10 Tips to Introducing New Chickens to Your
Blood bath, total chaos, and even death. That’s what’s going to happen right in your backyard if you hastily add a new Silkie, Rhode Island Red, or any chicken breed to your existing flock.
But don’t get worked up. Learning how to introduce new chickens is easy. Using our favorite stealth method will save you from the headache of breaking up fights and the heartbreak of losing one of your feathered companions.
1. Try The Sleeping Introduction
One of the easiest ways to add new members to your flock is to sneak the additions in while everyone is sleeping. Place chickens into bedding or on perches and leave them overnight. Letting all of your chickens wake up together in the morning. Chickens are smart, they will notice something is off, but they aren’t as likely to isolate and bully the new members of the flock.
While many chicken keepers have had great success with this method, we recommend only attempting it with friendly docile breeds like the Buff Orpington (1) without careful supervision. With the proper preparations and the right breed of chickens, many keepers have success with sleeping introductions on the first attempt.
2. Use Visual Introductions
How would you feel if someone you’ve never met moved into your house? Well, your chickens don’t like it either! That’s why you need to make the first introduction between new flock members and the rest of the flock. But instead of physical contact, it’s going to be all visual.
You can do this by placing an enclosure within your coop or placing two enclosures next to each other.
The time spent in the visual introduction stage will help your chickens become acclimated to each other and lower the chances of conflict in the physical introduction stage. You’ll know your chickens are ready to move on from seeing to meeting when they no longer seem interested in each other and walk away after brief interactions between the enclosures.
3. Set-Up A “Playpen”
If you have a backyard flock of free-range chickens, you might find success with The Playpen Method of introduction. It couldn’t be more straightforward. You can begin before or during the visual introduction stage.
Before you let your chickens out into the run, create a ‘playpen’ sort of enclosure for your chicks to sit in, where the chickens can see and interact with each other without touching. This way is very similar to your in-coop visual introduction stage.
After a few days, place the new additions into the run without the playpen before you let your flock out for exploration. Most times, the flock will give the chicks very little attention. If all goes well, you can let the chickens return to the coop to spend the night with your chickens. If not, try again tomorrow.
4. Let New Chickens Into The Run
Physical introductions are the most challenging part of the introduction process. Introductions may need to happen a few times before they stick, especially if dealing with a territorial breed.
If you’re raising free-range chickens, the easiest way to physically introduce the new chickens to your flock is to let the new chickens into the run before opening the coop and letting your existing flock join them.
Avoid morning introductions. You could disrupt your hens during their laying period and increase the chance of an aggressive dispute.
How do you introduce new chickens in the coop?
The easiest way to limit conflict when bringing new birds into a coop setting is to relocate both flocks and let the two groups interact in a neutral environment. This method reduces the chances of bullying as you don’t have to deal with territorial disputes.
Whenever you remove new birds, it’ll take longer to get the introduction to stick. While a keeper should strive to let nature run its course during introductions, no matter how hard it may be, you’ll need to intervene if there is any bloodshed.
5. Bring Them In As A Group
When adding new chickens to the flock, it’s a good idea to bring them in as a group. Why? The answer is simple (and obvious): you can prevent any chick from being singled out as a target for the flock’s bullying.
As sad as it sounds, that’s the truth. Chickens follow a pecking order, and introducing new chickens will create chaos in the hierarchy (2).
6. Quarantine New Chickens
When introducing chicks to your flock, you have to worry about the transmission of disease or illness. It’s not always required, but as a general rule, you should quarantine new additions in a separate coop of their own for at least 4–6 weeks (3).
Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Vent feathers that look dirty or damaged
- Irritated skin
- Pale or shriveled comb
- Eye discharge
- Blocked nostrils
If you need more help checking the health of your birds, this video is a great resource.
Adding new chicks sourced from the same breeder or buying chickens online from a reputable seller is an easy way to avoid chicken diseases. Some of them even offer vaccination before shipping.
Remember to thoroughly wash your hands when you transition from working with one flock to the other to prevent disease and infection from spreading between them.
7. Isolate Aggressive Birds
It can be challenging for new chicken keepers to find the line between common hazing and overly aggressive behavior when introducing chickens to the flock. As you gain more experience, you’ll be able to tell the difference between pecking order behaviors and bullying.
Keep an eye out for feather pulling, scratching, pecking, and consistent patterns of bad behavior. It’s essential to catch these issues early to avoid severe injury or even death in the bullied chicken.
