My 26 mixed layer baby chicks arrived healthy and have been happy for the last week in the "nursery" I set up for them. At what point can I safely integrate them into my free-range flock of 3 silkie hens and 2 roosters?
Since you have more babies than older ones you will probably have less issues because the new flock is larger than the older flock. You want to have them separate at first, but able to see and talk to each other. Somehow separate with chicken wire is best, so they can go up and check each other out.
I usually get my three week old peeps outside in an enclosure, close to the older birds, but safe in their own pen on nice warm days. They go back to the nursery at night and back out during the day as long as the weather is good. Once they are 5 to 6 weeks then they can be in the chicken fence, but still separate with a fence and at 8 weeks I have them out on their own during the day and into the big girls coop at night. That has worked the best for me.
The first time I mixed a flock I let the new birds get full grown and the older birds wouldn't have anything to do with them, and chased them out every night. I had to wait until after dark and put the new birds into the coop, but at first light the old girls started tearing into the new ones. And their numbers were almost even, 7 old to 6 new. When I started mixing them in A-more slowly and B-at a younger age I had more success and less bloody battles.
However, if you have any new roosters in your new batch you will have to watch the old roosters. As soon as the new ones start to crow they may start into each other, and once the new roosters are full grown they may take on the old roosters. March 1 was my battle day. I have 6 roosters. 2 were raised together and they are 1,2 in the pecking order. The other 4 are all brothers from the same hatch and are just 8 months younger. One of the younger doesn't like his placement in the order and took on #1, then all the others after. I should have sold tickets, they did battle for 48 hours and I had to send my dog out to break up one fight while I took a broom to break up another. After 2 days they shifted the order a bit, but the 1,2 stayed the same. I'll never do this many roosters at one time again. Three max.
I brood my chicks till they are about 6 weeks if it is warmer weather, 8 weeks in cooler weather. I simply raise them to this age, and unceremoniously plop them in with the older chickens....they find their way and learn their place (pecking order happens if you're careful, or not) and integrate within a few weeks. Always good to be sure you don't add one small pullet to a large flock by itself, it has no one to co-habitate with on the roosting bar or floor while it is assimilating, it will be cold. I do several at a time so they have their own little flock to be in while the process is happening.
Otherwise we have always had good luck, and no one has ever hurt one another. I added my Black Jersey Giant flock of 6 to our established 20 at the time, and other than to try and chase them off once in a while, our adult flock did not bother them because we have plenty of space for them. When our chickens were in small quarters, we had some feather plucking issues and noticed more aggression at the feeders.
Anytime you notice feathers being plucked, sores and even mild illnesses, you have to assume it is because of stress from lack of space. Always segregate a chicken that has sores or illness the others will constantly peck at it and make things worse, plus you want others to remain healthy is one is sick.
Thanks for the great, well thought out, detailed info. It is greatly appreciated!!! Since ORChickenlady brought it up, how do you treat mild injuries? Is there an ointment I should keep on hand or something??
If I have less babies than adults I put then out in the pen while the flock free ranges. Usually the flock will come to the pen fence and check out the babies. Sometimes a hen or two will jump the fence and go by the babies with no issues. After about a week of segrigation I start to let the babies out but stay near by incase one of the adults try to hurt them. I do allow the pecking order to occur but I dont allow the babies to be attacked. I wait until the babies are fully feathered to before starting the intergration.
Bag Balm is good, but if you want to make sure a larger wound is not noticed and the poor chicken does not get cannabalized, use some Blu-Kote, this is gentian violet, it changes the color so they will leave a wound alone, I believe the color red is what attracts them and you want to change that so they will not bother with it.
It worked for us when we had a large flock of pullets we were brooding, we had one pullet that had gotten fixated on pulling out everyone elses tail feathers, so we treated all the butts she had pulled feathers out of with it and it helped, although, she started pulling feathers out of wings, so we promptly offered her up for free to someone, our problems stopped.
