How to add new chickens to a flock

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Adding New Hens to the Flock

Need (or want) to add some new hens to your flock? Elle Pugsley gives us some hints.

When merging different flocks of chickens or introducing new flock members to an existing flock the transition needs to be done with care.

How to add new chickens to a flock

Clean.

Start with a deep clean of the run and coop before mixing the birds so the area won’t smell too much of just the original flock members.

Fence.

When in an enclosed run together it’s best to have a wire fence between them so they can interact without hurting one another. It takes time for them to work out a pecking order. I built a cage inside the run for the new birds to stay inside, whilst able to see and smell their new housemates.

First Free-range together.

When free ranging the group together outside the run, they should have space to move away from each other if they start to squabble. , The first time all the birds are free-ranging together, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on things in case any birds get aggressive. They can be nasty to each other.

Limit Too much free-ranging.

The first few days the whole group free ranged together I pottered around the garden so I could keep a close eye on them. It’s a good thing I did as one of my rescue girls was chased into a dead end in the garden, hopped onto a bin and then onto the garden fence. I quickly grabbed her before she went over, moved the bin, and blocked the dead end. I took that as a sign it was time to cut flight feathers on the new girls so they don’t go fence hopping.

Overnight.

At night, they are more forgiving of each other and will almost always roost together without problems.

Happily Together.

When they were ready to share the run without a wire cage between them, I discovered the rescued standard size hens can get up onto the perches in the run. Not even the bantams have never tried to do this. Luckily, the new girls now have a safe zone, should they want to get away from the bantams.

Elle Pugsley started growing her own food last year, and it went so well that the next natural step was to acquire chickens. Starting off with four bantams she fell in love and quickly became a crazy chicken lady. Now she’s opened her coop to three ex-commercial free range hens to rehabilitate and provide them with a forever home. You can see pictures of her hens and gardens on Instagram.

How to add new chickens to a flock

Keeping a backyard chicken coop is a fantastic way to ensure your family always has delicious fresh eggs on hand. And if your household’s demand for eggs is on the rise for one reason or another—growing kids, more mouths to feed, or maybe even a new protein-rich diet—you may be considering adding more chickens to your coop. But it’s not quite as simple as picking up some baby chicks and leaving them to fend for themselves alongside your hens. Your new chicks must be introduced properly to avoid being bullied—or worse. Give your new chicks the best chance of successfully integrating into the flock with these useful tips.

How many chicks should I bring home?

It’s generally advisable to introduce at least three baby chicks at a time to the older hens. Chickens are flock animals, and tend to do better in groups with other birds of a similar age. If you bring home any less than three chicks and one of them doesn’t make it, you’ll be left with a lonely little chick, which can lead to a number of problems. Chickens are social creatures, and baby chicks do better in a flock when they help each other and grow up together.

When purchasing baby chicks, it’s recommended to match the newcomers to your current flock. Choosing a mix of breeds is more successful when you already have an assortment of breeds. However, if your flock is primarily one breed, you’ll want to stick with the same breed when purchasing new baby chicks so they’ll be more accepting of the newcomers.

How to add new chickens to a flock

The numbers matter as well. Add at least three baby chicks when you’re looking to grow your flock. There’s power in numbers; consider adding an equal amount of baby chicks to the current number of chickens. For instance, if you have five hens, you may want to add five baby chicks to balance the numbers equally and improve your chances for successfully integrating the newcomers into your flock.

Another important note: make sure you have adequate space in your coop for all new additions. It’s important to avoid crowding your birds—ensure every chicken in your flock has at least two square feet of inside living space away from the elements where they can (literally) spread their wings. You can learn more about how to raise chickens here.

WHEN CAN I INTRODUCE THE NEW CHICKS TO THE FLOCK?

Baby chicks must be raised on their own to an absolute minimum age of six weeks old before being introduced to the rest of your flock. If possible, wait until your pullets (young, non-laying hens) are 8-12 weeks old before making the introduction.

Chickens are extremely territorial, and will often injure or even kill newcomers if an introduction isn’t done properly. Keep in mind that every flock has its own personality when it comes to accommodating new members—even chickens that are gentle with human handlers may be ruthless when it comes to bullying newbies (after all, the phrase “pecking order” exists for a reason.) In some cases, the older hens will intimidate new baby chicks so badly that they’ll stop trying to eat and drink

How to add new chickens to a flock

HOW TO SAFELY INTRODUCE YOUR NEW CHICKS

The good news is that there are several steps you can take to make sure the introduction goes smoothly:

  1. Introduce three or more new chicks to the flock at a time—they’ll be able to support each other and will hopefully prevent the older chickens from beating up on any of them too much.
  2. A gradual introduction is a good idea—put your young pullets in a pet carrier or enclosure on the other side of the fence so the older chickens can get used to the sight and smell of them, which often makes the transition much easier for all.
  3. When it’s time to put the new pullets in the same coop as your older hens, consider a stealth after-dark operation. If you introduce the newbies after your older hens have bedded down for the night, their presence in the morning won’t come as such a shock.

