Knowing how to introduce new chickens to your flock will allow them to acclimate to new members and keep your new hens safe.
How to Introduce New Chickens to Your Flock to Avoid Stress
Introducing new chickens to your flock can be a stressful time for the new birds, the established flock and for you. Chickens have a strict pecking order literally established by pecking. It may appear cruel to you, but it is their natural way.
There’s a truth in the old phrase, “hen pecked,” and isn’t just about some men!
Knowing how to introduce new chickens to your flock can help alleviate some if not all of this stress and make for a smooth transition while you increase your flock.
Because it’s stressful for your flock to have their order upset, make certain everyone has plenty to do, eat, and drink. You need to boost their immune systems as well by offering them ACV Tonic (2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar to 1 gallon of water).
How to Introduce New Chickens to Prevent Fighting
If you have space, put the new birds in a separate yard beside the main yard. Even a temporary make-shift yard will do. This allows the birds to see one another and get used to each other. Keep them separated for 2-3 weeks for ideal acclimation to reduce fighting.
When it’s been 2-3 weeks, add the new chickens by waiting until the main flock is sound asleep and gently, slowly put the new chickens on the roost. The goal is not to wake the other birds. Once they’ve slept in the coop for 2-3 nights, they will know where they sleep, eat, and get water.
If you don’t have the space for this method, wait until the established flock has gone to roost and is sound asleep then put the new chickens on the roost with them. There is something about waking up together that triggers the flock mentality in chickens.
Early the next morning, if at all possible, separate the established flock from the new birds. If you can, free-range your established flock and put the new chickens in a temporary yard inside the main yard. This will allow the new birds to get used to the yard and to relax in their new home while your flock comes and goes for water and egg-laying.
They will have more fights and squabbles this way but they will work it out within a week or so as they re-establish the pecking order.
What if I Can’t Separate the Established Flock from the New Chickens?
When introducing new chickens to your flock, if you can’t separate your established flock from the new chickens, you will have more pecking and fighting but after a week or so of roosting together it will dramatically decrease and after 2 weeks they will most likely have re-established their pecking order and be at peace, most of the time.
How We Introduce New Hens to Our Flock
I am blessed to have plenty of space. My husband built a unique setup. We have four side yards that connect to the “big yard” by a gate. On the other side of these side yards is the grow out yard. It is also connected to the main yard by a gate.
Each side yard serves its own purpose. The yards on each end are breeding coops. The two in the middle are the rooster yards. These serve as a home for the roosters I keep just for breeding purposes. I keep the roosters separate to help prevent attacks.
These yards all share a common fence so the chickens in the big yard can see the chicks or new hens and get used to them. They still do a little bossin’ around, but it has never caused damage to any of the birds.
How to Reintroduce a Separated Chicken to the Flock
If you take one of your chickens out for setting a nest or due to sickness, the pecking order will change. It will change again when you bring the bird back in.
To avoid too much fighting, keep them where the main flock can see them for a week or so. They know the bird already so it doesn’t take as long. To put the bird back in the flock, wait until they are roosted and asleep and put the separated chicken on the roost.
There shouldn’t be too much pecking. I just stay out of their squabbles and let them work it out.
How to Introduce Chicks to the Flock
Since our chicks are kept next to the big flock for so long, there’s hardly any fuss. To introduce them to the coop and flock, we put them on the roost at night when all the birds have gone to sleep.
If you have allowed one of your hens to hatch her chicks, you won’t have as much trouble because she will protect them. She will also teach them where to roost.
If you order your chicks, you’ll need to keep them separate from the flock but where they can see them. It’s best to wait until they are 12 weeks old before putting them in with the main flock. By this age, they’re large enough and established so they are able to handle themselves.
When they’re old enough, put them on the roost gently, slowly with the same goal of not waking the other birds. A sleeping chicken is kinda like a zombie. They’ll let you do pretty much anything to them you want.
I love my headlamp because it has a red light setting on it which doesn’t disturb them as white light does. I use it when adding birds or doing a headcount before I shut the coop for the night.
As young hens grow into maturity, the pecking order will change so expect some squabbling. Once they have slept in the coop for 2 – 3 nights, they’ll get along better.
Adjust Your Feed When Adding Chicks or Pullets to the Flock
Remember to adjust your feed to accommodate a mixed-age flock. Until the chicks are 20 weeks old, everyone gets grower with free choice of crushed eggshells for calcium and small grit. Once they’re 20 weeks old, everyone goes back to their usual feed.
We free-range our birds so they only get a little feed at night to get them to come into the yard so we can shut the big gate.
Problems May Arise When Introducing New Chickens to the Flock
The only problem I’ve had in introducing new chickens to the flock is convincing them to use their new roost. They’re so used to being in the grow-out coop and they want to go back there. Sometimes they want to sleep in the bottom row of nests in the coop.
Wherever you had your new chickens while introducing them, this is where they will want to go to roost until they’re completely settled. If you just put them straight into the flock, you will probably still have a problem getting them to go into the coop to roost because it’s new to them.
There are a few ways to deal with this.
- You can chase them around until you catch them and put them on the roost. This takes more than one person, a sense of humor, and the ability to be fast. I am not as fast as I used to be.
- You can chase them around and herd them up the ramp into the coop. Again, you will need more than one person, a sense of humor, and speed.
- Let them go to sleep and then pick them up gently, slowly and put them on the roost again.
After three or four nights, they should all be going to bed on the roost. It’s a little work, but they need to be sleeping together as a flock for bonding and safety.
Important Reminders on How to Introduce New Chickens to Your Flock
See, it isn’t hard to learn how to introduce new chickens to your flock. It’s just a little time-consuming.
- Remember, it’s stressful for your flock to have their order upset, make certain everyone has plenty to do, eat, and drink. You need to boost their immune systems as well by offering them ACV Tonic (2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar to 1 gallon of water).
- Keep the existing flock and the new birds separate but where they can see one another for 2 – 3 three weeks if at all possible.
- When adding new chickens to the flock, wait until the main flock is sound asleep and gently, slowly put the new chickens on the roost. The goal is not to wake the other birds. Once they’ve slept in the coop for 2-3 nights, they will know where they sleep, eat, and get water.
- Allow them to work out their pecking order without interfering. It’s rare that a hen will be injured so badly that she needs to be removed from the flock.
As always, I’m here to help.