Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Chick, Chick Here, A Cluck, Cluck There

Lee doesn't know it yet, but it's time for more chickens.
My hens (pictured below when they were chicks), are now five years old. The last two years, egg laying has tapered off significantly.
If I were a real farmer, my hens would have been a part of chicken and dumplings, long before now. The trouble with that is, they have names. They're pets with benefits---they lay eggs.
The real road block with getting new chickens, is the old chickens.
A couple summers ago, I 'chicken-sat' for a friend of a friend.
I knew better than to just plunk the temporary hens in with mine. They'd get killed--literally. Chickens are not good at accepting new neighbors.

I did what all chicken owners and chicken books said to do. I set up a temporary area where the two sets of chickens could see each other, and live along side one another (see pic below), all while keeping them apart.
The notion is, that they'll get used to each other and eventually the old flock will think of the new chickens as part of their flock. It has worked with everyone I've ever known who has chickens.
Mine must not have gotten the memo.

When I finally released the visiting chickens (a month) in with my flock, it did not go well.
The next day--same thing. Day after day, the visiting chickens were getting chased, pecked and generally terrified. Even my rooster was in on it, and I thought he would have appreciated a couple new girls to the group.
For the safety of chickens that didn't even belong to me, I separated them for the rest of the summer.
I really want some more laying chickens. I'm perfectly happy with the ones I have, but I miss farm-fresh eggs. The grocery store eggs are good for baking, but not eating over-easy. I refuse to buy the $3, organic, cage-free eggs from the store. I won't even go into the reality of that situation.

If you own and have successfully integrated your flocks, please tell me what you did that was different than what I've done.
Time's a wastin'.
I need to get some chicks soon if I have any hope of having eggs this summer.

9 comments:

  1. I have no answers but those are some big, beautiful birds!

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  2. With that visiting flock, did you ever try putting them in at night when your girls were already roosting? I've read (though I have no personal experience with it) that when the existing flock wakes up the next day, they just accept the new members like magic.
    Hmmm...sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?

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  3. I've always put the new ones in a cage in the old ones coop. After a week, I put the new ones on the roost at night. There might be some fighting the next day, but nothing terrible.

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  4. We just add the new chickens to the coop at night while the other ones are asleep. They don't usually bother them too much that way.

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  5. Ours have always accepted new chicks with little fuss. I waited until the chicks were a bit older but not fully grown. My chickens are free range (not winter) and the chicks wait until the hens are set for the eve before going in, so space and the ability to run fast may be the secret.

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  6. Everybody's chickens must be more friendly than mine.
    My chickens most definitely have a pecking order and putting them all together at night seems like wishful thinking in my case.

    If mine free-ranged 100% of the time, maybe there wouldn't be as much fuss. The funny thing is, when I let them all out together a couple years ago, my hens/roo chased the new chickens around instead of doing their normal chicken thing.

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  7. Whatever you do don't slip your new chickens into the coop at night when your existing hens are sleeping!
    That is dangerous and will probably end in death for the newcomers...and worst of all...they can't even escape or run away after they've been discovered by your hens. That's what happened to the hen I gifted to a lady who wanted to add to her flock. I gave her one of my brown leghorns that had been breaking and eating eggs. The first night she slipped my hen into her coop while her existing flock were sleeping. When she let them all out the next morning, my hen had been pecked to death.

    I've introduced 3 different sets of chickens to my existing flocks with no problems at all.

    When I brought in my 2 Japanese Silkies and my 2 Polish chickens they were just chicks. I waited until they were a couple months old and bigger, then I kept them in the coop during the day in a large guinea pig cage. At night I put them inside the coop inside a smaller guinea pig cage. I did that for about a week. They basically lived with the flock and went wherever they did, just separated.

    Then when I brought in my 2 Welsummer pullets and 1 Cuckoo Marans, I made a run, similar to the one you have. Except at night, I put them into the chicken house inside a small cage.

    And most recently after my Japanese Silky hatched out her 3 chicks, I kept them separate until the chicks were older, but they still spent their nights inside the chicken house at night.

    I think the new chickens living among my flock both during the day and night, while separated helped in their integration. But I also wonder if it's the numbers that makes a difference, too.
    A single chicken would probably get picked off, no matter what you did...and maybe that's the same with introducing just two chickens. I've always introduced 3 or more new chickens at a time and had no issues.

    Your current flock are gorgeous, but I know how important those fresh eggs are. I went a few days this Fall with no eggs and I had to wait over a week before I had enough eggs to make breakfast for my family. Boy, those eggs were appreciated that morning. lol!

    ~Lisa

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  8. Oh, and by the way, I don't think free-ranging makes a difference in integration of chickens. Like you said, your chickens still chased the newcomers around when they were free-ranged.
    Mine live almost full-time inside their large coop because we live on a raptor flyway and have hawks, eagles and owls that fly over and stop in on our property to rest and hunt. We also have stray dogs and coyotes that travel across our land, too. The only time I can let them out to free range is if I'm there to protect them.

    ~Lisa

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  9. I'm going to guess your current hens don't go broody? I've never bought new hens - but I let my girls hatch out eggs when they go broody. I do separate new moms and babies into brooders, but after 1 - 2 weeks, I open the brooders and let the mamas integrate the babies into the flocks. But that comes with the risk of unwanted cockerels.......

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