You may also want to consider putting your older hens in a second enclosure for a few hours so the younger chickens can find the food and water without being chased off and intimidated. Doing this a couple of hours a day for a few days can make the transition easier when it’s time for them to all live together.

How to add new chickens to a flock

To give your newcomers some refuge, consider adding some escape routes for the still-developing pullets. An easy, economical solution is to place cardboard boxes in the coop, with cutouts small enough for a younger hen to escape, but too large for your older hens to fit through. Giving the newbies a place to get away from the bullying can help them stay healthy and confident until the older hens get acclimated to having them around.

Overall, keep an eye on things until all your chickens are used to living together. As your baby chicks grow and begin to lay eggs, they’ll become more integrated with the older hens. The flock will be happy again, and the egg production will show it.

Still have questions about the best way to add new chicks to your flock? Stop by your local IFA Country Store to gather some knowledge from our poultry and animal health experts—we’ve seen it all, and we’re happy to help!

Information for this article was provided by Sandie Shupe, Poultry, Rabbit & Animal Health Manager, Ogden IFA Country Store; Maureen Goodrich, Poultry, Rabbit, Pet & Tack Manager, Logan IFA Country Store; and Jill Singleton, Bagged Feed Category Manager, IFA.

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Adding New Hens to the Flock

Need (or want) to add some new hens to your flock? Elle Pugsley gives us some hints.

When merging different flocks of chickens or introducing new flock members to an existing flock the transition needs to be done with care.

How to add new chickens to a flock

Clean.

Start with a deep clean of the run and coop before mixing the birds so the area won’t smell too much of just the original flock members.

Fence.

When in an enclosed run together it’s best to have a wire fence between them so they can interact without hurting one another. It takes time for them to work out a pecking order. I built a cage inside the run for the new birds to stay inside, whilst able to see and smell their new housemates.

First Free-range together.

When free ranging the group together outside the run, they should have space to move away from each other if they start to squabble. , The first time all the birds are free-ranging together, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on things in case any birds get aggressive. They can be nasty to each other.

Limit Too much free-ranging.

The first few days the whole group free ranged together I pottered around the garden so I could keep a close eye on them. It’s a good thing I did as one of my rescue girls was chased into a dead end in the garden, hopped onto a bin and then onto the garden fence. I quickly grabbed her before she went over, moved the bin, and blocked the dead end. I took that as a sign it was time to cut flight feathers on the new girls so they don’t go fence hopping.

Overnight.

At night, they are more forgiving of each other and will almost always roost together without problems.

Happily Together.

When they were ready to share the run without a wire cage between them, I discovered the rescued standard size hens can get up onto the perches in the run. Not even the bantams have never tried to do this. Luckily, the new girls now have a safe zone, should they want to get away from the bantams.

Elle Pugsley started growing her own food last year, and it went so well that the next natural step was to acquire chickens. Starting off with four bantams she fell in love and quickly became a crazy chicken lady. Now she’s opened her coop to three ex-commercial free range hens to rehabilitate and provide them with a forever home. You can see pictures of her hens and gardens on Instagram.

More options

Jodi_in_Colorado

In the Brooder
  • Friday at 4:06 PM
  • #2
  • ChickenWhisperer101

    Songster
    • Friday at 4:07 PM
  • #3
  • ChickenWhisperer101

    Songster
    • Friday at 4:14 PM
  • #4
  • Chicken Juggler!

    Minimum of 2 is good, 3 would be better in case you lose 1.

    It’s not really about numbers. more about space, skimping on space can make integration a nightmare.

    How old is your flock and how big is your coop(in feet by feet)?
    Dimensions and pics would help immensely here.

    • Friday at 4:19 PM
  • #5
  • ChickenWhisperer101

    Songster
    • Friday at 4:20 PM
    • Thread starter
    • #6

    Jodi_in_Colorado

    In the Brooder
    • Friday at 4:35 PM
    • Thread starter
    • #7

    Jodi_in_Colorado

    In the Brooder

    Minimum of 2 is good, 3 would be better in case you lose 1.

    It’s not really about numbers. more about space, skimping on space can make integration a nightmare.