If you notice a repeat offender, you’ll need to place the aggressive hen into isolation for a few days to curb her attitude. If her attitude doesn’t improve in isolation, you should take the hen to the vet for a check-up, as signs of aggression can indicate health issues.
8. Get The Same Breed Temperament And Traits
There’s a misconception that you can’t keep two or more breeds together. But that is not true at all. Just imagine having prolific egg layers like the Plymouth Rock and Leghorn (1) together – you’ll be collecting eggs one after the other. Plus, you can easily and quickly identify which one is Patricia and who is Sam!
What you should look out for is the temperament or personality of a chicken breed. Some are feisty and aggressive, while others, like Cochin chickens, are calm (4).
Obviously, you don’t want to mix aggressive breeds with gentle ones. Aside from temperament, make sure to have new chickens that match your current flock’s physical traits. Or else their curiosity can lead to pecking (5).
“Don’t brood feathered leg fowl, crested fowl or bearded fowl with fowl without these traits.” – PennState Extension
If you already have a flock of different breeds of chickens, you’ll have a better chance of them accepting another group of mixed chickens. You’ll find that each type of chicken has a unique reaction to new additions. Breeds like the Buff Orpington tend to be welcoming, while Silkies and Rhode Island Reds are more likely to act territorial (6).
9. Use The Relocation Method
If you have territorial chicken breeds like Rhode Island Red roosters, try this relocation method. To help you cut down on fighting over territory and help the new chickens slip into the pecking order a little easier, you can do the first introductions between your chickens in a neutral space by relocating the coop before introducing both groups.
Set up multiple food and water sources to ensure all your chickens can access them easily through the meeting period. Chicks may avoid eating or drinking if they need to cross paths with an aggressive hen to do so.
This way won’t work flawlessly and can take repeated introductions.
10. Be Prepared
Introducing chicks into your flock would be easy and stress-free for both of you in a perfect world. In reality, you need to be prepared for the worst to protect everyone involved. Keep a tool kit handy with everything you need to protect yourself when breaking up a chicken fight and administer basic first aid.
We recommend chicken treats, a pair of leather gloves, bandages, towels, additional cages, and something to stop bleeding should one of your chickens be hurt. If fights are a frequent occurrence, you need to isolate aggressors and investigate potential causes.
Need a little more guidance? There are several tried and true methods you can try out using the direction we’ve provided above.
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 caged 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.
It will take around 5 to 6 weeks to introduce new chickens. You’ll need to spend one month quarantining your chicken in separate enclosures. Unless you’ve bought the new chooks from reputable hatcheries and comes with vaccination, you can cut down the quarantine period.
When everyone has received a clean bill of health, you’ll need to spend another week doing visual introductions between your chickens and the new additions before you can move forward with physically introducing them.
Yes, it is normal for new chickens to fight. Remember, your existing flock already has an established new flock. Anytime that you introduce new chickens, it will create chaos in the chicken ranking.
While some fighting is anticipated, keep an eye out for overly aggressive behaviors and put repeat offenders in time out. You’ll need to watch for injuries as well; once a chicken has been hurt, it’s much more likely to be the main target of the flock’s bullying. Injured chickens will need to make a full recovery before being reintroduced to the group.
Yes, you can introduce a rooster to your flock – provided that your flock doesn’t have an integrated rooster. If you choose to bring a rooster into your flock, you run a significant risk of violent fights and severe injury regardless of age.
Attempting an introduction is only recommended with young roosters and should still be handled with care. You should never try to introduce a rooster to another rooster, even if they are young.
- Quick Reference Guide to Heritage Chickens. Retrieved from: https://livestockconservancy.org/images/uploads/docs/pickachicken2021.pdf
- The Secrets of Chicken Flocks’ Pecking Order. Retrieved from: https://modernfarmer.com/2016/03/pecking-order/
- Backyard Poultry. Retrieved from: https://www.msdvetmanual.com/exotic-and-laboratory-animals/backyard-poultry/backyard-poultry?redirectid=124
- Which Breed Should I Get. Retrieved from: https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/heritage-chicken-faq
- Poultry Cannibalism: Prevention and Treatment. Retrieved from: https://extension.psu.edu/poultry-cannibalism-prevention-and-treatment
- Rhode Island Red – Non-Industrial Chicken. Retrieved from: https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/rired
Hannah Gregorio has been active in the writing industry since 2010. She holds a BA Journalism degree from the Manila Times College.