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Chicken Integration: The More The Merrier

Chicken Integration is part 4 of our Chicken Basics series.  If you missed them, be sure to read part 1, part 2, and part 3 too!

If you find that you like having chickens, you may want to get more the following year. Raising them is pretty straightforward, just like the previous batch. However, chicken integration can be tricky if you’ve never done it before.  You can’t just walk up to your flock with some new chickens and say “Hey girls, you’ve got some new friends!” You need to carefully integrate the new birds into the flock.

Chicken integration with a "tractor"

We use a chicken tractor to contain the new pullets next to the fence near the chicken run. Our chicken tractor is made of chicken wire wrapped PVC.  It is great for day ranging young pullets but offers little shelter or predator protection. 

We aim to integrate at about 10 weeks, when they’re no longer eating chick/starter feed.  First, they spend a week (days only) outside the chicken run so the hens can get used to them being around.  Then, we move the tractor inside the pen.  You can see the plywood box we built as a makeshift coop for them.  Once they have the protection of the electric net fence, we leave them outside at night. 

Once you think the two groups are familiar enough with each other (about a week or so), you can try letting the new birds out.  We go out first thing in the morning and let the pullets out, put out some food, then let the hens out.  Some people prefer to place the new birds in the coop while all the birds are sleeping.

If the new birds are being excessively beaten up by the flock, get them back in the tractor so they do not get injured. However, they do need to find their place in the pecking order.  So don’t be too eager to separate them back out if the hens occasionally let them know who is boss.

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