Monday, May 4, 2009

Integrated Flock

Anyone who has chickens will tell you that mature hens will not always accept babies and that you should never put fuzzy peeps in with them because the chances that they'll kill them are pretty high. Introducing new chickens of any age into an established flock is a touchy matter. Such is the nature of chickens.

The peeps are a month old now and have been exposed to the hens for over 2 weeks. The hens have been able to get very close to the peeps and check them out. I've kept them penned safely during the day in an enclosure made of a circle of chicken wire - very cheap and portable! At night they slept in a cage in the chicken coop where both peeps and hens could see and hear each other. I've been watching the two generations
interact, waiting for the time when both parties tell me they're ready to be put together. Yesterday was that day. I put the peeps on the floor of the coop in the evening with their heat lamp. The hens came in and got a good look at the peeps in "their" coop but no one attacked. The peeps ventured out into the run (Miss Prissy was first-that's her eyeballing the camera in the first photo) and had a blast running around, flapping their wings and scratching in the dirt. The hens were a bit put off by all their silly shenanigans but no one attacked. Lily did have to establish some boundaries but it only took a few seconds for the peeps to understand what she was not willing to tolerate.

The day has gone very well for the chickens. I kept the gate shut on the run so that they were forced to spend the day together. It's a bit cool today so the peeps stayed inside the coop. Each time I went out to check for eggs they were busy doing something: napping, dust bathing, eating or staring out the hen door.

Dorothy, a Speckled Sussex, watching the hens scratch in the fresh grass clippings.

Peeps dust bathing in the corner. (Two Barred Plymouth Rocks, one Speckled Sussex, one Delaware, one golden Campine and one Welsummer.)

Go ahead, stick your hand in there and check for eggs. I dare ya! What you're missing is the horrible dinosaur-like screech she's making.

Don't let Ollie fool ya. She's just very hormonal right now. She even puffs up and screeches if you walk too closely to her in the yard. I'm expecting her to go broody any day now. Currently she sits on the nest half the day just to lay an egg, which is definitely not normal for her.
When I check under her for eggs I always stroke her back first, then put my hand under her. She never pecks. I don't think Ollie has ever pecked me, as a matter of fact.


  1. Amy, that's great that your new ones are getting along okay with their elders.

    I've got a RIR and a SS that make that eerie screeching when I come near them in the nest box. I didn't realize that meant they want to go broody.

    How do you like your SS so far?

  2. LOL I have found my hen nesting somewhere we didnt expect and when looking for her we heard was was between a dinosaur and opossum...LOL little did we know right above our heads in the hay was just my chicken! She scared the heck out of Douglas! LOl I never laughed so hard or seen him run so fast! They are funny! Glad yours seem to be doing well together....that video of the baby's is just too cute..why are baby animals so dang cute!!!!???

  3. I love your chickens! I'm glad that you were able to find one of your duck's nest. Hopefully you will find the other one. I have no idea how far a duck would nest from the pond so I can't help you there.

  4. That first photo - Eyeballin' - is really cute.

  5. Susan, I didn't mean to imply that a screeching hen is about to go broody. Ollie's general behavior (along with the sudden screeching) has me thinking she might go broody. The fact that she hogs the favorite nest box for half the day is the biggest factor in that assumption. I love the Sussex breed so far. They are very sweet and gentle and they don't miss a trick. The smallest one, Sophia, is doing well even though she's far behind the others in development. I have a feeling she's going to be a plucky little hen when it's all said and done! Nice breed, I'm glad I got two!

    Rach, yes the sounds hens can make can be downright scary when you're not expecting it. I've read that a chicken has over 30 different vocalizations. I agree, the babies are just too darned cute!

    Angela, I love my chickens too. I lucked out and got a great flock of birds! I looked where Daisy had been sitting when she got up and counted 10 eggs that I could see. There's definitely more than that though because she has them covered up with debris. *sigh* She's obviously been at this longer than I thought.

    Joanna, you should meet Miss Prissy in person. She's got a great personality to go with those spectacles she's wearing. She started out as the shy chick but now she's showing a bolder side and she's hilarious to boot! I'm partial to Barred Rocks anyway, so I'm thrilled that the two I got this spring are full of character.

  6. You can integrate them at one month old? Cool, I thought I might have to wait longer. Mine are a week old already.

  7. Christy, your mileage may vary. Get them where they can see and hear each other and get used to each other over time, the sooner the better. Watch for signs of aggression from your hens. I watch my birds and they let me know when they're ready. You know your birds better than anyone else, so use your judgment. If there's any sign of trouble keep them separate a while longer and try again. It's definitely possible though.

  8. Very interesting post. I am trying to be sure that my bunnies can be in the same pen as the chickens - my last hen, Tina, would chase and peck the rabbits, so it didn't work. But I've raised chicks in the past, using rabbits as an additional heat source, and all went well! The chicks would gather around the bunnies - it looked so cute - and they had no problems accepting rabbits as pen mates when they matured!

  9. That's great that they seem to be getting along so well... it's always a scary thing to introduce newbies to an established flock. Fingers crossed that everything continues to go smoothly!


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