How to introduce new chickens
One of the best ways to introduce new hens is to put newcomers in a run / small fenced off area within the existing run so that they can see one another and get used to one another but with the safety of the wire between them. Once a week has passed, the newcomers can be popped into the coop at night, but make sure you are there at first light in the morning to rescue them if blood is drawn.
Another way is to put them with your existing flock in a house and run that is new to both of them with lots of space and lots of food distractions. Neither of them has an established territory and this can sometimes work well, especially if they have lots of space to stay away from one another at first. This isn’t always possible though.
Here is a list of things to remember when introducing new birds:
- Quarantine for Disease. Yes, they look healthy but trust me, I’ve had the heartbreak of destroying the flock after I brought disease into it with new birds. Ideally they need to go into a separate run for at least 2 weeks. Observed them to make sure you don’t bring a disease into the flock.
- Only introduce birds that are a similar size. Youngsters will get bullied, they need to be fully mature to stand up for themselves. Watch the size of birds. A little bantam added to a flock of large fowl will probably be hard work.
- If possible, divide the run up for a while, get a roll of chicken wire and lash up a make-shift fence to give the newcomers an area of their own to settle in. Your established flock will get used to the sight, smell and sound of the new arrivals.
- Add a distraction. Hang a CD and some spring greens from different places in the run. It works wonders
- Ensure there are adequate food containers. The chickens that are getting bullied need to eat and if they won’t come out of the house, they will soon have problems if they can’t get to food. Make sure the new arrivals have had food and water before they are introduced.
- Space. Give birds as much space as possible. Can you let the flock free range into the garden for a while? A bird that gets pecked can run off and get away easily if they have the space to do so.
- Blood. Chickens love pecking at red wounds. If damage is caused, remove the bird immediately or others will join in and can literally kill your chicken. If a small amount of blood is present on the comb, I usually keep a close eye but try to make sure it doesn’t escalate. If more than a few spots appear, I remove the bird but try to keep it close to the flock so they can continue to see the bird.
- Introduce birds into the chicken house at night when it is dark but make sure you are there at day break so they don’t get pecked to death in the morning… remember space.
- Do not mix different age groups that you are rearing e.g. chicks and growers as it can cause disease in the younger birds who haven’t yet built up immunity but also, the older birds (often twice the size if only a month or two apart) can easily kill the smaller birds. Expect a certain amount of bullying. It’s hard to watch but often after a week, sometimes a little longer, things suddenly click into place and the pecking order is re-established.