    How old is your flock and how big is your coop(in feet by feet)?
    Dimensions and pics would help immensely here.

    Attachments

    • How to add new chickens to a flock
    • Friday at 4:38 PM
  • #8
  • Ridgerunner

    Crossing the Road

    I agree, 2 minimum but 3 is better in case something happens to one of them. Chickens are social animals, they really do better with a buddy.

    In my opinion this (number of chicks) is more about behaviors. Until my chicks reach a certain level of maturity they tend to form a sub-flock and avoid the adults. If they invade the personal space of more mature chickens (even if the more mature are not adults) they are likely to get pecked. It usually doesn’t take long for them to learn to avoid the adults, day and night. They avoid the more mature during the day, they do not roost with the adults on the main roosts at night. Once integrated, they coexist quite peacefully, they just don’t get too close.

    If you have a lone chick it will probably be lonely and want to spend time with the adults. But if it tries to join them it can get pecked. They are not trying to kill it, they are just telling it to stay away. But they peck hard, it can get hurt. Being a lone chick can be rough. When you are integrating you run into some of the same issues in reverse if you have one older one and several young ones.

    Is this always true? Do these things always happen? Of course not, there are always exceptions to anything regarding behaviors. But I’d want to plan on what typically happens instead of hope for an exception.

    You still have to go through integration, no matter how many you have. Your plan for that sounds really good to me. I wish you luck with that.

    The safety is not in the numbers. It’s not like a gang of juvenile thugs are going to avenge an insult from an adult. The safety is that they have a buddy to keep them company so they aren’t tempted to try to join the adults out of loneliness.

    You also have to consider biosecurity. Where will the chicks come from? They will basically be quarantined in your brooder but I would be a bit slow to bring in any if I did not need to. I think if two hatch I’d stay with two but if only one hatches bring in two more.

    Raising chickens has become a natural thing for many. Over time many of us replenish our flock or replace the ones that you have used for food or lost. Sadly, mixing new flock isn’t as simple as putting them in the same coop as your existing flock. Check out these suggestions!

    Why It Can Be a Challenge

    How to add new chickens to a flock

    Don’t just throw them all together! If you do, you’re bound to have problems with your flock getting along and cause them unnecessary stress. Chickens typically grow in a pecking order, which is a traditional animal hierarchy, inside the flock. Each individual hen knows when it is her turn in the pecking order. So, when you add more hens to your flock, problems will occur until they can re-establish a new pecking order.

    Some chickens are tolerant of newcomers while others aren’t and for no reason just begin pecking and bullying them. These behaviors can be stressful for your new flock, especially for the young chicks or pullets (young hens under a year old who haven’t started laying). If you are looking to add new chickens to your existing flock in a healthy, harmonious way, continue reading further into this article.

    Being introduced to an existing flock can be intimidating to a single chick or pullet. Unfortunately, many current flocks form a tight fit hierarchy. In most cases, new chickens need to be slowly integrated into the flock to avoid severe pecking or bulling.

    We have had to experience this type of behavior with our chickens as they seem to be territorial and aggressive to newcomers. After experiencing this first hand, we choose a safer route to introduce our new flocks, and it has become second nature to us.

    Always remember that knowledge is the key to healthy unstressed flocks. If you’re still unsure of how to go about introducing your flock read further to see if I can be of help to you.

    Recommended Steps to Introduce Your Flock

    How to add new chickens to a flock

    Just like humans chicken can be bullies, especially when the existing flock has new weaker, smaller pullets or chickens to pick on. To avoid this behavior, I suggest that all the new chicks are similar in size to the existing flock. On the other hand, you are not going to want to add a large number of birds to a small current flock as it will stress out the mature chickens.

    It’s just like you wouldn’t want to randomly leave your newborn or young child amongst strangers as that would stress them out. It is the same with chicks, pullets, or older chickens.

    With that said, if you are raising baby chicks, it is best to keep them separated from the existing flock until they have grown into a full-size pullet. Also, chickens need to be strong enough to withstand the bullying and pecking that is bound to occur.

    If they are already the same size and strength, you still will want to quarantine them from your existing flock for at least a week to 30 days. Even though adult chickens are more apt to carry diseases. You should use this allotted time to check for signs of diseases like worms, signs of lice or mites, dull or shriveled comb, blocked nostrils. There also may be fluid that comes from their eyes, scaly legs, and other harboring parasites in your new flock.

