Monday, July 25, 2011

Flock Integration: So Happy Together

Over the weekend we moved our 16-week old pullets into the main coop with our two older hens.  I'm happy to report it was a great success with no bloodshed, no loss of feathers or any real discomfort for anyone (especially me).  Amazing.  I'm crediting this successful flock integration to the "meet and greets" and other factors mentioned previously. 

Combining flocks is something that all urban chicken farmers will have to face at some point if you want the eggs to continue.  It's a fact that younger hens produce more eggs than older hens. The most productive laying period is the first 18 months of the laying hen's life, after that, production tapers off.  

We've been fortunate that Madge, who is just over two years old, still produces an egg every day. Helen, who really is an old biddy at 3 and a half, is a little more sporadic in her laying.  She currently appears to be on vacation...again.  Can you say "Coq au vin?" The good news is that our pullets will start laying in just a few more weeks (laying usually begins between 20 and 24 weeks).  Maybe all that new activity in the nest will spur Helen back into action.

One last minute, secret weapon I pulled out to assist with the move-in was the Flock Block. The older girls love this salt-lick sized block of corn and molasses -- that is, after they get over the initial fear of it being in the coop.  They say "dumb cluck" for a reason!  

After we moved the pullets in the coop, I placed a fresh Flock Block in as a diversion tactic (often a head of cabbage or other special treat is recommended during integration).  Madge set out immediately in what can only be described as major hand-wringing worry...oh my...oh my...somethings different...oh my...what is that?...oh my.... Of course this translated to crowing loudly from the safety of the roost.  In the meantime, Helen took refuge in the back of the pen madly pacing back and forth. The pullets were oblivious to it all!  

Eventually, the youngsters began pecking at the block and of course the older girls jumped right in once they discovered it wasn't going to eat them! Nothing like a little corn and molasses to sweeten the move-in!   

I won't be able to actually test my integration theories until we do this again (in another 2 years), but I'd like to know how you have combined flocks or if the meet and greet idea has worked for you.  Let me know. 

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Thanks for reading and sharing your comments! Candace

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