Feb 082012

How To Introduce New Chickens To An Existing Flock

Introducing chicks to the flock

Introducing chicks to the flock


I’ve seen this question asked in a lot of forums: “How do I introduce new chicks to an existing flock of hens?”.  My chickens free range in a very large area.  My back yard and front yard are almost three acres so everyone has a lot of room to roam.

I’ve had both hen raised chicks and hand raised chicks.  To date, I’ve never had any trouble introducing the new chicks to my existing flock of hens.

How Old Should The Chicks Be

There really isn’t a set age that you can go by to put your new hand raised chicks in with the older chickens.  Weather permitting and space permitting, I personally think it is a good idea to put the chicks in a safe enclosed area inside the main chicken run every day at a very young age even if it is just for 30-40 minutes at a time.  The chickens get used to seeing and hearing them and will eventually just ignore them.  The older chickens can be very aggressive when they first notice the new chicks and it is very common for them to run up and down and “fuss” at the new kids.  I have one chicken in particular that makes awful noises at them and gets really upset for a few days!  Most of the other hens and roosters are calm and will check on them several times a day without showing any aggression.

As time passes, you will notice that they seem to be making friends through the safety of the fence which is a good thing.   It is safer to wait until the chicks are roughly the same size as the rest of the flock before you start putting them out together.  They will usually be around six months old when I actually turn them loose together for the first time.  But, I do NOT leave them together permanently until the rest of the flock has completely accepted them.  They may be used to seeing and hearing the new chicks but things can change rapidly when they invade the established flocks territory the first time.

Your chicks will be able to tell you when they feel ready to run with the big kids.  When I first introduce them, typically the babies will hide out in the chickens hen house and will be scared.  As they get more acclimated, they will start exploring the new hen house and will eventually venture outside.  I always lock the older hens out of the chicken house at first until the babies are more comfortable and there is a wire door that I close that will allow the new chicks to peek outside and will allow the hens to see the “intruders”.   The first time you put them together is usually the most dangerous so watch them carefully and be ready to jump in and rescue anyone that is in trouble.   I monitor them very closely the first few times I put them out together and as long as there are no major issues, I will gradually leave them for longer periods of time until everyone is comfortable and I don’t have to separate them anymore.

Hen Raised Chicks

I’ve currently got three roosters and each one has their own flock of hens.  Some of the hens “float” from flock to flock and some stick with only one rooster.  That is totally up to them.  But I have noticed that when one of my hens raises chicks, she tends to keep them away from the other hens and roosters when they are young.  As her chicks get older, she tends to gradually migrate back to her original flock and brings her babies with her.  As the chicks get older, they do their own thing and eventually join one of the existing flocks or make up a new one.  They tend to be more easily accepted because they are will an established hen.  I do not like to separate the hen from the main flock when she has chicks because the chickens can see her as an “intruder” when she is allowed back in with the flock.
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Common Problems

Over the years, I’ve never had any major problems introducing new chicks to an existing flock of hens.  You will see some chickens chasing the new chicks around or some pecking, but I have never personally had anything worse than that happen.   I currently have one very motherly hen and she tends to “adopt” the new chicks which tends to be very helpful.  But even if you don’t have a mommy for the new chicks, don’t worry.  Typically, everyone just goes with the flow and the new chicks eventually find their own way in the flock.

Common problems introducing new chicks can include:

  1. One hen or rooster chasing the chicks around.
  2. Pecking on a chick that gets in an older chickens space
  3. Refusing to allow the chicks access to food or water
  4. Refusing to allow the new chicks to roost
  5. Worst case scenario – an adult chicken can kill a chick


Extra Chicken Coop

I get a lot of questions about why I have 3 chicken coops.  The answer is because I have about 40 chickens at any given time and it seems like there is always one that needs some special care.  It is always a good idea to have a second area, even if it  is very small, to isolate any chicken that is injured or sick.  I don’t use it a lot, but it is very handy when I do. Having extra chicken coops and runs allows me to separate any chickens for whatever reason. Sometimes, a hen needs a break from an aggressive rooster or another hen. Unfortunately, sometimes one of them is injured by a predator and needs time to recover. Or, when I have new chicks, I can separate them from the main flock at night so that no one gets bullied.  There are a lot of good reasons to have at least two chicken coops and runs. You don’t need something fancy or expensive.