    During the time your flocks are in separate coops, you should add extra supplements to their diet and plenty of water to be sure they are healthy flocks. The longer you wait to introduce your flocks the better chances your new pullets or chicks will have to survive the old flocks’ territorial demands. They also will be more robust and safe to mingle with your existing flock.

    How to add new chickens to a flock

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    Once you’re sure the new chicks are healthy you can slowly start exposing the new girls to your existing flock. You can do this in many several ways depending on how many birds you are bringing in and the amount of yard space. If you have a decent amount of yard space, you can separate your cope and set up parallel runs. This option allows the new birds to see and get used to each other from either side of the barrier.

    If you’re not lucky enough to have a lot of yard space or only have a few chickens to introduce to your flock. You can place your new chickens into a large cage and put it into the coop or run it between to get a parallel run. There probably will be some pecking and bullying going on so be sure to have plenty of water stations and hiding spaces for them.

    Add New Chickens at Night

    How to add new chickens to a flock

    After the sun goes down, chickens typically settle down and begin roosting. Not only is this the best time to introduce a new flock but also less stressful for both flocks. Once a few weeks of introduction has passed, remove all barriers and let them mingle. Just remember that this process doesn’t mean they will never peck or bully one another but is less likely to happen.

    At break of daylight, be there just in case you need to intervene. You could also offer a distraction such as hanging lettuce in the run, bales of hay, or scratch grain. The flock will have their focus on pecking or scratching at the hay, rather than the new additions to the flock. Another option to throw off your existing flock is by introducing the new flock on neutral ground.

    In other words, a new fenced in area that neither flock has been using. It throws the existing flock off balance, since it isn’t their home, and it makes them less likely to be aggressive and territorial. Even if you do all you can to keep the peace between the flocks, you need to realize it is in their nature to protect their territory.

    If you allow your chickens out to roam your land, the introduction is a little different than chickens that are always in a coop. To introduce your new flock to the existing one with free-range still let out the new flock first. You could use this same sequence when introducing the flocks to a new coop. This concept adds the flocks without territorial being an issue.

    Sometimes, I let my chickens roam across our three acres of land when introducing them to the flocks. This one time, everything seemed to be going fine until I put them back in their coop. You wouldn’t believe what happened! My neighbor also has chickens, and at the last minute, one of theirs got out.

    With the flock being the same breed and me having new pullets I didn’t know it wasn’t mine. When I placed the stray in with my chickens, they started pecking and bullying the hen. Poor thing was so stressed and scared that it ran and hid. Good thing it had some hiding spots.

    When it comes time to transition new chicks to your existing flock there are a few things that will help the process go smoothly! Read on to learn more

    How to add new chickens to a flock

    How to add new chickens to a flock

    Integrating new chicks to our existing flock can be a bit stressful but it does not have to be! Here are a few tips to help the transition go smoothly! I am NO expert. This is just what has worked for me!

    HAVE A SEPARATE COOP/RUN

    Have a separate coop and run ( usually a much smaller one) that you can place your chicks in close to your other flock but not where they’re actually roaming around together. By putting them near each other they are able to acclimate to their new surrounding and “know” other chickens are around without having to run around together. This helps everyone “ meet” in a controlled setting if you will.

    Do this for a about 10 days or so! If you have a large fun and are able to put a smaller coop and run inside that would be idea! Then they are in there but still with space between them. The smaller coop I have is similar to the one pictured below! It has worked great and I now keep it permanently in their run. The ducks like to sleep in it and it’s a nice “other place” to hang out.

    I usually wait to put my new chicks outside until they are about 6 weeks old and fully feathered. When that time comes they should be ready to do this process. If you wait about 10 days to two weeks the chicks will be 8 weeks old and ready to mingle!

    A new coop and run can be expensive so if you have any other kind of fenced in area or crate that’s open enough to view each other this will work well. You’ll need to make sure you can still keep food and water though!

    HOW TO ADD NEW LAYING HENS TO EXISTING FLOCK

    NOTE: this method of introduction can also be applied when bringing new grown hens to your flock. The only thing I would do differently then is to first quarantine your new flock in a separate coop AWAY from your existing flock at first to ensure there are no diseases or issues with them before integrating the with your flock. Once two weeks have passed you can now move them near your flock so they can see each other. Wait about 2 weeks again before putting them all together. This means about a month long process when introducing older hens to an established flock. It’s a hassle but worth ensuring there are no diseases or issues.

    What health issues to look for?

    Signs of lice or mites.

    Dull/ shrivelled comb.

    Blocked nostrils/ fluid coming from their eyes.

    If any of these health issues appear treat them BEFORE you introduce the new chickens to your existing flock.

