Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Successful Chicken Integration

I have been reading up a lot on integrating younger chickens with older chickens as well as just integrating new chickens into your flock.

As you know we had a broody hen that hatched out one chick. It has been so fun watching her carry her chick around on her back, teach her chick how to dust bath and scratch for food, etc. I had them in a smaller (6ft by 3 ft) brooding coop and started to let them out periodically when I let the other chickens out of their run (only when I am home). I wish I could truly have my chickens be completely free range but they would be picked off before my eyes. Hopefully one day I can get a few guardian dogs and see how that works. But for now they will have to do with two coops attached to a 24ftX8ft run and free time when I'm home.  It's amazing how fast they mow that grass down in their run though!

I don't know exact dates but roughly I would say I left the mumma and her chick in the brooding coop about a week before I moved them at all. Then I would put them into the coop with the caged sides that is attached to the run (see Pimp My Coop) instead of the enclosed one and block off the entrance so none of the other chickens could get in with them. Usually the other chickens would be out of their run at this point but I found they would go up to the sides of the coop very interested in the young chick and mumma. The mumma chicken has always been very protective and has no hesitation attacking to protect her chick, even with her sisters we originally bought her with.

After doing that for a few days I would let the chickens out of their run and then let mumma and baby chick have free run of the chicken run and coops but shut the door so nobody could get in with them. This way they would interact through the wire all the way around the chicken run (see Chicken Run Build).

Then after doing that for a few days I just started letting everybody out together. Mumma chicken had to tell a few of the adolescent roosters just who really was boss but other then that they all seemed to peck around the farm in harmony. At around 2.5 weeks I saw the mumma chicken trying to coax her baby up the stairs into the coop but he (I think its a he, great another rooster!) just couldn't make it. He would get half way up and fall down, then she would go try and get him again only to watch him fall. She then went down let him jump on her back and tried to carry him up a few times but he just kept falling off. So I picked them up and took them back to their own coop.

The next day I did the same routine all over again and she was able to get him up into the coop that she shares with the other two gold laced Wyandotte girls so I let them spend the night in there and then went out in the morning and blocked the entrance into that coop (making sure the other two Wyandotte girls were out in the run). I was just a bit nervous about them spending the day all in the run together. The next day I just took my chances and left everybody in the run together and I haven't had one problem. I have now successfully integrated our baby chick into the flock in less then 3 weeks!

My advice for integration is to take baby steps. Don't force them all to face each other, that's only asking to have conflict. I'm sure it's harder when you incubate chicks because they don't have their mums to protect them. If you have a mother chicken that is broody you could try getting her to take to the chicks first and then start introducing them to the flock slowly, making sure there is lots of room for them to get away from any bullies. If you have a bunch of small chicks with no mother at all my suggestion would be to put them in a small cage within your chicken run or coop to have them introduced but with a barrier to keep the babies protected. Usually "they" tell you not to integrate until 6 weeks but I didn't have any problem doing it in half the time. 

Happy to be part of the flock!