Check out these 19 chicken coop designs that you can build yourself.  



Mar 182011

It’s March here in Kentucky and one of my hens has gone broody.  I didn’t really want her to sit on eggs this early but she refused to budge.  Since the weather here is pretty warm, I ended up letting her keep four eggs to hatch. 

One common problem that I have when my hens go broody is that the other hens attack her and try to chase her off the nest so that they can lay their eggs in her nest.  I always mark the eggs that she is sitting on and just remove the extra eggs.  Keep in mind that there are plenty of nests to lay eggs in and they have lots of other areas around the horse barn where they lay eggs as well,  but they always want to lay in the one with the broody hen.

However, this time the poor embattled broody hen was fighting back!  She very aggressively defended her nest and refused to leave.  I was horrified to discover her covered in blood when I went out to let the hens out one morning.  I felt really bad for her and she was being such a good mother.

To prevent any more bloodshed, I ended up moving the nesting box into the tack room to protect her from the other hens.  I closed the trap door to the hay loft to prevent racoons from getting in there and killing her.   I have to go in and out of there twice a day to feed the horses but she doesn’t seem to mind at all.  She only gets aggressive if the other chickens try to enter the tack room.

My broody hen that was being attacked is now living like a queen.  She has her very own supply of food and water should she decide she needs it. She was a little nervous at first but she settled right down and is happy as can be.  This broody hen has raised chicks in the past and has proven to be an outstanding mother. 

Anyone that has this problem should consider trying to move the broody hen that is being attacked to a more isolated area so that she can brood her eggs in peace.  This is the second time I have moved a broody hen and so far this move has been successful just like the first one was.

Let me know if anyone else has had to resort to moving their broody hens that were being attacked.  I would love to know if anyone has had luck doing this or if the hen just abandoned the nest.

Aug 122010

My chicks have been outside for about a week now and are doing great.  Their extra sturdy chicken run and chicken coop seem to be holding up well. 

I’ve had no more predator problems either lately.  I set a few traps humane around my yard and caught a few racoons and a possum.  I relocated those critters so that hopefully, none of my other hens or chicks will be killed.

Chicken care is very important to me and I like to feed all of my chickens, roosters and chicks natural treats which incluce lettuce, chards, tomatos, fruit and veggie peels of all sorts, apples, oranges, melons, etc.  If it is a fruit or veggie, they will probably eat it and love it!

Anyway, I gave my chicks a couple of really small cherry tomatos to eat.  Well, they ended up playing chick football with them.  One chick grabbed the tomato and took off running with it.  The other 7 chicks quickly took off after her.  They raced round and round the chicken run with the tomato changing beaks constantly.  This went on for about 30 minutes until the tomato was completely pulverized.

They finally collapsed and decided to take dust baths before taking a short nap.  Chicks are so much fun to watch and now that they have almost reached the four week mark, I am starting to worry about them a lot less.

If you are thinking about raising chicks to start a backyard flock, you need to give serious thought to building a very secure hen house.  Get some plans and free advice by clicking this link.

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Aug 112010

Well, I had every intention of keeping the chicks indoors until they were at least a month old but they didn’t like that idea.  It is very hot here and I started taking them outside twice a day to a specially fenced area fortified with chicken fencing that I made just for these babies. 

I didn’t leave them unattended but since I had a lot of yard work to do, this worked out well.  I put a large deck umbrella over part of their area, added food and water and a pile of straw.  I also failed to mention that the grass and weeds were pretty tall in this area so they had lots of cover.

They had a ball running around and acting silly.  They figured out how to take their first dust baths and how to sun themselves.  They were not happy when I rounded them up and took them in each time.  It got to the point that they screeched incessantly while they were inside.

When the chicks reached 3 weeks of age, I finally caved and put them outside in a very secure little chick house with an extra secure run and double chicken fencing.  They were driving me crazy at this point and they were very unhappy.  I also started leaving my two labs outside at night to patrol the yard, which they loved!  So far, so good.  My little family of 8  chicks is thriving being outside and they are growing fast.  They also eat a lot less chick feed since they are busy running around and taking dust baths.

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Jul 022010

So, you have a hen that has gone broody and you decide that you want to raise a few chicks.  I have done this countless times and I finally have a method to the madness of chick raising.

