How to Introduce New Chickens
Thinking of expanding your flock?
It’s a little trickier than just buying new chickens and plunking them into your coop.
Chickens live in a hierarchy and it is important to respect that - failure to do so could even result in death!
There are several important steps you should take to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible. If you are wondering how to introduce new chickens to your flock, read on to learn just what to do.
Introducing a New Chicken to the Coop: What You’ll Need
In order to successfully integrate your new additions, there are a few things you’ll need.
What You Need
Your Guide to Integration: Here's how to do it
Before you get started, it’s a good idea to make sure the new chickens are of a similar age and size to the others in their flock.
8 -12 weeks is roughly how old chickens should be before introducing to flock - the earlier you try, the longer the integration period will be.
Baby chicks are easy targets for existing members who may feel a little threatened by their arrival. These older chickens may even peck the chicks to death!
This is why we suggest waiting at least until their feathers are in.
However, if you’re hell-bent on finding out how to integrate baby chickens into flock, take a look at this article.
If you’re introducing adult chickens into your flock, here’s our step-by-step guide!
Step # 1. Quarantine
This first step is crucial to successfully adding new chickens to your flock.
When you put the chickens into quarantine, you are ensuring that the new chickens are not bringing in any diseases or pests to your existing flock.
During the quarantine period, it is important that you check for signs of any pests, such as lice, on a daily basis.
Quarantining is pretty easy overall.
The idea is to keep the new chickens completely isolated and away from your existing flock. Using a dog crate or other animal cage in a garage (or any area away from your flock) will work well.
Watch this video to learn just how easy it is to quarantine your chickens!
Any time that you handle the new chickens, it is important that you wash your hands thoroughly in order to reduce the risk of transferring diseases.
Check out this link to learn more about common chicken illnesses, and what signs and symptoms to look for.
After you have completed the quarantine period - which should last roughly one month - and your chickens are healthy and strong, you are ready to move on to the next step.
Step # 2. Use a Cage Inside of the Coop
You do not want to abruptly add the new chickens to your existing coop. Doing so is sure to result in disaster.
If a cage is not an option for you, you can always fence off a small area in the corner and use that instead.
You just want to make sure the new chickens will be well protected.
Even if you do opt to use a cage, it is a good idea to put it in the corner so that two sides will be completely protected.
The existing members of your flock are going to come and investigate the new additions. They may also peck at them.
This is perfectly normal and is, in fact, healthy behaviour.
You are going to want to keep the new members caged for the first 3-7 days. During that time, observe the actions of not only the existing flock members, but the new members as well.
If within three days, everything seems to be going smoothly, you can move on to the next step.
If you are still observing some rocky waters, wait a few more days before moving on.
Step # 3. Free Range Time
Once you have completed step two successfully, you are ready to move on. You want to give the old and new chickens time to roam about together every day.
It is not a good idea to leave them together fully at this point - just a few hours a day.
During this period, it is still important that you use a watchful eye and observe how the chickens interact with one another.
If you do not free range your flock, you can always let all of the chickens together in the run for them to socialize.
It is possible that the new chickens will be a bit hesitant to join the existing flock members at first.
That is okay. Give them time and they will eventually make their way out.
To help everyone feel more comfortable with each other, try a distraction! Food is always a good way to take a flock’s mind off of pecking a newcomer. Need some ideas on what treats to distract your flock with? Read here about what food you can use to keep their squabbling at bay.
When the flock is not free ranging together, you’ll want to keep the new chickens caged in order to give them additional time to adjust to their new surroundings.
Take a week or two to continue this daily free range time. It is really going to depend on how well your chickens are interacting.
If they seem to be tolerating each other well, you can move on to step four. If they still don’t seem fond of each other, give it more time.
There is not an amount of time set in stone as to how long it will take the chickens to adjust.
In this situation it is best to observe and use your best judgement as to when to move forward.
Step # 4. Open the Cage Door
After your chickens have been successful at free ranging together, you can begin leaving the cage door open.
The new chickens will likely go inside at night time to sleep. It will be their comfort zone - so don’t be alarmed if your new chickens are hiding in coop.
They will still need some time to fully adjust and feel at home with their new family. If they feel the need for some alone time, they can use the cage area for that.
You may notice your new chickens getting pecked at from time to time. This is normal.
A pecking order needs to be established and that is part of the process.
In time, the entire flock will adjust and tolerate each other much more. If you have an all-hen flock, there will still be a hierarchy that the new bird has to adhere to.
How long does it take for hens to accept new hens?
This will vary from flock to flock, and from breed to breed, but you’re looking at a couple of weeks at least.
Just be patient, your flock will come around eventually!
If you want to learn more about the pecking order, or are concerned that your new chicken is not being accepted, check out this article.
If you want to ensure things run a little more smoothly, why not try introducing chickens at night? This is an ideal time to introduce the newbies, as the flock is settling down to roost and are more interested in sleeping than squabbling!
The Bottom Line
It may be necessary to adjust the above steps to fit your own specific needs.
For instance, your coop may not allow space for a cage area in the corner. Feel free to adjust to your specific needs and environment as you see fit.
However, it is always important to make sure your new chickens are healthy, and initially protected when joining the flock. But with a bit of time, patience, and love, you’ll soon have the flock size of your dreams!
What do you think? Have any other tips on how to introduce new chickens?
Let us know in the comments below!