I just use neosporn on open wounds. First I wash with hydrogen peroxide (if it's bad shape, we do a hydrogen peroxide/baking soda/vinegar bath on the wounds) then put neospron. Works great for me. If it's not too serious, you can consider getting chicken aprons such as mine
It covers up the exposed area from further attack, allowing it to heal.
If it is very bad, be sure to separate the chicken. That raw flesh can lead it to be cannibalized!
i too am trying to introduce pullets into my flock
i new at this and was going to post this and saw your thread. i have three 6 month ladies outside and we had seven babies in the house...about a week or more ago we brought them out and separated the coop with chicken wire. the pullets are now 7-8 wks old. when i try to let the big girls in the run with the little ones...they go straight at them. Ive tried several times now. what can i do? Just go for it and dont watch? They are all in the coop at night together..but separated by wire. during the day the big girls go out in the yard and the little ones stay in the run...but they can still see each other. also..when i do finally get them all together- how do i keep the little ones from eating the layer food?
Michelle, don't let it worry you. Rarely will they really hurt them. We get ours to about 8 to 10 weeks, when they are feathered out and plop them right into the barn. They will stay in their own little flock for a while and get used to their surroundings and will be treated by the older hens as bottom of thr rung initiates, get smacked occassionally with a beak and sent to the bottom of the roosting bar at night, or huddled into a corner together.
You know the phrase "pecking order" this is exactly where it comes from, and unless you see injuries, leave them alone and they will figure it out and the other hens will eventually let them in on things.
Only intervene if you see young ones missing feathers or bleeding, then seperating is a good idea. If you come across a hen who is drawing blood consitantly, take that one away, it is cannibalizing and once they start they will not stop.
I posted before about trying to intergrate my 7 pullets in with my three big girls...we are just frustrated..everytime we try...the go after them. The big girls won't even let the little ones out to free range...they scare them back in the run. And what do I do about chicken feed...the big girls are on layer food and the pullets on developer food...once we take the wire down inside the coop..the big girls will go after the baby food..they try when ever they can. Our coop should be big enough to comfortably hold them all...and we give them half an acre to free range. I just don't know how to get them togwther. Help...
I have noticed this about chickens. We mainly have kept Rhode Island Red s for egg laying (solid, sturdy and hearty prolific egg layers). If we introduce another hen into the flock that looks vastly different from them, they do not allow them into the flock. We have some small bantys our son and his girlfriend raised just because and they, of course, come out to the field to be with the other chickens....we have one white Japanese bantam, the kind with the black tail, and they have never let her into the flock, she has to run in the middle of them, grab something and run out with it. Same with the other lttle ones.
This seems to go with all the lighter colored hens that are even regular sized. My guess on this is a "natural selection" thing. They only want other birds they see as same as them or close to the same, in the flock to keep those genetics going. Thus, when you introduce a chicken vastly differing in size or color, they will not let it in and it has to live on the outskirts of that flock to some degree.
Then there are the times you have the same breed being introduced and they are beyond the normal awful for a short time to the new chickens. This could be that there is either not enough physical space, or, not enough feeder space. If you have one feeder and twenty chickens, they will see it s this is all they have and they need to protect it from others, not knowing or understanding you will refill it as much as needed. They will see it as a limited resource for their flock that needs to be protected. So more space or add more feeders and waterers to match their needs, see how this works.
Since nobody has answered your feed question..... At this stage I would feed a Flock Raiser and offer oyster shells in a dish for free choice feeding. At the price of feed, frankly I'd mix the two things I have together and offer oyster shells. Especially if you free range or feed people leftovers your protein % is not going to be what's on the label anyway.
Integration can be rough... on owner and flock. I've done it 5 times now. My advice would be make sure the babies have a little weight on them. Don't even start until at least 10 weeks of age. Then read through all the posting and realize its a personal choice and pick whatever sounds best to you. Just as you are beginning to think it will never work out.... it does