When I got my first batch of chicks, I never thought that I would be adding new chicks to the existing flock so quickly. My first attempt at raising chicks was a disaster to say the least.
I ended up having to get more baby chicks and they were a couple of months younger than my original chicks. Silly me . . . it never occurred to me that there might be a problem trying to get both sets of chickens to get along.
Boy was I wrong! Much to my dismay, the older chickens immediately starting picking on the younger chickens. They chased them around mercilessly, pecked them whenever they got the chance and just generally made them miserable. After running around frantically trying to capture the younger chicks, I realized that I had to figure out how to get everyone to get along . . . fast!
Separate The New Chickens
After I separated the baby chicks from the older chicks, I had to figure out how to integrate them peacefully. The first thing I did was hop online and do some research. Luckily for my chickens, it was relatively easy to get them all to get along.
The first step was to keep them separated by a fence so that both sets of chicks could see each other and interact without actually being able to cause any harm. Over the course of a couple of weeks, they all settled in and got used to being next to one another.
As they got more comfortable with each other, I then allowed them to start mingling for a couple of hours during the day for about a week. Since I was worried about them fighting like last time, I monitored them very carefully. But other than a peck or two from the more dominant pullets, this time the introduction went much more smoothly. Before long, everyone was happily scratching around with no issues.
Distract Your Hens
Backyard chickens have very short attention spans and it is typically pretty easy to divert their attention with treats. I used several methods to keep them distracted including hanging a head of cabbage, broccoli and some large pieces of melon strategically around the chicken run and the yard. Soon, they were all busy trying to grab their treats and didn’t pay any attention to anything else. All of this activity also wore them out so they were just too tired to start trouble. It was actually quite fun to watch them!
I have horses and the chickens in my backyard love to dig through the manure. Sounds disgusting, I know, but they were in heaven. My flower beds were pretty much done for the year so I piled manure in the beds and the chickens happily scratched it up and churned up my beds for me. It kept them occupied and they actually helped me out!
Surprise – You Have Chicks!
Over the years, I have added new chickens to the existing flock without much trouble at all. One trick that I love is to get several of my hens sitting on wooden chicken nesting eggs and then when the new chicks arrive, stick them under the hens in the middle of the night. Believe it or not, this trick works very well. The hens think their eggs have hatched and the chicks are just naturally accepted. The hens typically keep the chicks away from the other birds at first anyway but the existing flock doesn’t try to bother them as long as they are with mom.
If I don’t have any broody hens, I keep the chicks in a brooder at night inside for warmth and safety. Then, during the warmer days, I put up a temporary chicken run to serve as a baby pen and allow the chicks outside for a couple of hours during the day. The older chickens can see them and hear them but can’t harm them. That way, when the chicks are old enough to join the older chickens, they are used to them being around.
Any time you add new chicks or older chickens to an existing flock, there will be some minor skirmishes, but they usually manage to work it out. Keep in mind that the new birds will have to figure out the pecking order and some squabbles are normal.
Keeping chickens in your backyard is an adventure. Your flock is unique so you need to keep in mind that you may need to get creative and modify these suggestions to keep your flock happy.