Looking for tips when integrating pullets into an existing small flock

Adam Taggart
By Adam Taggart on Tue, Jan 1, 2013 - 6:19pm

I'm planning on buying 4 pullets tomorrow to integrate into my existing flock of 3 mature hens. They will all share the same coop & run -- though I will pasture them during most of the day.

I've been told not to expect the existing flock to mix with the new birds, and to watch out that they don't attack/kill them.

I've been advised to make sure that there is constant availabilty of food/feed. If there isn't (i.e., food is only available at feeding time), I've heard the pecking order fights get triggered much more easily.

A few questions:

  • Are there any other best practices the experienced chicken farmers here can share regarding pullet integration?
  • Is the advice I've described above accurate?
  • Are there any other issues besides the pecking order I should be vigilant for?

thanks,

Adam

[Update: the pullet integration went well. Pics of the event are below]

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14 Comments

kevinoman0221's picture
kevinoman0221
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 25 2008
Posts: 144
the morning after; hiding places

One tip I have heard when adding new chickens to a flock is to wait until night time. When the flock is in the coop, sleeping, throw the new birds in there with them. They won't notice what's going on, and won't really be able to see well enough to care who is who or that there are strangers present... the next morning, they all sort of just wake up together and start the day! The new ones won't be fully accepted yet, but I think it's the best way to make the introduction.

Another thing I think is important is that they have access to hiding places any time they are together. Maybe it is running inside the coop, or under the coop, or behind a hay bale, or in an old barrel on its side. The fallout from the pecking order may not be as bad if the new birds have somewhere to run and hide and stay out of the way of the others. If they aren't able to get away and get a break, and just keep getting chased down, it can get kind of brutal.

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Online)
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Posts: 3080
Good guidance

Helpful feedback, Kevin. I'll try both suggestions.

thanks,

A

Phil Williams's picture
Phil Williams
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Posts: 337
Multiple Feeding Stations

Adam,

It helps to have multiple feeding and watering stations. Otherwise the new pullets will be forced to fight for their food and water. The older chickens may be done eating or drinking, but may still chase off the pullets, if there are limited resources. Also, sufficient roosting bar space is also important. The pullets will roost away from the old flock, so they do need some buffer space.

Phil 

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Online)
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Posts: 3080
Thanks, Phil

I'll set up separate stations, too.

Just learned I won't be able to get the pullets until next week. I'll report back here once I've picked them up.

grandefille's picture
grandefille
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Posts: 36
Easier than you think

Adam-

I've done this twice, when I bought day-old chicks to add to an existing flock.  I kept the chicks separate for a few weeks, but twice the chores got old and eventually the flocks were combined.  While there was some fighting, with the older hens chasing pullets away from feed dishes, after a few days things settled down. If you can separate the two flocks for initial feeding in the morning, the young birds will get something to eat.  Scattering food on the ground ( scratch grains or table scraps) also makes it hard for the old birds to defend ALL of it.

Good Luck!

Julie

queeneev's picture
queeneev
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Joined: Jan 4 2013
Posts: 1
I had some aggression issues

I had some aggression issues when I added 2 pullets. I built a small pen right up against the existing pen, and kept the pullets in there for a few days,  It allowed all the ladies to see and sniff and hear each other, without fighting.  When I put the pullets in the existing pen everything was fine. 

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Online)
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Posts: 3080
So far so good...

The pullets arrived mid-day today. So far so good...

I put the pullets in the run when I got home. My older hens were out pasturing.

Near the end of the day, I called the old hens over. They were not excited to see strangers in their digs!

With about an hour of sunlight left, I added the old girls into the run one at a time. There was a fair amount of posturing and some slight pecking, but no real conflict. In fact, my older girls seemed to be avoiding the newcomers more than the other way 'round. They squawked a loud racket, letting me know they were not happy about the upheaval to their routine.