    How to add new chickens to a flock

    How to add new chickens to a flock

    INTRODUCE AT NIGHT

    When it comes time to introduce them all together I have found doing it at night really helps! When all the hens are asleep you can just grab the chicks and place them in their new coop. This will give them a bit more time to familiarize themselves before morning comes and the excitement ensues.

    I’ve done the introductions at night and during the day at at night has always been best! If you are going to do it during the day maybe let them all free range together and monitor.

    I however like for my new chicks to learn where home is so sometimes I keep them all together for 24 hours so they can get to know each other. Know that there might be lots of excitement the next morning when they are all together. When introducing them it’s good to have distractions available.

    If you’ve owned chickens for any longer than, say, a few weeks, you probably have already observed behavior related to the “pecking order”. Since integrating new chickens to an existing flock messes up that delicate pecking order, let’s discuss some ways to help all of your chickens make friends and learn to get along with each other.
    Any time we add new flock members (or take any away) there will be a new pecking order established. There will always be a little poking and pecking given to the newcomers, but if the introductions are done over time and with a little though, no severe bloodshed should occur.

    Whether you are adding day-old chicks or started pullets, the first thing you want to make sure if that you keep any new birds isolated from your existing flock for a minimum of 2 weeks. This isolation period is probably easier to do with new chicks since they need to be in a brooder for about 6 weeks anyway. But it’s important to isolate older newcomers also. Different areas have different pathogens that exist in flocks. Your existing flock may be immune to a pathogen in your environment, but new birds may succumb to those same pathogens and become ill. Isolation and close observation will help you catch any issues early.

    How to add new chickens to a flock

    After the isolation phase comes the “separate but close” phase. Using fencing, dog crates or cages, section off an area of the existing birds’ coop, yard or run and allow the newcomers entry into this space. Everyone needs to spend some time seeing each other but not having full access. After a few days to a week of separation, most younger birds are ready to be introduced to the main flock.

    The final phase is “supervised mingling” time. After spending some time seeing each other but not having access, your existing flock should be more relaxed about having the newcomers around. Now you will give your newcomers their first taste of true freedom, while you oversee how the mingling goes. It common for the existing birds to chase the new ones, peck them at the feeders, and probably even grab and pull a few feathers. But any more brutality than that and you may need to separate back out and try again later. If all goes relatively well, you can leave the two groups to themselves as they establish a new pecking order. You do want to make sure in the evenings that the newcomers make it into the coop at night. The older birds get the first choice of the roosting spots and your new birds may be too afraid to enter the coop at night.

    How to add new chickens to a flock

    Hopefully, now you feel more confident about integrating new chickens to your existing flock. What helpful tips do you have for introducing new chickens into your flock? Leave us a comment below and tell us about it.

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    Adding New Hens to the Flock

    Need (or want) to add some new hens to your flock? Elle Pugsley gives us some hints.

    When merging different flocks of chickens or introducing new flock members to an existing flock the transition needs to be done with care.

    How to add new chickens to a flock

    Clean.

    Start with a deep clean of the run and coop before mixing the birds so the area won’t smell too much of just the original flock members.

    Fence.

    When in an enclosed run together it’s best to have a wire fence between them so they can interact without hurting one another. It takes time for them to work out a pecking order. I built a cage inside the run for the new birds to stay inside, whilst able to see and smell their new housemates.

    First Free-range together.

    When free ranging the group together outside the run, they should have space to move away from each other if they start to squabble. , The first time all the birds are free-ranging together, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on things in case any birds get aggressive. They can be nasty to each other.

    Limit Too much free-ranging.

    The first few days the whole group free ranged together I pottered around the garden so I could keep a close eye on them. It’s a good thing I did as one of my rescue girls was chased into a dead end in the garden, hopped onto a bin and then onto the garden fence. I quickly grabbed her before she went over, moved the bin, and blocked the dead end. I took that as a sign it was time to cut flight feathers on the new girls so they don’t go fence hopping.

    Overnight.

    At night, they are more forgiving of each other and will almost always roost together without problems.

    Happily Together.

    When they were ready to share the run without a wire cage between them, I discovered the rescued standard size hens can get up onto the perches in the run. Not even the bantams have never tried to do this. Luckily, the new girls now have a safe zone, should they want to get away from the bantams.

    Elle Pugsley started growing her own food last year, and it went so well that the next natural step was to acquire chickens. Starting off with four bantams she fell in love and quickly became a crazy chicken lady. Now she’s opened her coop to three ex-commercial free range hens to rehabilitate and provide them with a forever home. You can see pictures of her hens and gardens on Instagram.