Chicken Keeping: Introducing New Chickens To The Flock

Each time you decide to add to your flock, whether it be through chicks hatching or the purchase of pullets or adult hens/roosters, your flock will go through a bit of an upset and a re-establishment of the pecking order.  There's just no getting around it.  We found that when we had a rooster in the flock, integration seemed to run a little smoother.  He had the ability to calm the girls and keep the piece.  Without him, it takes a little more time, but it will eventually happen.

Ideally, if possible, housing the chickens in coops next to each other, where they can get to know each other, see and smell each other, is the best scenario.  It makes the incorporation run a bit smoother.  What we typically do is let the existing flock into one of the outdoor coops and the new chickens into the second outdoor coop.  The 2 coops share a fence, so they can see, peck and smell each other.  If you can do this up to a week, that's ideal, but if not, try for a full day.  Hold the new chickens as much as possible prior to integration so your scent is on them.  The existing flock will not find them quite as foreign.

I find putting them together in the evening is best.  They all go to sleep together and then wake up together, all on even ground.  This allows the new flock to begin the process of feeling at home in the coop prior to the start of the pecking order process.

Initially, your instinct will be to try to put an end to the fighting and to step in and "help".  Unfortunately, they need to go through the process which typically takes about 2 weeks {and feels like forever}.

The smallest new flock we've incorporated was two chickens.  We spent about 3 weeks incorporating them to give them a bit more even playing field.  Trying to incorporate only one may result in the new chicken getting pecked to death as the entire existing flock gangs up on the one.  I found two was hard but doable.  The two developed a very tight bond and fought the others successfully to find their position in the flock.  Also, if you're integrating new chicks, wait until they have their feathers {about 12 weeks of age}.  They need to be large enough and mature enough to stand up to the others.

It's important, particularly for the first few weeks, to make sure you provide more than one feeder and waterer.  The existing flock will try, at times, to prevent the new chickens from eating and drinking as part of the process of showing them who's the boss and you don't want the new chickens malnourished or dehydrated.

After a couple of weeks, the chickens will become a full flock and the coop will return to the calm it once was.

Additional Chicken-Keeping Posts:When Will My Chickens Start Laying?
Using Diatomaceous Earth For Chicken Health
Supplementing A Chicken's Diet
Chicken Water
Chicken Coop 101:  13 Lessons We Learned Building Our Coop
The Chicken Coop at Cobble Hill Farm
All You Need To Know About Chicken Roosts
All You Need To Know About Nesting Boxes

1 comment

  1. I find this very interesting!! I do think that dogs and chickens can be a lot alike--You do find yourself wanting to step in and protect the newcomers, but you know you just have to stand on the sidelines and let them work it out, and they do, don't they?


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