After I put a few fake eggs under the broody hen to keep her happy, I then decide which hens that I want chicks from.  Some of my hens are friendlier or prettier than others and I usually pick these hens.  I will gather up the hens that I want eggs from and confine them to a different chicken house and run for a few days.

I collect the eggs every day and I don’t use any of them that don’t look perfect.  Any eggs that are an odd size or just don’t look right are not good candidates to put under your hen.  I put the date that each egg was laid right on the egg.  I collect 10 – 20 eggs depending on how many chicks I want and when I have as many as I need, I put them under the broody hen.  I also release the other hens and keep all of them away from my broody hen so they don’t keep chasing her off the nest to lay more eggs.

I then feed and water my broody hen every day because sometimes they won’t leave the nest at all and they can starve to death.  I keep a close eye on her and the eggs and I usually don’t candle them until they are around two weeks old.  I remove any eggs that aren’t fertile and place the rest of them back under the broody hen.

All that is left to do is to count down to hatching day and watch for the chicks to begin to hatch.  I always monitor them and make sure that none of them have any problems.  Sometimes one or two will hatch late after mom has left the nest. 

I will take them inside to incubate them.  Once they hatch, I grab one of the hen’s chicks and when it starts to scream for her and she gets upset, I slip both the new chick and the old chick back in.  Chances are good that she won’t even notice that she has an extra chick or two.

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Jun 232010

While caring for a flock of chickens is pretty straightforward because they are so self sufficient, chick care is just the opposite.

What can go wrong?

  • Keep them too warm and they will die. 
  • Keep them too cold and they will die.
  • Forget to check them for pasting up and they will die.
  • Keep the chicks in a brooder that isn’t predator proof and they’re going to be killed.

All chicks require plenty of attention, particularly during the first four weeks of life.

As soon as you pick up the shipment of chicks that you ordered through the mail, you need to keep in mind three vital chick care tips that you have to be aware of or your baby chicks may die. 

The three most important things that you need to be concerned about are pasting up, access to water and umbilical cords.

Pasting Up
As soon as you collect your baby chicks from the post office or wherever they were delivered, get them straight home.  The first step in proper chick care is to remove the baby chicks from the box one at a time and inspect their butts for a condition called “pasting up”.  It is very easy to spot as you will notice blackish waste that has become stuck to their butts. The dried up poop covers up their vents and prevents them from being able to poop any more.

This is a very dangerous condition and has to be handled straight away.  I prefer to use a damp, lukewarm washcloth and soak this area to get it to the point that it is soft enough to remove the stuck poop.  In a number of the most severe cases, I have been forced to immerse the chicks’ rear end in water just to get it off.  It is possible to use a tooth pick or anything that is disposable to also help get the balck mess to come off.  I dry the chick off using my hair dryer ( set on low heat to be sure that I don’t injure the baby) and then I put it in the brooder.  Keep a close eye on the entire flock of chicks since this problem can return.

Provide water immediately
The second important chick care tip is that your new baby chicks will need to have water as soon as you have  inspected them and taken care of any pasting up problems that occurred in transit. I don’t take any chances that my baby chicks can’t figure out what to do with the water. Remember, they were plucked from the hatcing box and placed in a box as soon as they were hatched.  They have never seen food or water.

As I place each chick in the brooder for the first time, I gently dunk their beaks into the water source.  They always get the concept very quickly and begin drinking.  Keep a careful eye on them and be sure that all of the chicks have the hang of both eating and drinking.  Do not ever try and force them to drink using a syringe because you will drown them.

Umbilical Cord
The third essential chick care tip is to not be taken aback any time you notice that some of your baby chicks still have their umbilical cords attached.  You may note what looks like a black string which is attached at their butts.  This is very common and will fall off with no help from you.  Do not under any circumstances pull it off orremove it yourself.  It is possible to badly injure your chick by doing this.

The issues discussed are  just three essential chick care tips that everyone needs to be aware of.  Chick care is generally incredibly time consuming during the first four weeks and you’ve got to be able to provide the constant care they need to keep them alive.

Don’t make the mistakes that will cost your chicks their lives.  CLICK HERE to find out more about how to keep your newly hatched chicks alive.

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