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.  

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