One of the hardest parts of new chicks is integrating your flocks. Many small flock owners struggle with this. It is part of the knowing your small flock’s personalities. There are some human emotions going on as well that make us want one big happy flock. Eventually probably, but the transitions hmmmmm, well not so easy. Mean vs. cute, old vs young, big vs little, and the list goes on.
One of the things I have found that works for me is I start the integration as soon as possible. No I don’t put them together but I let them see and be aware each other at a young age. I have a coop that is in larger shed. I put my new flock out in the shed in a combination dog crate and exercise pen. The big girls walk by them each morning as they head out to forrage. If the weather turns grungy my layers return to the shed, since I have not natural shelter. My big girls hover around the edges of the pen hoping to show the chicks they are a lesser chicken than they are with a firm peck. Soon this changes and the big girls become ho-hum and are on to bigger and better things than hanging around the edges of the ex-pen hoping to get a peck in (not the loving kind). The little girls lessons during this time is to be quick and avoid confrontation.
The next step is to create an opening in the ex-pen that is only big enough for the little chicks to pass through. Chicken’s are not the the brightest nor are they driven to chase for too long so I don’t make this complicated. I tie a piece of cardboard across the top of the door on the ex-pen. Just tall enough for th the little ones to get in and out. If you are not sure error on the side of small. Soon your chicks will figure this out and be out in the rest of the world when the big girls go out to forage, and be back inside the security of the ex-pen lickety split at the first sign of the big girls. As you chicks get larger you can start to raise the cardboard.
At nine weeks my chicks are as ready to be set free each morning as the big girls. Each day they get braver and wander further, but already they are learning as the sun goes down, so return the big girls and it is time to put yourselves back in their corral for bed. My youngsters are still less than half the size of my laying flock and full integration is still aways away, but this process makes it much easier. Integration starts early, and by the time I am ready to put them all in one coop they figured out how to make it work all by themselves.
I’ve posted a two picture slide show, where you can see how the cardboard barrier at work.