Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Integrating New Chicks

I read and researched how to integrate four different aged groups of chickens into one happy flock.  The most consistent (generalized) suggestions were:

  1. Let the chickens see each other for a while after initial quarantine.
  2. Add the chicks at night and let everyone wake up together.
  3. Put them all in a new environment to reduce territory problems. 
  4. Make sure there is plenty of room and avoid overcrowding.
  5. Prepare for some pecking and aggression and have hiding places.
  6. Integrate chicks of similar ages and sizes.

The one week old chicks were put with the three day old chicks at night happily under the heat lamp after a few days of side by side brooders.  No worries.

When the time came to move all the chicks outside, we introduced the 2 month old chicks to the one month old chicks in a brand new coop and run to minimize territory issues.  There was plenty of room for all the chicks and multiple places for the little ones to hide when the inevitable "pecking order" was being established. That was almost two weeks ago and not only has the pecking not stopped, I've lost two chicks.

One chick is missing while the other was found in the kennel the younger flock sleeps in last night.  My best guess is that I've lost the two Welsummer chicks.  I can't be sure because the two Brown Leghorn chicks look so similar.  As for the runaway situation or alien abduction, there is no sign of one chick.  The other didn't appear to be physically damaged but I honestly didn't examine CSI style.

Regardless of the reason for the chicks demise, the six older and much more dominant Freds aka Velociraptors, are out of the little ones' coop.  I attempted adding them in with my older hens which are closer to the same size.  I even extended the run to make sure everyone had enough space.  This morning I came out to find that the younger hens had quite literally flown the coop while my older ladies pecked happily.

Obviously, I've not been very successful at flock integration this year.  The six Freds are currently renting space from the rabbits. Plans for a temporary hoop house  is in the works and should be finished by the weekend.  Hopefully the little chicks will settle down and maybe some of our feather loss (below) and flightiness can be remedied.

I can only hope this fall when I thin the flock and everyone is older that things will go more smoothly.  If you have any ideas please share!

Sources: Backyard Chickens, Chicken Chick, Poultry Keeper 

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