But as the sky darkened, the old hens went inside the coop. The new birds were apparently initially rebuffed when they tried to go in, because I found them huddled in a pile in a corner of the run when I came out to check on them. I waited until it got truly dark (when the older hens got sleepy) and then hand-placed the pullets one by one onto an empty roost in the coop. They're still there as I type and everyone seems to be sleeping peacefully.

We'll see what the morning brings, but I hope the ice has been sufficiently broken. I plan to let the older birds out to pasture per usual, but will keep the pullets in the run all day for at least the first week, until they feel it's truly their home.

Thanks for the great advice, everyone. I think having lots and lots of food and water freely available in the run made a big difference. My sense is the interlopers wouldn't have been nearly as well received if the old guard felt their food supply was threatened.

I took some pics of the experience and will post them in a bit, for those curious.

kevinoman0221's picture
kevinoman0221
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
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Posts: 144
Thanks for the update, Adam.

Thanks for the update, Adam. Glad it is going well.

That sounds pretty similar to my experience the couple of times I introduced pullets to my hens.

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Online)
Joined: May 26 2009
Posts: 3080
Pullet Pictures
Adam Taggart wrote:

The pullets arrived mid-day today. So far so good...

I put the pullets in the run when I got home. My older hens were out pasturing.

Near the end of the day, I called the old hens over. They were not excited to see strangers in their digs!

With about an hour of sunlight left, I added the old girls into the run one at a time. There was a fair amount of posturing and some slight pecking, but no real conflict. In fact, my older girls seemed to be avoiding the newcomers more than the other way 'round. They squawked a loud racket, letting me know they were not happy about the upheaval to their routine.

But as the sky darkened, the old hens went inside the coop. The new birds were apparently initially rebuffed when they tried to go in, because I found them huddled in a pile in a corner of the run when I came out to check on them. I waited until it got truly dark (when the older hens got sleepy) and then hand-placed the pullets one by one onto an empty roost in the coop. They're still there as I type and everyone seems to be sleeping peacefully.

We'll see what the morning brings, but I hope the ice has been sufficiently broken. I plan to let the older birds out to pasture per usual, but will keep the pullets in the run all day for at least the first week, until they feel it's truly their home.

Thanks for the great advice, everyone. I think having lots and lots of food and water freely available in the run made a big difference. My sense is the interlopers wouldn't have been nearly as well received if the old guard felt their food supply was threatened.

I took some pics of the experience and will post them in a bit, for those curious.

Here are the promised pics.

Here's the box the 4 pullets came in:

Here's a pullet peeking out:

Here are the 'old girls' trying to get as far away as possible from the newbies & squawking their displeasure loudly:

Here are the new girls copying the old hens on the other side of the run. Seems they're already comfortable poking fun at their elders...

Here's my helper (younger daugther, Charlotte), explaining to Goldie that we still love her:

Here's everyone (mostly) getting along:

The coop/run before sunset:

AKGrannyWGrit's picture
AKGrannyWGrit
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2011
Posts: 467
Great Pictures

While I don't have experience adding pullets I do have a motto. My motto is happy chickens lay more eggs, so my grand-children and I provide toys and entertainment for the girls. A couple of cheap garage-sale mirrors so the girls can admier themselves are very helpful. A string with a velcro loop at the end to attach celery, carrots or some other tasty snack. Peanut butter or left over rice in the bark of a log, clothes pins attached to the wire to hold old bread etc. Kids love to be providers of special treats for "the girls". Enjoy brain-storming, and thanks for sharing. You have, beautiful girls.

AK Granny

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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Posts: 409
Love the photos!

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Adam, and especially for the visuals.  (The hens are sweet but C wins for cutest.)

Woodman's picture
Woodman
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Posts: 1028
Glad the flock mix worked

Glad the flock mix worked out.  Soon I'll decide which one of the cockerals to keep from the batch we hatched last fall, and put him in with the older hens.  Will be interesting to see if he takes over the top of the pecking order right away.

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
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Posts: 1892
Thanks Adam

I appreciate the pictures, too.  And you have an adorable daughter.smiley

sand_puppy

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