with Older Hens [Re: Squid]
Smooth Mule Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 02/13/10
Posts: 656
Loc: Missouri
I was just looking through posts and found this one and thought I'd add the way I do it. I always put the new poultry, whether they are younger or older, in at night when they're all on the roosts. There needs to be plenty of space on the roosts for the new ones to be a distance from the others and it's best if it's a really dark night. They all wake together and there is little to no fuss the next morning. I've noted when I tried to add them during the day, there was always a lot of chasing and pecking and the new ones were terrified and would find a corner to pile up in and they wouldn't come out to eat or drink. The other thing I've always done is to make sure there are at least 2 or 3 together that are bonded before adding them to the flock. If I have a single chick, I'll keep it back to be with some that hatch next and it's so much larger it become big sister or brother and will tend to the younger ones. They seem to be motherly if there are several new chicks to the one older chick but if there are 2 or more older chicks, they are mean to the younger chicks so if there are at least 2 chicks, when they are feathered out I integrate them into the flock. There is usually at least one in a small group that will have the nerve to move in for water and feed and the others, that might have been too shy, will follow so there's less risk for them starving or getting dehydrated which puts them at higher risk for illness.


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